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New and Selected Poems “Silver Dollar Annie”

Thanks to Rick for finding this and passing it back to me. Rick, a friend now, was a student if mine many moons ago when I penned this poem. I had not seen this draft for 15 years before today.

I can’t tell you where or why I met Annie, but have never forgotten her or her stories….

SILVER DOLLAR ANNIE

The last time I saw her

was the day before her wedding

kneeling in her garden

packing unneeded soil

over already sturdy bases
She was beautiful in the shade:

snakeskin diamonds: cool shadows

cast by leaves above her

I shut my eyes

and the memories revolved:

I saw the dance hall’s mirrored ball,

the bachelor’s party

at the Saddleman’s Club

where nothing’s left to the imagination:

Annie’s body was more public than  most

she’d won local fame for dancing

with a silver dollar

men would place between her breasts

dollars she’d keep if they did not fall fell

and never did

The loud profranties

had to remind her of her father

the sorry bastard whose cock

rose at the rush of a shower

or the clink of a hanger

and Annie in search of a bedclothes

But, her nightgown always collapsed

poured into itself

until the dim light of broken promises

rose again on another tired day
How I came to know her after this

is less important than that night

she slow danced and hugged herself

into a dark trance

before almost letting go

of reticent tears

the clear wine of a new covenant

And the men too nearly wept

and suddenly, quietly returned home to their wives

She did not see me on either occasion:

This time because she was smiling at a thrush

preparing a nest in a boil of leaves

when the wind moved her hair

behind her ear, whispered

a long traveled promise

and dried her cheek with a kiss

she closed her eyes to accept

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Found and Still Lost

I first met Shannon during a poetry reading shortly after my first book came out some two decades ago. I later reviewed her first collection of verse and stayed in touch through the years with the sexy, sassy, southern and broadly gifted artist. I last saw Shannon on a business trip down south in the 90’s. She was showing signs of some encroaching malady and I heard people whispering “anorexia,” “bulimia,” “drugs” and worse about the quirky, but elegantly well-centered soul who loved Carrie Bradshaw-ish designer shoes–when her face was not spackled with paint.

She was having slight difficulty with her walking, talking and balance and I missed many of the clues as we were then in the midst of pulling off a daring PR stunt to try and rescue her from impending financial hardship. She faced a huge bill for unsold pottery and jewelry shortly after her boyfriend, who ran a large and lucrative rep’ group that also sold her art, “wandered a bit” and quit selling her work shortly after she left him a permanent stray “on account of his infidelity.”

She lamented to me one day that she wished she could rid herself of a conscience so she could hand the bank note, half owned by her ex-boyfriend, back to the vindictive philanderer. I suggested we sell her conscience on EBay with a certificate of authenticity neatly folded inside a jeweled bag she would design. EBay tolerated the ruse long enough for Shannon to receive calls from morning drive shows and newspapers worldwide–the BBC in Dublin found it particularly amusing. I do not remember how successful we were, but I remember how much fun we had during her 15 minutes of fame. And, for the record, I doubt she would have really abandoned her conscience to a stranger for something as cheap as revenge.

Shannon eventually righted herself  all but physically. The last note I received from her said she had been confined to a wheelchair and was learning to perform simple, everyday tasks again. But, phone numbers no longer worked and emails bounced back to me. I had lost her and on top of the guilt we wandering expats feel when those we love are far away and in trouble, I feared for the worst–despite knowing that she would be no easy match for the brain tumor the doctors could not operate to remove.

This week I found an obscure reference to her on the 9thstlab Blog. It was poetry about her condition that was written by her while in a hospital in Alabama. The poems are from 2007, but I strongly sense she is alive and fighting well somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.

she has always been open, public and unabashed about her situations in life, good and worrisome. so, I wanted to share the work I found, but am hoping that if she reads this that I do not end up the reason for a new sale item on an auction site for IP theft of her poetry ;-).

It is powerful stuff Ms Smith and deserves to be read, as much as you deserve health and happiness.

From the blog:

Shannon Smith is a visual artist living in Birmingham Alabama. Recently she was diagnosed with AVM – Arterio veinous malformations, a rare form of brain tumor. In Shannon’s case the tumor is inoperable. The treatment for the embolism is even more painful than the tumor itself. The combination of illness and treatment has rendered her unable to work in her usual mediums, but she has been strong enough to write poetry about her experience. She is under the care of physicians at the medical center at the University of Alabama in Birmingham – a research hospital and one of the best in the country.

TWELVE BLANKETS FOR MY BRAIN

After the surgeons have
rearranged my head,
they become concerned
about my body temperature
at eighty six degrees. It is strange,
because I do not feel cold, only empty.
Nurses bring one blanket after another
wrapping me up tightly. I feel warm
but trapped and weighted down like
swimming with my clothes and shoes on.

Two more blankets
added to the pile-
Now I am just tangled like
A fish in a fishing net not knowing which way is up
or out. My voice trapped under layers of thick cotton.
And when I reach the numeric definition of normal, I do
not feel different or normal, mostly just trapped.
Tucked in, but no bedtime story.
I picture myself escaping from the hospital;
sliding in my socks on the shiny floors,
running down the halls,
riding elevators ,
waving to other patients.
My blankets alone in a pile on the floor.

LOOKING FOR WHAT IS LEFT

The darkness is back,
hovering over this crumpled body
where waves of pain call home.
The blackness has become opaque now
Not even outlines of the everyday.

Morphine, Fetanyl, Sekanol- hello lovers.
I hide as I swallow nails.
The shutters bang against windows.
It is too late for prayer.
Lightning cracks the night sky
shattering my skull
on the zipper of scars,
one stitch at a time.

Sleep will never find me here.
The warden of pain shakes his keys
at my cage. These are not the tears of heartbreak-
much too salty, much too free.

This darkness is heavy and suffocating
like a fishing net with weights.
If I am here tomorrow,
I will go look for myself
kicking bones out of the way,
to see what is left

Shannon Smith

Much love from China, SSlola

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New and Selected Poems: “After Being Asked” and “Soundtrack”

When I passed through LAX customs yesterday I was asked the same question I suppose the immigration folks are trained to ask in cases like mine: “Why have you been in China so long?” Each time I have to resist the urge to render witty or acerbic comebacks–especially after 17 hours of travel next to some high-strung, dialect-limited Chinese emigrant from Guangxi on his first plane flight. But, I digress…

My answer must seem odd to those civil servants who used to hearing one-word responses like: “Business,” Visit,” Coming home,”  or “Job Hunting.” I reply, “fulfilling a promise. I am seeing someone through a long bout with cancer.”

Ms Yue has outlived many of her chemotherapy friends. If you knew her, you’d understand that her natural talent for befriending anyone, from the local trash collector to a head of security in her district, ensures that there are never strangers in her life. She had met them in the hospital annex next to where where she had her surgery performed. She is the last of the League of extraordinary Chinese as I came to call them. They learned from Yue how to embrace the life left to them with meditation, companionship, spiritual supplications and long conversation and rich laughter over inexpensive cups of Chinese tea.

SOUNDTRACK

I am still listening

When the agitated syncope

Of thready heartbeats

Stop to amass a clap of thunder

Over crashing surf

And you fight the waves of fear

With a hand forged sword

And exhausted share tales of battle

With those who subside on phone calls

And weekend visits from half-hearted

Familial warriors lightly anchored to love

And when your body betrays you

In the ravenous silence

And you think you are

One impossibly simple syllable

Short  of a symphony

Remember the lullabies of the past

Conduct them into the present

Lay awash in the fragile swells of hesitancy

Compose mysterious reconciliations

And keep faith in the God of the metronome

Your friends are lucky to have you

Disarmed and hardly replenished

By the convenient half-loves

To which even tender siblings retreat

You survive by teaching through example

How to keep faith in wellness

And the will of the tides

The gift or accident of nature

That gave you ears for

And a comradery with

The roiling, the murmurs, the sobs

And the wicked playfulness of the ocean

And the weather it dares to rebuke…

for W.L. and Ms Yue

Ms Yue has long hidden her illness from Chinese friends. They are not as open about discussing cancer or life threatening disease like westerners. So, when it became evident that she would have do something cosmetically reduce the impact of the uneven loss of her hair and the endless looks of strangers afraid to ask why…

AFTER BEING ASKED TO CUT HER HAIR

When you called, yesterday evening

or the night before, I made the long walk

to you through the thick heat of Southern China,

flanked by our prostitute of a River:

Beautiful after dark, but only when flattered

by the exploitative light of tourist boats

I hated China that night

I found it especially hard to breathe:

It is always damned humid

and it reeks of smoke and poverty

and in the dim daylight reveals

a blinded sun, Guangzhou’s grey cataract

of a sky that, when it can see, ignores the whore–

the river again–

whose name no one can speak

with any longing in their voice

The water was unlined that night:

a corpse without worry as I prepared

a place in my memory

for what I would destroy perhaps forever:

the hair: forty-five years

of silk, glistening with the kisses

of an adoring mother and vigilant father

times in a China no longer missed

by those who have come to this low-waisted city

to find work and forget the darkeness

in which their friends, awake with temptation

in the darkness of their ancestral homes

just grow into unadorned

albeit long, and painless seniority

You asked to me conceal the evidence

of the waning of the infinite. You told me to cut

because I am foreign, from the west,

and know how to use a razor

to shave away history:

the perfect blackness, the magnificent

mystery of the history of moonlights, fires,

and wind that has run fingers

through the remembered and forgotten

“Love is so short, forgetting so long”

when it is a name like yours,

that you clutch deep in your throat

As strong as you are

will always be, and as proudly high

as have always held your head,

the quarrel with your body,

said the doctor–a white coated immigrant

from the North like yourself and too polite

to tell you or your family–the quarrel

will not always look this well

I addressed my selfish sorrow

in suffocated sobs to the still water

that confirmed my questions with silence

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Twitter Poets to Follow

Mashable and others have published lists of  journalists, fiction writers, non-fiction writers, bloggers, Social Media gurus and new media mavens, but I haven’t seen a post that guide you to poets on any of the big dog blogs.

twitter poetry

Now, while it is true that most poetry magazines have the circulation of a 90-year old chain smoking couch potato there are a number of wordsmiths who have found a new and enthusiastic audience on Twitter.

The list is by no means exhaustive and recommendations are welcomed. Included on the list are virtual voices of those who write everything: refrigerator poetry, Haiku, Free Verse, Caged Verse, Children’s poetry. There are poets represented who have never seen their name in print beyond Twitter’s RSS feed and others who collect awards like academics collect titles.

Poets to follow on Twitter:

@chinamatt (Publisher of the Terracotta Typewriter)

@Kojobaffoe (Kojo Baffoe, my creative cyber friend from South Africa)

@rmfenwick A former student who long ago came into his own

@lonniehodge (Me)

@paisano (editor of dad0matic)

@janngae (Jancie Reynolds: Haiku)

@yojinbo (Mr. Yojinbo)

@32poems (Deborah Ager: Nat. Poetry Series Winner and a great blog at 32 Poems)

@gloson (young man doing some fun stuff)

@5wa (Robert Neff)

@miridunn (Miriam MacDonald)

@elspethmurray (Tweeter in residence for a puppet theater)

@iwritepoetry ( Good follow. Location: Library 😉  )

@awaretalkradio (Chad Lilly)

@greenskeptic (Scott Edward Anderson)

@poettwist (Kathy Koch)

@puerhan (Kiwi-Buddhist-Architect)

@thebookwright (Tom Evans, “empath”)

@weblaureate (Writes at http://web-poet.com )

@Toltecjohn (John Lavan)

@tinylittlepoems (Kate Larsen)

@lucciano (G Lucciano. Love the “half man, half poet in his profile)

@bookloveher (Brandi Bates)

@poets (Endless poetic tweets from Wapaware.com)

@pookandgrace (Ruth Du Fresne)

@lovelytrinkets

@stacyr3r (Stacy Conley: Haiku)

Collin Kelly also has published a list and it can be found here for those who are blocked from Blogspot in China: POETS ON TWITTER or below here:

Gregory Pincus: @GottaBook
Sherry Chandler: @BlueGrassPoet
Samuel Peralta: @semaphore
Patty Paine: @expatty
Luisa Igloria: @ThePoetsLizard
Maureen Evans: @Maureen
Zach Buscher: @PoetryTwit
Christine Miller: @ChristineMiller
Zoe Nishimuta: @zoenishimuta
John Hudak: @iamcynical
T.R. “Terry” Hummer: @trhummer
K. Silem Mohammad: @ksilem
Mathias Svalina: @msvalina
Tao Lin: @tao_lin
Dave Bonta: @Morning_Porch
C. Cleo Creech: @cleocreech
Michele Brenton: @banana_the_poet
Ray Succre: @raysuccre
32 Poems Magazine/Deborah Ager: @32poems
Marie-Elizabeth Mali: @memali
Joel Fried: @joeltalks
Will Kenyon: @williamkenyon
Tammy Knott: @lileagle
Cole Krawitz: @ckrawitz
Christine Klocek-Lim: @chrissiemkl
Sharon Brogan: @sbpoet
Saeed Jones: @saeedjones
Samiya Bashir: @scryptkeeper
Rachel Barenblat: @velveteenrabi
Lisa Marie: @thirdrootprod
AnnMarie Eldon: @AnnMarieEldon
Susan Taylor Brown: @susanwrites
Deb Scott: @stoneymoss
Pamela Johnson Parker: @Pamela12345
Jeffrey Thomson: @jeffreythomson
Peggy Eldridge-Love: @Plove413
James Valvis: @jamesvalvis

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Charity does not translate well into Chinese Part I

The government announced this week that it was drafting a new government initiative to enable the public to see how their donations to charity are being used. This was brought on, in part, because donations to charity, meant to help Sichuan earthquake victims, are being questioned more frequently and with good reason: Only 12 of the 28 authorized recipients of aid funds have published how the donations received by their groups have been spent.
China rural poor

Part of the problem, according to one foreign based charity director is that when enormous sums of money pour into China’s poorest regions it is more a cause for alarm for local officials than jubilation. Local agencies are ill-equipped to handle hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and fearful of punishment when retrospectively analyzed for spending money, even on much needed sanitation, cooking and lodging. Beijing, prone to over-react and over-control  (find a way to add “euphemism” here), has effectively paralyzed local, regional and global support agencies.  One Chinese charity group to which I donate time spent a year obtaining tax exempt status in Hong Kong while negotiating with local Sichuan governments over the best way to supply volunteer teachers to handicapped survivors of the disaster. Functional assistance took months of red-tape and guanxi (relationship) building with officials before needy students actually received any help.

Another charity that I advise sought to build, with its own discretionary funds, community centers and dormitories in remote villages. The U.S. based organization was quickly asked to dole out a large sum in “deposit money” and commit to a healthy percentage of future monies raised (20%)  to even begin an authorized partnership with a local government. The contract  to be signed contained no real guarantee it could begin work on rebuilding small village infra-structure and contained a forfeiture clause if a specified sum was not routinely spent by the charity,

Fear and frustration have altered more than one organizational mandate in China and deterred companies and individuals from lending further help in devastated areas: According to a report last week, Beijing has started a inquiries into many foreign representative offices  for charities and nonprofit organizations doing business in China. Some of them are being scrutinized for infractions as picayune as failing to report a change of address.

It is felt by many that the recent censoring of Twitter, Facebook and internal social networking sites were in part effected because they provided a platform for easy communication between human rights activists, charities and other groups that could well give Beijing a black eye (insert “euphemism” again and add “platitude” somewhere) for its sloth in providing adequate help with now long dormant donations. An the recent detentions, and arrests of human rights lawyers, the forced closing of the Open Constitution Initiative that fought for citizens’ civil rights has not helped to quell fears by would-be humanitarians in impoverished areas that good deeds will not go unpunished.

Beijing was riding a wave of popularity and respect following the Olympics that even Obama could not match. Bureaucratic hurdles, information blocks (Dear Beijing:  Contrary to party opinion, people are not stupid and head straight for the Internet when a commercial abruptly replaces a report on TV: They know something is being hidden from them)  have all weakened the resolve of many who wanted to contribute to building a new international identity of which they can be proud.  Now, many young people, ones who became rabid nationalists during and after the Beijing Olympics, have retreated back into quiet desperation and seeming indifference because of  the recent crackdowns on expression. “Disappointment” occurs often in regular discourse about the government.

Add to all of this the generally accepted culture of corruption that pervades many business dealings in municipal governments–one charity was asked to build a free home for government officials as a part of a “partnership” deal to build homes for the elderly–a long-standing distrust of charity in general (see culture of corruption above) and a western media that has demonized China and made it appear to be much wealthier than 800 million of its poverty stricken can tell you with authority that it is not And this mix is a lethal one for the most needy of Chinese: Westerners somehow cannot separate the millions dead or left homeless because of floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and environmental poisoning with lost jobs, and factory closings.

Even on Twitter and Facebook re-postings/re-tweets of disasters, calls to action and news of tragedies like the arrest–after six months of detention–of a civil rights lawyer do not seem to move us. There is little chance that anything will change in China as long as the rest of the world remains idle and bound more to economic, rather than charitable/humanitarian concerns.

“Locked in, Locked out and Locked up” seems to be the current definition of charity in China….


Part II: Charities that are succeeding and why (the west) should help….

Earlier related articles on OMBW: INTERNING THE POOR , COMPASSION FATIGUE

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Stone Pillow: New and Selected Poems “Fishing for the Moon”

Poet Li Young-Lee has often spoken of certain works as “quarrels” with his father. Many of mine, like Fishing… fall into the same category. Studies have been done that imply that the post-death emotional impact of a family member’s passing is far greater for those who had a strained relationship with the deceased.

My father was, at various times in his life someone easy to quarrel with because we were nothing alike. It was a long time in coming that I really believed, and not as an apologetic attempt at self-delusion, he did as best he could with what nature and nurture had given him. Life was not easy: He spent his teen years in a Masonic sanatorium recovering from tuberculosis during the Great Depression before joining a traveling carnival where he worked as a roustabout before heading off to WWII in the infantry.

When he died ironically there was only one person, other than me and my mother, who viewed his body at the funeral home. Ironically, it was his fishing partner, a black man several years my father’s senior. The two of them would sit for hours without saying a word to each other. It is only now that I am awed by the quiet simplicity in both of them and I often lament being cursed with far too much formal education. How wonderful it would be to spend a day with my only ambition being to carry home a creel of fish to a faithful wife who valued food and survival skills far more than money or talk.

This poem was written while I was studying for my MFA. My daughter loved the early drafts as much as she loved my father.  She hated the deconstructed versions that academic critique groups foisted me, an insecure writer.  I have since tried to give it back some of its original emotional charge while not handing it over to sentimentality or subjective shorthand.

bk10

Fishing for the Moon
On the lake’s granite surface

The moon’s blind eye kept watch

As small stars, silver lights, fell.

Lures cast by my father that would raise

My sleepy head  and I would listen

For fish that would wound the calm,

Flare into the enormous night air,

and fight him reeling them toward shore.

One night, in my late teens,

An indecisive breeze touched us both:

I remember the familiar odor of age,

Cigar ashes rubbed into overalls,

And Lucky Tiger hair balm on a black

Forever military scalp.

At thirty-five or so, I tried to quit my ascensions

Away from tobacco farmer beginnings:

Theology, the military (but as an officer of course)

And accepted I was no match for the tattooed arms

And yielded to the strength of experience,

His eighth-grade smugness, and the once embarrassing

Southern vowels and long lines that could coax

Fishing tackle to scribble success across a lake.

I walked the reservoir’s circumference

The night he died and listened to icy respirations

Give in to winter. Drowning in his own fluid,

He sometimes smiled: a delirious toothless smile,

Like he had just landed a keeper.

I remember promising, no lying, in the nursing home

To him that I would take him fishing again.

But, he died before I knew how bad I would feel.

His eyes went white: turned inside, toward the water,

While his naked fingers would query the deep, dry pocket

Left from the injury: the Vietnam head wound.

It was a year after the seizures

That his arms fell limp at his sides

And the man who could not read anything

Except inland tides and solunar tables

Lay helpless in a hard bed.

They say it was pneumonia.

I say it was the lake claiming him

Where I returned his ashes: reticent,

Swirling near the bank they ebbed

Toward the center, where I cast

Lure after lure, fishing for the moon.

Personal Notes,Poetry,Stone Pillow,Uncategorized,Vietnam,War

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Stone Pillow: New and Selected Poems

The only Photograph of Her Affair


Her husband believes it’s a mistake

Yet wonders why she holds on

To what appears to be nothing

More than a tree, small bit of sky

And a tangle of shadows below.

She tells him an unconscious bump

Must have snapped the shutter

On what could be

morning or evening anywhere

Women are vigilant

and men so quickly distracted

She believes he’ll never know

That her lover is near

And she sits, back against a plum tree

With a flower print skirt

Tucked between white thighs,

Soft blonde threads glistening

With dew, and a delirious heat rising

from the tender grass below

There were tiny birds above

Deep in an anarchy of leaves

And limbs. And hungry mouths

Made small cries. The unmistakable

Sounds of dawn or dusk.

–Lonnie Hodge

American Poet in China,Poetry,Stone Pillow,Uncategorized

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Stone Pillow (New and Collected Poems): The Clearing

The Clearing

–for EB (’94)

I wanted to turn your grief

to dew that deer carry

every morning from the safety

of thicket beds into sunrise

I would have gathered your face close to mine

and looked long into the deep worry

stones of your dark, well worn endurance

I could have embraced you

the way the deer seem to take turns

stepping ahead, watching

and browsing with cautious confidence

just ahead of sunrise

American Poet in China,American Professor in China,Poetry,Stone Pillow,Uncategorized

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A day in the life

“Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.”

-Bill Moyers

I am glad to be back writing again after a long hiatus….This is not a regular fare for those of you who have read me in the past…It is simply a laundry list, a sorry set of excuses explaining my absence, and one way to personally reflect on “mundane” events from the last couple of months. I track below one “normal” day’s activities:

–Read RSS, Twitter, NY Times, Facebook updates with coffee–1.0 hours

–Forget to eat breakfast–0 hrs

–Check in on Ms Yue and practice my Yueyinglish–30 min.

Prepare lecture materials for the week on Culture, Writing, Social Media…–1.0 hours

Tweet and Re-Tweet interesting articles about China, Charity, Humor, Inspiration, Good Music and post pics from my i-Phone and relate drivel about what I am up to for the day (zzzzzzzz)….. –1.0 hours

Order in late lunch that I eat cold later while I am working–2 min.

Read and answer all @ and DM Tweets, Email, and FB messages sent my way; try to delete most of the 120 spam mails received overnight–1.0 hours

Speculate on the actual number of Viagara users who buy online–10 sec.

Online meetings with amazing charities to whom I donate time, web work and support–1.5-2.0 hrs

Training and consultation with digital interns in SEO, SEM, PR 2.0, online digital marketing; prepare business proposal for an expat business that will either not pay for, or steal and then outsource to a “good friend who is an SEO expert” –2.0 hrs

Clean my world-view glasses and remember all the good folks; chant “the future is all you can hope to control”–10 min.

Buy some clever domain name (Straight-eye-for-the queer-guy.com) that I will park with the 185 others I own and never use–5 min.

Catch-up on Skype with close friends and collegues–1.0 hours

Lecture on nothing I was prepared to speak about–2.0 hrs

65325_600

Laugh and walk away when students or colleagues ask the meaning of “multitasking”–0 min

Business Planning, delegation of work with PA and team–1-hrs

Re-explain business planning to the interns who pretended they understood my colloquial English the first time thru–30 min.

Do a BBC Radio Interview on Censorship–45 min.

Wonder if that sound at the door is the Net Nanny–10 sec.

Write 3 letters of recommendation for students past and present–45 min.

Give pep talk to the students for whom I wrote recommendations and tell them it is not necessary to send applications to 65 U.S. colleges for safety–1 min.

Help brainstorm three separate creative projects (non-profit) with artist friends in Washington, SG and Shanghai on Skype and by telephone– 1 hr.

Do Guardian newspaper interview about China Internet/Social Media/Censorship–45 min.

Wonder if I have seen that car outside my house before–10 sec.

Hand code/write SEO/SEM work I am “donating” to a $1,000,000 online company that pays a friend instead of me (he is in danger of losing his house due to a layoff)–30 min.

Media Magazine Interview (sound bite) about Baidu/social media in China–20 min.

Drink 3-5 canned drinks (tea, fruit juice, diet Coke…)–Ongoing

Make organizational plans for free networking event I sponsor in Guangzhou –15 min.

Skim a poetry book while in the, um, library (do not visualize)–confidential 😉

Power nap/meditate–20 min.

Catch fast dinner at a local cafe; watch TED video on i-Phone enroute–45 min.

Openly stare at the 60 year old expat and his 25 year old Chinese mate without a rational thought in my head–seems like days

Watch a re-run and then the news (also a ongoing re-run) while surfing the web for new ideas–hard to do as I have had hearing loss since my twenties (THE MILITARY FRANK, THE MILITARY) and often need closed captions or subtitles (yep, really)–1.5 hrs

Try to reconstruct the plot line of the show I watched (’cause I was surfing at the time) and Google/Yahoo TV news stories that the Chinese censors tried to hide by cutting away to commercials–20 min.

Curse the Great Firewall, Twitter’s Fail whale and the sluggishness of my computer on VPN–Afraid to quantify

Make plans (hotel reservations or prep my spare room) for out of town first and second life  guests who graciously drop by and rescue me from myself at least one day a week–10 min.

Scan and answer tweets and retweet valuable or fun information; blow soda thru my nose at great tweets by @frankyu, @garysoup, @sioksiok and others; marvel at the kindness and wisdom of folks like @sashakane, @meryl333, @billglover, @bestsydrager, @davidfeng, @barbatsea, @dougwhite, @lindasmith247, @weirdchina, @sdweathers, leonacraig, chicagodiane,@rolandinchina, @neilspeen @inkophile, @deswalsh @joeleisen and scores of online buds–30-40 min.

Plan on how to politely turn down a chance to write chapters for 3 books on China SEO, Internet and Business; write three blog articles in my head and “vow” to put them online; “swear” to begin learning more Chinese; think of guests for radio show (soon to return) with Des Walsh and for Web Wednesday Guangzhou; lament that I have not read a whole book straight thru in 2 years; get back up to take medicine for autoimmune condition that keeps me awake and in pain most nights; create 20 new business ideas I will be able to say in 10 years I thought of first–45 min. (while trying to get to sleep)

Be thankful, really–24/7

I will be rotating the posts I swore I would write 😉 with poetry from my new book: Stone Pillow: New and Collected 1994-2009. The first poetry post will go up tomorrow!

American Poet in China,American Professor in China,China Business Consultant,China Editorials,China Expat,China Expats,China Humor,china internet,China SEO,China web 2.0,Chinese Internet,Humor,Intercultural Issues,Uncategorized

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The Rape of the Nanjing Memorial

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“The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.”

John Steinbeck

Rape, torture, and war crimes are the twisted common tongue spoken by those falsely entrusted with humanely executing and conjugating wars humanely–if such a a mournful ideal is even possible.

I spent a week up north recently, most of the time in bed ragged from battling a relentless fever, and would have recovered sooner if not for my long climbs out of exhaustion to explore China’s City of Ghosts, Nanjing. I had studied diligently for decades the massacre branded incident by revisionist Japanese historians. I had to see the unresolved grief of a nation now shaped into a memorial and on display so the world will not forget the Asian holocaust and the 20,000,000 lives surrendered in Korea,  Burma, Taiwan, The Philippines, Thailand and the whole of the Pacific Rim enslaved by Japanese, greed, lust and an imperial megalomania.

The memorial hall, a coffin-like structure near the burial site of murdered Chinese (“Wan Ren Keng” or Pit of Ten Thousand Corpses) was built ostensibly to honor the memory the 20,000 women raped and some 300,000 citizens slaughtered in fewer than eight weeks of Japanese occupation. Some Japanese “negationists” dispute the number and others even label the talk of massacre a mere act of Chinese propaganda.

What is known, from diaries and collected records from such groups as the Red Swastika and ten other international aid groups, documented the burial of more than 150,000 remains in Nanjing. And I had expected the memorial to make heard the collective wail of a lost souls and a people humiliated beyond the darkest, most appalling horrors your imagination can conjure.

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I braced myself going in for a repeat of the suffocating, intense pain I felt when visiting the concentration camp at Dachau, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC or the Vietnam Memorial at Angel Fire New Mexico. These feelings never came. Maybe it was because I was unable to separate myself for any reflection from the constant ring of cellphones, or the it could have been the relentless manifestations of the number “300,000” that seemed there more as a rebuke than a eulogy, or perhaps it was the theme park feel of the exhibits, the horrific English translations at each station. Too, I nearly drowned in rhetoric about the glorious defeat and surrender of the Japanese to the Chinese forces. The sprinkling of mentions of the Allied sacrifices in support of China were disappointing and infuriating. There was a single picture and only a brief mention of  fearless men, like Doolittle’s Raiders or the Flying Tigers, who were pivotal in Japan’s defeat. If China hopes to extract honesty and contrition out of Japan and an amendment of inaccurate history books it should clean the window displays at the memorial and allow a bit more transparency…

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I was stuck by the tributes to some of the heroes who created a diplomatic safe zone that fended off the Japanese and saved some 200,000 lives at risk of their own:

When the Japanese invaded China in 1937 the world chose not to respond to reports of atrocities that were themselves biblical in magnitude. In one of the most perfect examples of repeated cosmic irony, John Rabe, a member of Germany’s Nazi party became the “Angel” or “Living Buddha of Nanjing” alongside its “goddess” an American Christian missionary by the name of Minnie Vautrin. After being rebuffed by their respective diplomatic liaisons they established the “safe zone” that saved people from being tortured, burned alive, buried alive, decapitated, bayoneted raped or shot for sport. They acted for God, or in God’s stead, as the behavioral contagion of evil spread throughout the occupying Japanese Army.  Further sad irony is the later suicide of Vautrin, attributed to Post Traumatic Stress, and the death of an impoverished and sick Rabe.  Rabe was arrested by his own party for his involvement in Nanjing, and then tried after the war for his earlier Nazi affiliation depleting his resources, devastating his health and forcing him to live in poverty.

Too, there was a small tribute to Iris Chang the author of the book The Rape of Nanking. She, to paraphrase Steinbeck, dredged into the light the horrors of Nanjing so thoroughly and unashamedly that the Japanese banned her book citing minor factual discrepancies with their own records. Chang’s death by suicide in 2004 is a lightning rod for controversy: despite psychological treatment for depression and three separate suicide notes, it was thought by many conspiracy theorists that Chang was murdered for endlessly embarrassing the Japanese such as she did by advocating congressional demands for Japanese apologies and confrontations on national TV with the Japanese ambassador. The documentary based on her book and released in 2007 was dedicated to Chang and can be viewed at the memorial.

From an earlier treatise on Nanjing:

Several years ago Rabbi Harold Kushner made popular a treatise on the Old Testament Book of Job. When Good Things Happen to Bad People took on the daunting task of explaining why God, in the allegorical text, might have subjected his dutiful servant Job to all manner of physical and emotional trauma while expecting him to be obedient and adoring. The book purportedly meant to give us comfort by explaining what laymen already had resigned themselves to knowing about Job: adversity just happens and we need to content ourselves with the knowledge that God has a greater plan to which we are not yet privy.

I never accepted Kushner’s easy out; so when tasked with teaching the Bible as Literature to Chinese students this year, I studied Job knowing the first question my young scholars would ask was identical to my own: why would man’s creator willingly torture a loving being, cast in his own image, for the sake of a cosmic bet with the devil? I found the answer in the actions of Job’s friends, not those of God as he was portrayed by the allegory’s author: Job’s friends willingly abandoned him. It was with that realization that Job became, for me, less of a lesson about obedience and worship and clearly a moral guide to my responsibilities to my fellow man.

Rape of Nanjing

If it is the duty of the artist to expose the truth to the light, it is the job of the historian to frame and disseminate the events that can re-shape our souls whether we think them to be temporal or divine.

Rabe and Vautrin did not leave the Jobs of Nanjing to suffer the mysteries of fate: They were courageous against uncertainty, raised rational voices amidst the absurdity of war, and thankfully were more committed than the closest of personal friends during a time of horror and anguish.

I read last year where 46% of people answering a poll on the social networking site Facebook said they had no desire to see the  documentary Nanking. It is likely the emotional cost, not the price of a ticket keeping them away from the film. Some, like Job’s fair weather friends, do not feel the need for humanitarian counsel. It seems some things are slow to change, but that should not stop anyone, artist advocate or historian, from authenticating the past by giving voice to those are not heard even in the terrible silence of indifference. Carolyn Forche, in her award winning book, The Country Between Us writes: “There is nothing one man will not do to another.” Steinbeck was right: we have usurped the authority and have supposed ourselves to carry the omniscience once ascribed to God.

While I agree with Steinbeck, Kushner and I diverge: I don’t think God, in any any of the earthly renditions we have supposed for his form or character, plays cosmic dice at our expense. And while I know first-hand the pain man is capable of inflicting, I choose to include charity among the many intentional acts that we might choose to commit.

The memorial, in all of its 300,000 (300,000) square feet of glorious anguish is overdone, smacks of a governmental, not humanitarian, agenda. I say, go see it, but view it as much as a metaphor for China’s lingering national insecurities and continued shame over its inability to end the Japanese occupation alone.

May the digital temple bell that rings every ten seconds carry some semblance of the truth of man’s inhumanity to man beyond the boundaries of any heartless ideologies.

P.S.  Special Thanks to my open minded, well informed and linguistically gifted guide and interpreter for the week Chen Chan and his teacher Betsy

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You Must Go Home Again II

That I have withdrawn from the abuses of time means little or nothing. I am a place, a place where things come together, then fly apart. Look at the fields disappearing, look at the distant hills, look at the night, the velvety fragrant night, which has already come, though the sun continues to stand at my door.

Mark Strand

I have always thought suicide to be the ultimate act of violence: the explosion that results from a critical mass of shivers, splinters and agonizing open conflicts. And while psychologists assert that depression is anger turned inward, I view it as the long restrained blow in a battle won only by lashing out and retreating across waters into which enemies won’t ford. As I said in a post many months ago:

It is my guess that so many suicides on Chinese campuses are directly related to this sense of familial duty and the inability to express feelings of displeasure. I see student denial of feelings as type of socially/culturally mandated alexithymia that is pervasive in China. Alexithymia is a condition characterized by a disconnect between emotions and actions. Individuals who are alexithymic cannot accurately describe feelings they are having nor are they in touch with how the feelings are being manifested in other parts of their lives. Such disconnect breeds addiction, somatic disorders, difficulty in relationships, or violence.

I recently taught two seemingly disparate classes: one obliquely encouraged students to dialogue about their inner-most dreams and the other, coincidentally and disturbingly scheduled on the day of the tragic shootings in New York, had much in common: Students were asked to differentiate between the words job, vocation and calling and then apply them to issues in their own lives. I was deeply moved and, as is often the case, I exchanged my role as teacher for that of student. Those of us who have taught ESL for a number of years know well when to listen to the sounds that return to us from across the cultural divide. Chinese students are noted for their silence in the classroom Much of what they reluctantly express is meant to be superficial; hence, safe. But, occasionally, if you listen closely enough, you will hear the overflow of the heart become word. The sounds that I heard were not the usual echoes of my own voice and I paid attention.

It is suicide season here and it makes it all the harder to hear student voice fears and lamentations about the future. They expect that their jobs upon graduation, if they are lucky enough to win any in an economy hit harder than than the government lets on, may well be menial and unrewarding. They expressed an awareness that because they are students who will graduate from a provincial college rather than a country funded key university the likelihood that they would join the ranks of millions of the educated unemployed in now greater than ever in recent years. Many of them spoke of their vocational “choices” as inevitable: preparations foisted upon them by parents, poor entrance scores, or a lack of financial resources needed to pursue their true calling.

In my class of would-be businessmen and women there were actually singers, visual artists, humanitarian aid workers, writers, Olympic athletes and more….. My students spoke with passion about their dreams now being relegated to mere meditations on what could, or should, have been.

But when I asked them how they felt about giving up or belaying calls of the heart, I found that they had practiced for so long at giving an outward appearance of gratitude and acceptance that they could not see the dissonance. For them, to grouse about their lot in life, while spending their parents’ hard-earned money on tuition, would be to completely dishonor their families. Few Asian students would ever defy the wishes of their parents in such matters. Instead, it is easier to dissociate or suffer in silence than to profess displeasure at one’s lot in life. It is at once admirable and heartbreaking to see students inexorably tied to the dreams of others while abandoning their own.

I now know of ten student and Chinese teacher deaths in the last three years and all ended their lives by jumping from rooftops–an ending ripe for horrific metaphor.  Expats are far more creative in their self destruction as being an expat has its own set of invited and uninvited emotional contradictions: a feast of anxiety and mourning in he midst of the unfamiliar. I have watched expats lash out at their hosts for the very differences that compelled them to travel abroad. When our minds become cluttered with emotional matter we either reassemble and adapt, run toward more familiar surroundings, narcotize, lose our minds or lash out. Two of my friends have chosen, since since recently losing their businesses, to surrender to depression and deceit and I hope they come to some mental clearing where they can remove burdens of doubt, and rest and recover enough to negotiate a lasting truce with themselves…

In times of trouble I  stay up much too late to watch the box scores when Tiger Woods is playing, I watch endless hours of TV re-runs from the States, eat far too much toxic fast food, and worse…I have come close to wandering off the edge of the abyss, but have many good friends who know that sudden and prolonged silence from this outspoken teacher is a danger signal and I need to be called home if only via a message filled with a written or visual memory of the past…

My Chinese students are not always so lucky. Taught to wear discomfort fashionably they rarely give clues as to the depth of their despair or the strength of the opponents they are fighting. And even if they did, their polite contemporaries, also not eager to take on added responsibility, might ignore suffering in order to save their friend’s”face,” allowing them the illusion of strength.

It was a year ago last month that Chennie fought her last battle. She was an exceptional student who changed dozens of lives for the better. She was a favorite, she was gifted and not in retrospect: she earned the respect, love and admiration of students and classmates long before she died.  There was never a glister of sadness or anger in her eyes. I have stared for hours at the pictures that will keep her eternally young on Facebook and while I know some of the details preceding her death, I doubt I will ever arrive at an acceptable understanding of the hopelessness that drove her to take her own life.

I chose not to to give credence to the criticism of those who find my concern too saccharine or ignoble a task on which to to waste their conceit–like the administrators at Chennie’s school to whom she called out to in vain for help.

Chennie left me with a gift, of course, I wish I could return in person: I attend as best I can to those unable to sleep, I try to give voice to slight gestures of supplication I catch made in solitary anguish and I write in hopes you will do the same for the emotional or physical travelers in your life.

June 1988-March 2008

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You must go home again…

“Loneliness is and always has been the central and inevitable experience of every man.”

Thomas Wolfe


I generally solicit views on current events from my students during the first few minutes of a class. It allows them to decompress from submersion in previous courses, informs me about what is current in Chinese student circles and points up, by their unintended omissions, what news as been missed by them via censorship or time constraints. During “current events” this week we reviewed, the “Great Spoon Heist” on campus: It seems that 500 stainless steel spoons had vanished and now the students are forced to eat from utensils with holes drilled in their bellies–which is now kinda tough on the soup lovers I am guessing. And students also told me of the Sakura scandal at Wuhan University–nationally revered for its lush greenery and traditional architecture– in the north of China. Last week a mother and her daughter were run off of campus and vilified on the Internet for taking pictures while dressed in Japanese Kimonos in front of the famed Sakura trees. They were the on the receiving end of local wrath for ignorance regarding the history of the blossoms.

Sakura were first planted by the Imperial Japanese Army occupying the campus during the war years because they were homesick (Thankfully, instead of acts of rape, pillage and plunder they planted flowers and I am guessing did not wear Kimonos to do it…), but those particular Cherry Blossoms died some time later and the Japanese government, so I am told, sent more later as a gift and the remaining 60 or so trees now attract tens of thousands of visitors annually who admire their beauty–and manage to stay a sight more sober in the process than do the Japanese during their viewings in Japan…**

After current events I then told classes about my recent flight into Bangkok, where I was headed for medical treatment, during which time I noticed that the man in the seat next to me reading a Japanese newspaper. Since I am accosted 2-3 times a week for impromptu English practice– and end up feeling more like a parrot than a professor–I thought I’d mediate my 40-year old discomfort with flying and get in some language practice by chatting him up. He surprised me: quickly after he recovered from the shock of a white male on a flight to Thailand from China speaking Japanese he used my earnest attention to tell me of the woes of a Japanese expat living in China. He missed his family, still in Tokyo, had trouble making friends with Chinese nationals (imagine that) and told me how weary he had become of frequent trips to Thailand required by his position. He would never have shared his grief, for sake of losing face or not appearing strong, with a native Japanese, and seemed increasingly happy as he spoke. After his confessional experience he left the plane devoid of the sullen look he had carried on as baggage.

I recognized the look on his face: He was in the midst of haggling with what I have come to call Expats Syndrome. It is depression brought on via cultural disconnection. We all go through it at one time or another and it can steel our resolve or send us headlong into the cultural abyss. It is a a lack of grounding that finds us grasping for tethers–some healthy and some not.

Gestalt Therapist and Holocaust survivor Fritz Perls once observed several children on a beach each react differently to an incoming wave (glee, flight, terrified incapacitation…) and theorized that we are all genetically predisposed to react differently to stressors.  In addition to the excitement and challenge of living abroad, expatriate adventures can be a bit fugitive, solitary and hence stressful regardless of whether you are visiting a far shore to spiritually conquer, study, invade, visit or do business with the natives who reside there.  In recent weeks I have watched expats cope with waking up in a darkening economic environment by engaging in extramarital dalliances with alcohol or women, depression that has functionally paralyzed them or through fleeing homeward toward Europe Canada or America…. Conversely, One British friend in Hong Kong who recently has lost a substantial portion of his business to a partner company’s reorganization took the loss like a true entrepreneur and announced to me: “We have had a bit of a set-back.”  It was not British stoicism or stiff-upper-lip behavior, but rather a declaration of war by an emotionally well outfitted businessman who will certainly outlast any opponent.

Once outside of themselves again and the country they adopted or were sent to explore, many of my friends find themselves more disoriented than ever before. Being disconnected, even for a few months, from the indeterminate and comforting familiarity of the constellations of their youth or most recent native home can render the sights and sounds there unrecognizable. TV shows have gone off the air ( I have been gone so long I am still mourning the loss of Cheers and MASH), schools have closed, businesses have shuttered and friends moved on or passed away. As an aside: during my first trip back to America in three years recently passed by Ft. Ord, where I did military basic training, and saw that a school had replaced the wooden barracks and later learned that there was little left of the the 1/2 billion dollar Mississippi ammunition plant where I had served as XO in the late 70’s–it’s been in mothballs for more than a decade. It is hard to describe the waves of mortality that vibrate their way through every wrinkle and scar you have earned in the years since those times and harder to explain how foreign you can suddenly feel in your own country.

When I reached my hotel room in Thailand I discovered an article in the International Herald Tribune about foreigners who, because of the cost of overseas postings, had been called home early by cost conscious companies, and were wearied and disoriented upon their return even though their assignments had been short. The story was fundamentally a critique of businesses who do not prepare expats for re-entry….

Several years ago I visited Angel Fire New Mexico and the Disabled American Veterans Vietnam Memorial there. It is built on land considered sacred to Indians and the spot where a ceremonial march for Vietnam returnees was held and at its conclusion veterans were initiated into traditional tribal rituals normally reserved for Indian warriors returning from battle. “Native Americans” were wise enough to know that transitioning back to society required care, diligence and ceremonial reintroductions what for others might be seen as mundane. I think the huge number of homeless and jailed veterans is due in large part to our neglect of returnees and a misguided belief that they can safely reintegrate after experiencing months or years of traumatic events. The veterans who took part in that long march still talk of its healing virtues.

As more warriors return from battle, more economic refugees land on Chinese shores and more western sea turtles head back to their nesting grounds there will be problems. And while the Chinese use an idiom that admonishes us against the danger of having a foot in two boats, I argue that we must stay grounded in our home culture via news, music, movies, art, conversation, books, or blogs while slowly immersing ourselves in a new one. We all cannot be as strong as my friend in Hong Kong and while we well may be hard-wired as to how we’ll respond to stress, but we can mediate the magnitude of our reactions by keeping tethered somehow to home. I just came out of a numb sleep brought on by being ill and having little to grasp onto for comfort, but I am a very lucky veteran traveler who has amazing, loving, keen observers as friends. They threw a line into the abyss. I wish this kind of good fortune on others.

We must go home again, if only virtually, from time to time…

More in a part II

**related Cherry Blossom stories: CHINA SMACK (with hilarious comments by readers below the story) and the

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The only man in China who likes Australia…

…the movie.

And I am glad I saw it.

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I had some time in Beijing, between the blizzard of social connects and meetings that are part of any trip I take outside of Guangzhou, to see the movie Australia. I don’t make it up north very much anymore so I  try to maximize my time while still managing to squeeze in a little enjoyment: seeing a movie, bravely foolishly curiously trying some new local dish, making new friends, enjoying a movie or cherishing a few moments with old acquaintances. I did all of that over two snow scattered days in the capital city.

The only movie showing at a time that would fit into my schedule was the aforementioned blunder from down under. Australia is a cinematic muddle of  magic, mystery, murder, military, melodrama megalomania, and memoirs from a bigot ridden outback….It is so bad that it is a sure bet we will see it again on Hong Kong’s ATV or CCTV here in mainland China.

But, I am glad I saw it.

The movie wandered the bush in search of a theme and stumbled over romance, history, allegory, and object lesson before falling down on a soft core adult tenor via a buffed up Wolverine bathing out of a bucket (and no, the consonance decided on itself…) in front of a barren, befuddled and buffoonish Nicole Kidman.

But I am glad I saw it.

All kidding aside, and man is that a Crocodile Dundelean feat, I learned a lot:

The Japanese rained down more bombs on the port at Darwin than it did two months earlier at Pearl Harbor in the 40’s. And they attacked another 63 times over the next two years to bring Australia as close as it has ever been to war on its own soil. That one reviewer of the film, and one Wiki entry, calls the assaults on Darwin “Australia’s Pearl Harbor” is exactly why I am glad I watched the movie….

A few days ago, if you will permit me a rare digression, I read a viral email sent to me by a “conservative” friend ( conservative is a euphemism, but as close as I can come without risking war on my own turf) who lives in America (the part with 50 states)… He and the email author somehow did not know that Australia had elected a new Prime Minister nor that the alleged PM had not boldly declared that Muslims should denounce their heretical ways and swim off to calmer spiritual waters–while hopefully meeting and greeting several sharks along the way–in an effort to ethnically cleanse Australia….The email was likely designed by an American and meant to give credence to some nationalist notions that U.S. borders should be closed, job stealing wet-backs flung back into the Rio Grande in order that we might realize a new prosperity: thousands of t-shirt assembly-line jobs, radish picking tasks and domestic helper slots that will vault us out of our recession far better than any stimulus package.

When did we become an ethnocentric melting pot? (That is only an oxymoron if you don’t believe that the National and American Leagues can collide at the end of the year and actually play a “World” Series in baseball.) And just so you know, I am guilty too of narrow thinking despite three decades abroad: You mean WWII was not just the U.S. against the forces of evil? The Allies (a close knit group of American G.I.s) didn’t single-handedly saved the world from the dreadful grammar of the Germans and the limited syllabary and endless bowing of the Japanese? I confess to never knowing before this movie that the country, who has battled and died alongside America in every major war and conflict in the last 70 years, suffered the loss of so many lives in Darwin.

Oh, and just for the record I learned from my good friend Des that “Waltzing Matilda” is no more the National Anthem of Australia anymore than “Danny Boy” is the musical representative of Ireland…;-)

We all need a culural wake up once in a while. I thank the the director of Australia–wherever he is in hiding–for mine…

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Twenty-Five Things….

Since I have been tagged numerous times on Facebook with this Meme I thought I would do a serious version in answer-though don’t expect a totally straight face. The beauty of a meme like this is its ability to tilt you away from the events of the day and give you a reason to take a meta-view, as unobstructed as memory will allow, of paths in shadows and ahead, in the gathering light.

olgacornucopia400w

25 Things about me….

  1. I see myself as a combination of two Jungian Archetypes: The Lover and the Magician. The lover in me is the guiding force in my poetry: dialectical and unquenchable desire, immediate sorrow and regret, and a notebook full of “portable kisses.” The Magician in me looks for ways to explain, guide and tempt people into learning and to give voice through art to the good in Kings, Magicians, Warriors and Lovers so people might cherish both calloused hands and  unprotected hearts; to seek the laws that make me, the lover, so sensitive that there are days I feel like lying down because I am dizzied by an earth I can feel rotating on its axis.
  2. I have been physically tortured with the consent of friends–ones  I belayed to safety, but who left me un-anchored and unprotected.  But, despite that my world view still pardons the days for ending too soon and pities the men who never turned to see their shadows disappear; hence, I am quicker to forgive a murdering stranger than a disloyal friend.
  3. I should have left her sooner.
  4. I should have married her when I had the chance.
  5. I love the outdoors. I never want to draw a bowstring or pull a trigger ever again but I want to always see bright stars, even in the dark pools of evening waters. I secretly want an hermitage on a mountain, but with plenty of guest rooms for the people I love.
  6. I almost died of a ruptured gall bladder so I long ago said my goodbyes. I have had a perfect daydream (and occasional nightmare) of a life: archer, writer, actor, father, soldier, businessman, teacher, healer….My life is a billfold of foreign currency spent wisely as well as in proportion to my foolishness…
  7. I never opened a book during school. I couldn’t afford one.
  8. I talk too much, I praise too little, and I am as forgetful as the tide: sometimes leaving without thanks…
  9. I could live on fried chicken, boiled shrimp and garlic-buttered broccoli in perpetuity.
  10. I wish the kisses given by adoring students to  philandering colleagues, priests and teachers in my life would re-appear and show themselves like cancer.
  11. I miss my mother.
  12. I have lost or broken every watch I have ever owned: It is a metaphor for my disdain for time.
  13. I am spiritual, but have grown weary of the religious calisthenics of the west and am too attached to beauty to imagine a bowl to be broken in advance of its demise to be a devotee of eastern thought….
  14. I have a secret crush on Yang, Li Ping that is now not a secret anymore.
  15. I believe that vengeance is in reality an act of regret.
  16. I forget #15 to be a truth too often and fail to forgive myself in time enough to spare an ambush.
  17. I teach in the same voice that speaks from my poetry. It is fearlessly loud enough to carry past 10,000 ears, but I am shy and at parties I end up making make sounds resembling uncomfortable wings below tattered eaves.
  18. I think I have was passed some secret gay fashion gene meant for critique, but not personal styling.
  19. I cry every time I attend the theater because it is where I wish I could have spent more of my adult life.
  20. I believe that too many policeman and statesman are costumed, gutless criminals.
  21. I once believed that if I could write just one poem, like a Mark Doty or a Robert Bly, that could empty you of sorrow or turn into itself into a shutter that could bang life through an abandoned memory that I could die happy. Now that I am older I have amended that to two, or three or….
  22. I think most artists, like myself, are afraid of going mad; great artists revel in their lunacy.
  23. I believe we should restore the draft, but only to put teens to work in charities not war zones. Station them with NGOs or in citizen media training, as bloggers/micro-bloggers while living in homeless shelters or prisons.
  24. I blame religion and government for imprisoning, with laws and rituals, the spiritual gifts that built the great cathedrals and carved gentle, giant Buddhas out of rock.
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Ghost Whisperer

When WordPress suffered a security exploit last year several of my blogs were affected. Thanks to the Internet Wayback Machine I recovered many lost ones. This is one I am glad to have found again.

death catcher

I learned today that my sister passed away. I learned over the Internet that she died in November of last year. She was much older than me and never in great health, so I had wrongfully assumed she had “crossed over” years ago. Tonight in the still heat of a stifling Guangzhou I smelled the sour scent of some hard traveled memories and heard her whisper to me….

No, we were not close. Marriage came early for her, when I was 5, and before I was developmentally mature enough to crave or mourn losses. My military family was turning corners in or out of countries every three years or so and making the word “home” an abstraction. My sister was never in our family pictures. I saw her only a few times through the years and her face in my mind’s eye is blurred. I can remember her often speaking of pain and that remains palpable.

Until tonight I had almost forgotten I had a sister. She had been adopted by my unmarried mother at birth. She saw herself later in life as a stubborn vine that connected all of us to my mother’s alcoholic ex-husband and his mistress: She was the offspring of an affair, so her past was kept secret by my simple and well-meaning parents until she was a teenager. My mother and father, emotionally unsophisticated and afraid, asked a Catholic priest to substitute for them and tell her that she was adopted. It did not go well.

I have been watching DVDs this week “expat style.” We often buy two or three seasons of a show at a time, ones we cannot watch on regular TV and then air them from beginning to end in only a few days. It is a way to keep current with our abandoned culture and remain bonded to the lexicon, fashions and familiar emotions of our birth home. This week I have been storming through two seasons of Ghost Whisperer. And I have come to love the show for its generally positive outcomes, its promotion of health through acceptance and forgiveness and its desensitization of our collective fear of the unknown.* The protagonist of the show, who can see troubled spirits, helps earthbound souls unpack the heavy emotional baggage that holds them here. She helps them release after-longing and pain from the past so they can peacefully migrate into their future. It is not a story about religion, or eschatology (life after death), but about how to live well and without regret.

My mother developed Alzheimer’s disease and never was able to finally confront the trauma of being abandoned by her impoverished mother during the Great Depression. Too, she rarely spoke about the man who had deepened her emotional wounds later in life. She did so to protect herself and to maintain some illusion of normalcy for my sister and me. There was no malice in her deception, though my sister never forgave her or my father and never found emotional nourishment that would sate the pain. Where my mother insulated herself with delusions ( and maybe her disease), my sister did so with anger and distrust. After my mother died, I read in another Internet article that my sister had embarked on a public journey to discover more about her origins. I hope to learn one day that she was successful.

I wonder if other expats learn about their vacated lives past and present as I do? I view time compressed, via boxed sets of information that arrive in emails, letters, DVD’s and Internet entries. It was almost five years ago to the day that I leaned my sister’s husband had died an improbable death: an avid outdoorsman, he had contracted Bubonic plague from an insect bite while hunting. He was the first man in America known to have succumbed to the disease in decades. He was the most gifted craftsman I have ever known, but held back from his dream of being a woodcarver and gunsmith by the needy gravity of my sister’s suffering. So, I grieved my loss and his because his short fame was only in the peculiarity of his demise. We wandering expats may seem not to care about what happens to you, but we do. I do. And I, like others, frequent the few paths we can find along time’s rivers looking for signs of you. But can be a lonely and overwhelming journey when information flows so fast from so far away.

I laugh, mourn, celebrate and educate in absentia. Memory also presents to me as a frightened bird that requires patience to keep it nearby long enough that I can study, appreciate and accept both its beauty and its flaws.

I pray that both my sister and my mother are finally at peace. I long ago forgave them for simply being human. I hope they forgave this homeless child for the manifestations of his confusion .

I am the earthbound spirit now: I am on the banks of the river, coaxing the birds and vigilantly listening for whispers….

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Blue Feather Tweeters

flip the bird

Forget all the incestuous top Tweeter lists, the rankings of the most re-tweeted, the scores for the most influential, the “find a MLM spammer to add to your follower cool twitter application” lists and the “Twitterati” glamour gurus vying for rights to the title of most vapid… So, I thought “How about a list of the top 20-30 nicest people to meet and tweet on Twitter? ” Here are my first picks for Blue Feather Friends–who actually talk to you….

I follow a lot of folks because I am a student of anything and everything on the net. I have used hundreds of Facebook and Twitter Applications, joined  (and un-joined) groups with great names like “Ban the Racist Bicycle Bells,” My life is a musical” and I’ve been bought and sold hundreds of my friends in and out of slavery and then raced them in cars that don’t move. I have crashed my site dozens of times with new WordPress plug-ins and I have tried virtually  (and to the lament of my twitter stream) every mobile and fixed Twitter client around. And aside from the auto-generated DM’s that say “Thanks for the follow <<insert first name here>>”  via folks in a race to catch Obama in the followers count, and that big breasted bot with 450 different profiles, I have become grateful for the many people who have enriched my life and replaced my blogging, RSS reading and shower time (phew) with interesting stories that I will no doubt re-tweet one day to my grandchildren.

Following are a few of the nicest people you’ll ever tweet. I don’t know how many followers they have, whether they won shorties or longies or what their Hub score is… And this is not a list of my favorite charities, business folks, incredible journalists or people you need to suck up to to get them to add you (Brian Solis, Mashable, Winer…)…I will do those lists one day as well…

These are just  people who aren’t so impotent (sp?) they only follow and/or talk to themselves…

Maybe in a day or two I will post my top financially useless, but great smile-making Twitter applications and add a few more suggestions for people to chirp with…. Feel free to add your own BCTs in the comments section…..

  • http://twitter.com/shelisrael is from California. He is writing a book on Twitterville and is a bit of a celebrity, but his bio’ is right: he is a nice guy who actually talks TO, not at, you. And he is his own virtual assistant 😉
  • http://twitter.com/danharris He is a lawyer but don’t let that put you off. This is the most tireless guy on the net. He actually reads and comments on dozens of blogs, runs the best law blawg on the planet ( http://chinalawblog.com ) and still has time to go to his family’s sporting events in Washington, root for the Cubs and then Tweet about it! Caution: Do not try to sneak a knuckle ball by him–he will hit it out of the park.
  • http://twitter.com/gyspsydust A world-class Chinese medicine expert from Illinois and one of the nicest people on the net. We met on Facebook when she suggested pointed me toward W.H.O research on a medicine that cured a recurrence of malaria that had hit a visiting guest–and it cost us less than a buck.
  • http://twitter.com/sdweathers A growing celeb’ on the small screen here in China. He posts great culturally entertaining pics, fun and informative links and actually takes the time to answer his tweets.
  • http://twitter.com/deswalsh An Aussie coach and consultant who has forgotten more about social media, blogging than I will ever know. He and his “girlfriend” (sorry, inside joke) artist  http://twitter.com/suziecheel  are an endangered species: kindness, wisdom and humility abound…
  • http://twitter.com/taweili Did you ever get a growing gift on Facebook? This is one of the team that built that application. He is a cross-cultural commentator and shouts out some very sensible answers about life and tech from farther inside the matrix than I have ever traveled….
  • http://twitter.com/grahamdbrown from London he runs one of the coolest and most purposeful blogs around and remains as authentic and likable a personality as you can find in the Twittersphere….
  • http://twitter.com/davidfeng when you think David Feng you think War and Peace, Ulysses, Everything You Wanted to Know About Beijing Subways Even if You Didn’t Think to Ask…The only guy on Twitter who HAS to have a David Feng Lite stream…I met this Swiss master at the first Beijing Tweet-up–there were three people and 10 electronic devices present….
  • http://twitter.com/JeffreyJDavis from Charlotte. Personable, but not afraid to call out the thought leaders. His profile says it best: “Innovator, Leader, Strategist, Executor, Mentor, Smartass, Kiteboarder, Dad, Husband”
  • http://twitter.com/thomascrampton An American gone Hongkese whose blog features impromptu camera phone interviews with the likes of Oliver Stone….He is an old-school journalist (small stuff like the NYT and IHT) who, despite his celebrity, is engaging social media with the heart and curiosity of a child combined with the shrewd thoroughness of a trained  reporter–No small feat, that…
  • http://twitter.com/winserzhao A die-hard social media fan with his own travel company. The ONLY one of the 8,000 Tweeple I reached out to for help  that answered the call to rescue a newlywed–stranded in China– who had all his money and documents stolen just after his wedding.
  • http://twitter.com/johningz I think Foreigner did a song about him once….He lives in GZ where I do…The whole city keeps getting younger around us….He can Tweet and eat Pizza at the same time…and does….most days….every day….
  • http://twitter.com/casperodj A Dutchman studying in Britain now. He made history by beating the news wires with tweets from the earthquake zone in Sichuan China…A former Olympic caliber archer, he made watching the shooting events from Beijing a blast by live-tweeting the events…
  • http://twitter.com/Meryl333 Delightful, spiritual ex-lawyer and biz strategist from Chicago now in San Francisco….She sometimes beats me at online Scrabble….

This is by no means an exhaustive personal list and it augments posts where I have mentioned others…And I do mean to add more later…

I am http://twitter.com/lonniehodge I am a Twitterholic….

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Hostage Situations: Culture, Charity, and Cures

A few years ago a Washington DC taxi driver, Timor Sekander, a survivor of the Afghan war  with Russia, saved my emotional life by sharing the pain of his losses–a father, and two brothers–with me,  a stranger, looking for answers en-route to the Vietnam Memorial. He turned off his meter and spent two mercurial days introducing me to dozens of grateful refugees who mediated their memories and healed their common wounds by helping each other survive everyday challenges through trade, fellowship and commerce in a country not yet sure how to appreciate their talents or accept their presence.

On Twitter yesterday I engaged in a conversation with a man in Mississippi who had publicly decried Obama’s recent executive order that will close Guantanamo Bay (Camp Delta) within a year while granting legal rights to those incarcerated like the Chinese Uyghur Muslims held there for years without formal charges or trial.  In 17 current cases, detainees were found innocent of any wrong doing and worse yet, some Uyghur prisoners arrived at Gitmo months after being kidnapped near Afghanistan by U.S. supported vigilantes who were paid bounties to round up suspected terrorists. I replied by applauding the executive order and let him know that I had read on, past the section granting constitutional rights, to the section with a clearly worded directive ordering trials and punishment for those the evidence suggests are truly terrorists.

This is not, and was not, a political argument for me.

gitmo-prisoners

My new “follower” on Twitter used the heavily charged word “terrorist” during out talk to describe the detainees still held at Guantanamo and said they did not deserve constitutional protection. He went on to say that the terrorists were being well cared for and nothing at Gitmo could be “construed as torture.” I contend (ed) that being separated from your family and locked in even in the cleanest of cages for four to eight years with recreational water-boarding occasionally on your schedule could hardly be construed as a tax payer funded vacation in Cuba….Terrorist is a word we have been conditioned to associate almost exclusively with the Arab world, so it is easy to imagine that where there is religious smoke  there is terrorist fire; conversely to entertain “torture” as a part of the American lexicon is to appear anti-patriotic,or treasonous at best….

Last week I was talking to Diaster Relief Shelters founder Roland Catellier about the trials inherent in fund-raising for homes and dormitories in Sichuan where millions are still without adequate protection. Those Chinese now living in temporary shelters may well be sharing cooking and toilet facilities with dozens of other families. It is a disaster-induced prison with many innocents serving indeterminate sentences for the crime of poverty.

Collecting funds to help survivors of disaster or trauma is the greatest challenge of any charity in China.  Many people view the Middle Kingdom and all its inhabitants as economic terrorists who are part of an industrial entity that has robbed them of jobs or shut the doors on their neighbor’s family business. And the huge and faceless numbers of those dead in China keep us and any Chinese who could help from looking too closely at the anguish partly made of indifference, or helplessness or fear of falling into some mournful abyss. It is hard for many to care amidst soaring unemployment that has now washed ashore in China and the beleaguered in Sichuan are hard to segregate from the 900 million others in poverty trying to live on less than $1.50 a day.

Sichuan Destruction

I feel ill today and spent the day, when not sleeping, in video and written excursions away from fever and body ache. There is no fun in dwelling in physical or societal misery and I spend more time in concocting solutions than I do recounting trials. So, today I read and  listened to teachers and practictioners of comfort and compassion. My favorite diversion today was a visit with the “happiest man in the world,” Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, author and photographer via his lecture on TED.Even the man whose extraordinary bliss has been scientifically documeted spoke about the fleet-footed nature of feelings. He acutely feels anguish and sorrow, but can skew his thoughts and actions toward solutions and reconciliation. His spiritual leader recently said that while he often diagreed with George Bush, but he loved him–and I believe him.

I know, as one who lives daily with the extreme and varying degrees of pain associated with an autoimmune disease, that it is through compassion or sharing that I can dissolve associated anger, irritations or suffering. Teaching and writing are my active meditations, my ways of showing compassion: In classes where I really give of myself I often vanquish colds, unlock painfully secured limbs or transform a mood from depression and despair into extreme contentment. And the receipt of good teaching and compassionate words that issue from sage friends like Des Walsh, Zach my monastic guide and Debra Xiangjun Hayes can have the same impact.

Ricard talked to the unseen dual nature of things like the depth of an ocean below a roiling, temperamental wave: There is more than meets the eye in all things. It brought me to thinking about how charity and compassion and even health are often hostages of  our narrow fields of vision–those accepted by us, even if foisted upon us, without compassionate investigation on our part.

The first thing a police negotiator does in a hostage crisis is to begin calling the victim in peril by their true name so that the perpetrator can hear and see that he is a life threat to a vital, breathing person, a sentient being and not just an object for ransom, or a means to an end. There is always hope that you can resonate with the good, the ocean below, in even the most violent of waters.

charity

Michael Berg at the Kaballah Center says in a recent article that we must make conscious decisions that bring us to a place where we are willing to experience the pain of taking on the burdens of others. I think before we can devote ourselves to the Sisyphus-like toil of charity in a place like Sichuan, as has Roland, we must acknowledge some emotional or human connection. we need to see the faces of those in distress, we need to hear their stories and politics will be forced to embrace new priorities. I will settle for even a few more of us taking time to divest ourselves of preconceptions so that we feel an imperative to engage, not war with, people making decisons, not to interfere with our well-being but to survive themselves just one more day. It s then we can follow Berg and feel, to paraphrase Camus, that to help someone you have been taught to revile or to offer money time or comfort to aid someone who may only have minutes to live is a struggle, but one toward the heights of selflessness and it is, by itself, enough to fill any man’s heart.

More in Part II

Addendum: Four good places to begin to appreciate China’s people: Blog of Dreams, Tom Carter, The Library Project, Derrick Chang’s Mask of China

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Whose Enemies Are They? Part II

I recently spent three days and two night with 85 native Chinese English Professors and school administrators. It was a pleasure trip that Expats in China who suffer from conversational anemia would have loved. This journey was rich in cultural and intellectual nutrients. Since most of the scholars there were educated in both China and the west, it made for great interactive subtleties, and an occasional journey into densely forested woods of dark humor…

At one point during our travels I was verbally recalling a story about four Chinese exchange students who, after 9 months of absence from their classes were reported missing and subsequently found dead in their Australian flat.  Without hesitation one professor wryly queried, “were they allowed to graduate?”

mao_leading_peasants

The professor who spoke is a bit of living history: his first job paid about 20RMB per day ($.15 cents then. By contrast an enlisted man in the US Army made $3.00 then) and his driving ambition was to save enough to be able to buy a bicycle. Bikes sold for 100 RMB at the time, but only if you had a voucher permitting you to to own one. And even with a voucher there was a bribe that often had to be paid locally that tacked an extra 100 RMB on to the final price. He was one of many intellectuals driven to the countryside during the cultural revolution in an attempt to teach them humility and put those like him more in touch with the proleteriat–the working class. He knows, as shown by his retort, that China has sadly followed the west into areas of industrialized education and that those with money or power need not study nor even attend class to attain a sheepskin in China or America.

Another professor then shared with me a game started in the 80’s in Wuhan (one of four directly controlled municipalities), but is reflective of the time in which he grew up, a time when “authority figures—teachers, landlords, monks and nuns, bosses, intellectuals, doctors, Party leaders—were ‘struggled against’ by gangs of teenage revolutionaries called Red Guards.” The card game, called Beat the Landlord–Dou Di Zhu– (literally fight the landlord) is now wildly popular on the Internet here and has some 20 million players on “QQ” (the most popular of messenger services here in China), allows two “bandits” to gang up on the “landlord” in order to allow one of them to divest himself of all cards and win. The social ramifications are now gone and the meaning all but lost on one of the younger teachers who was listening to music on his Mp4s and feigning interest as would American youth over talk of days of black and white TV or civil rights marches. He attained his diploma the old fashioned way: he earned it albeit with a bit less sacrifice. But, having heard such stories many times before he lacked interest in the topic.

cultural revolution

Also at the gathering were members of a few of the reviled groups labeled as such during the Cultural Revolution: The “Nine Black Categories”: Landlords, rich farmers, anti-revolutionaries, bad influences (the catch-all available in any culture), right-wingers, traitors, spies, capitalist roaders and lastly, intellectuals—scholars have been last, or next to last in Chinese caste hierarchies since the Yuan dynasty where they were only slightly better regarded (ninth) in that caste order where beggars were tenth. Present too were past members of the Hong Wei Bing (Red Guard) the more violent of whom persecuted scholars, committed acts of violence against landlords and others (even Deng Xio Ping), famous temples, shrines, and other heritage sites (4,922 out of 6,843 were destroyed). Now all of us, including two Gweilo (“ghost men”) were sharing rice at the same table…

On day two, one of the four “Waijiao” (literally outside teacher, but used to denote any foreign lecturer), having not heard the instructions (in Chinese)  early on in our adventure, boarded the wrong bus; hence, we were one person short in our count overall. Speaking in Chinese some of the teachers near me began grousing that it was, of course, a foreigner holding up what was to be called later a “long march” though an area cave. In fact what had happened was that a couple of other native “bad influences” were late due to having gone one Baijiu ( legal Chinese moonshine) over the line the night before. The Chinese teachers, accustomed, but resentful of the leeway given to foreign teachers, were unified in their belief that an outsider was the cause for delay.

I spent a lot of my trip directly and obliquely querying teachers and staff regarding their attitudes toward visiting teachers all of whom are accorded the title of “Foreign Expert” by the provincial education office even when only qualified to teach English by virtue of their country or skin color of birth–credentialed and talented Waijiao are hard to come by here.

Later when at a table with graduates of top schools domestically and abroad it came as no surprise to me that when introducing members of the group seated together a young lecturer referred only to his colleagues as “professors” and ignored giving titles to the two foreigners present; so, later that night during a karaoke break I did not even flinch when another junior faculty member angrily asked friends in Chinese, “Who invited the Waijiao?” They are weary of the unacculturated backpackers who pass though schools with far more in the way of critical opinions than useful skill sets to share….

After twelve years of post secondary education and three decades in the classroom, mostly overseas, I am secure in my scholarship, attempts at cultural sensitivity and pedagogical abilities. And while hurt and, yes miffed too, I try to understand the frustrations of the younger, poorly paid intelligentsia who react more negatively with more vigor as the west fails to recognize the monumental changes in China of the past 15  or so years thus putting these savvy scholars on the same cultural bus as some of their revolutionary predecessors or corrupt present day business and political leaders. The world media has most of the west still reveling in anything draconian while failing to give credence or applause to any positive steps toward becoming responsible global leaders and resentment runs high here.

The west is engaged in a newly branded western game of  Beat the Landlord as China begins to dominate certain world economic sectors. And our failure to engage them and recognize and encourage  accomplishments, a punishment model approach to change, is fueling a long held distrust of those on the far side of the wall. One academic told me that it will take time for the people of China to manifest a viable bill of rights, “perhaps more time” he told me, “than it has taken your country to deconstruct yours into a bill of rights and wrongs.”

It is a dangerous, knee-jerk nationalism that we foster in both east and west when we don’t acknowledge that most Chinese people still long, and are willing to struggle for, the present day equivalent of a revolutionary’s bicycle…

More in Part III

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On the Light Side…

Here is a post that was lost in the great WP spam crash of ’08….I found it on another site where it had 900 views logged. I don’t want a commission, I want Coffee Cola!:

coffee-cola

Idon’tkowwhyIneversawthisstuffbeforetoday.It’sbrilliant!! TWICEhtecaffeineofordinarycola.It’slikethatBUZZBEERontheDrew CareyshoworJOLTfromyearsback.WaitasecondwhileIitchmylegandget mymyhairtolieflat.HEYIcanstandandtypewithonehand!!!!DidIsay ithadTWICEthecaffeine???!!So,wherewasI??

This liquid crack, if it didn’t taste like vinyl on a bus seat smells (No, never up close!), would be a huge hit! It looks like a Safeway logo on the bottle I have (If it would just hold still I could read it…) and I guess is a knock-off of the stuff Coke introduced to France a couple of years ago. That was devilish, aye? The only think the French like as much as cheese and wine is COFFEE!

I am sure this stuff has already been souped up a bit and is available in the prescription section of supermarket pharmacies in Japan.But, it is new to my part of China!!! I am a little disturbed that they engineered it to froth when you put it into a glass. It looks horribly like recycled Guinness (Again, NO! what’s wrong with you people?) with its flat head of foam.

My bottle, It’s Empty! It’s Empty! I want another one! Now!, was made in Beijing and probably flew down here on its own accord. Maybe they will start bewing it with Pearl River water.

It will probably taste the same only chunkier. It terrifies me that Chinese Taxi Drivers might drink and drive on this stuff….Those guys already have a variant hybrid of St. Vitus’ Dance and Turretts Syndrome; all they need now is this new artificial symptom inducer and WHOOOOOOO!!!!

Give it a try, but have paramedics on speed (ha ha) dial….I am off: I am running down the 27 flights of my stairs to the 7/11 to give this stuff a second try.

Postscript: They discontinued CC here and I have become like House, MD and taken to slapping nuns and biting rabid dogs in my withdrawal…..

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The Library Project Hits 100!

“Children’s books are a luxury to have in Asia, and a rarity in an orphanage.”

–from The Library Project

I met Thomas Stader via a small donation to the Library Project. He was living in Vietnam at the time and was making plans to leave his job in IT and return to China to devote himself to building libraries in China. It was the heartfelt personal reply to an seemingly insignificant amount that peaked my interest. A few email exchanges and an online chat led to a personal meeting and a friendship I value with a man wholly dedicated to humaintarian good.

The Library Project “tweeted” ( http://twitter.com/tomstader ) this week that it has passed the 100 library mark this year. I am sure, especially in tough economic times, that Thomas never imagined this would happen. Social Media, big hearts and open pocketbooks have helped the tireless Stader turn his dreams into reality.

Onemanband’s first post (by David DeGeest) about this amazing enterprise:

Thomas Stader has a vision to build libraries for children living in orphanages and rural areas around Asia.

The Library Project

Stader, is one of those rare people who come to China with big plans and a bigger heart. He came to help and began to put his plan into action in 1993. To accompany Stader’s big heart, is a well organized plan rife with several clever ideas. Instead of trying to organize all of the complex processes that would be required to build libraries, Stader uses pre-existing supply chains and forms cooperative agreements with local NGOs and corporationg for funding and logistics. These tactics, combined with the lower overhead costs in Asia, allow him to build libraries for $150-$300 USD each–without comprimising the structural quality or integrity of the libraries. Welcome to an age when quality NGO work combined with smart marketing and good business sense can transform a philanthropic daydream into a sound reality.

building a library in China

The Project has made remarkable progress. In 2006, Stader was able to create two libraries for approximately $300 USD and some help from Aston Education, JinaLive, and the Dalian Charity Federation. In 2007, The Library Project will expand to do work in Xian and Jinan. By the end of the year, the project plans to create 15 new libraries to schools and orphanages with a total project cost under $15,000 USD.

Here’s a list of the typical costs from one of the recent library projects:

Hard cover book, 100 pages: $3

Soft cover book, 100 pages: $2

Harry Potte Series: $15

Color comic book: $1

Black and white comic book: .5

Book shelf: $25

Table and chairs: $50

Plants, posters, mats: $25

The Library Project Success

The Library Project hopes to have 80 libraries running in China, Cambodia, and Vietnam by 2009. You can help by clicking here.

Note: all pictures featured here come from The Library Project’s site.

There will always be follow-up articles on this worthy endeavor…..

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