Old tree, 水井坊 Shuijingfang area, Chengdu “Life isn’t some vertical or horizontal line. You have your own interior world, and it’s not neat. Therefore the importance and the beauty of music, sound, noise. When you go outside and you’re hearing…hundreds of different sounds…all of these things are potentially beautiful.” Patti Smith, in A Dream of Life It’s been while since I posted anything. It isn’t just being busy – I am, with my schedule so spread-out that I have classes six days a week – but I’ve felt that I had nothing to say. Other people seem to have quite a lot to say; I’ve spent some time reading a few excellent teaching blogs, and some well-written and perceptive film blogs. The past couple of weeks have produced some indelible images. First, there was the horrifying footage of the tsunami that devastated Japan’s coastal areas and swept away entire communities. The online videos of buildings, cars, and people’s lives being carried away by surging waters left me dumbstruck. Then, there were the continuing images of damaged nuclear power plants, unleashing a manmade, not natural, devastation upon the world. I was tremendously encouraged by the images of the pro-worker uprising in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Increasingly marginalized by totalitarian corporate rulers, people are finally responding with a mass, democratic movement. In spite of our government’s double-speak of “spreading democracy” via warfare and state-sponsored terror, the people taking to the streets are showing what democracy is really about. In a quieter, more contemplative vein, I’ve watched
The only DVD market you’ll ever need in Chengdu is squirreled away behind an athletic field in Sichuan University, close the school’s East Gate. Here is a fantasy world of almost any film you could ever want to see. Among the films I’ve bought here are those of Godard, Truffaut, Wim Wenders, Fellini, De Sica, Melville, Antonioni, and even John Waters. The films are all pirated, many of them from Criterion releases, and the digital resolution may often be poor, but still, my film education has progressed by leaps and bounds. The price is a bit high by chengdu standards – about 9 yuan per DVD – but where else are you going to find such a selection? Virtually nowhere. I met a friend this evening at The Bookworm Cafe, then we bicycled to the Auchan store (a French big box store) and the Decathlon sporting goods store, where I bought a black turtleneck. We then had dinner at Vera Napoli restaurant, where they were having half-price pizza night. The salads were beautiful, and the pizza was yummy, even if the crust wasn’t crisp enough. Home again, home again.
I spent my usual Sunday riding my bike all over Chengdu. I visited two big markets in the northeast part of town – the housewares and dinnerware market, and the used furniture market. I didn’t find much of what I was looking for, but I did score an incredibly cheap 5-yuan teapot. I then stopped by Han Baozi for a huge serving of steamed dumplings with a side order of pickled vegetables – my afternoon snack. I later met two teacher friends at Peter’s Tex-Mex Restaurant. The food isn’t too good, but we had fun. I’d stopped by Sabrina’s Country Store earlier to stock up on coffee and Jolly Time yellow popcorn (the real thing, not that microwave stuff). When I got home I popped some corn; the Chinese 锅guō (what we would call a wok) is perfect for popping. I use imported olive oil, but I had no sea salt on hand, which would have made it perfect. I then crawled into bed with my laptop computer, and munched popcorn while watching the incredibly lame Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang, 1942), a formula WWII anti-Nazi propaganda film, on DVD. At least Ray Milland was good.
Today’s thought: Ding dong, the Bush is dead! -anonymous Long live Obama. Even if he does turn out to be just another military-industrial president. At least he has a brain. And he can talk. OK everybody, breathe a collective sigh of relief. (sound effect: The entire United States exhaling after 8 years of greed, crime, corruption, torture, illegal incarceration, genocide, and war) It is finished. School, that is. I’m taking a well-deserved rest, after completing the last of my classes a couple of weeks ago. I asked my Business English students what aspects of American culture they were curious about, and one of them suggested political parties. I did my best to explain that the two-party system doesn’t mean that only two parties exist (there are actually many – just look at an election ballot), but that effectively only the Democrats or Republicans have a chance of getting a presidential candidate in office. I also cited someone (Noam Chomsky?) who said that America only has one party – the Corporate Party – and its two factions are called the Democrats and Republicans. I provided some handouts explaining why the donkey and the elephant came to be the symbols for the parties, as well as the Thomas Nast political cartoon that started it all. As usual, I didn’t share the most interesting visual aid I found: I could make a really gross comment about taking it up the *** (donkey – jackass, get it?), but
Anna Karina, Godard’s Vivre sa vie Today’s thoughts: “A plate is a plate. A man is a man. Life is … Life.” – Nana in Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie “…I don’t think there’s any better way to fight off the chill of winter than a big bowl of carbohydrates swimming in melted butter.” – David Lebovitz http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2009/01/sweet_potato_gnocchi_the_good_th.html My sentiments exactly. Today’s dharma: Imagine [no, it’s not the John Lennon Imagine] Gay Buddhist Open Forum, Posted by Albert Kaba Wed., Dec 31, 2008 Imagine if all the tumult of the body were to quiet down, along with our busy thoughts. Imagine if all things that are perishable grew still. And imagine if that moment were to go on and on, leaving behind all other sights and sounds but this one vision which ravishes and absorbs and fixes the beholder in joy, so that the rest of eternal life were like that moment of illumination which leaves us breathless. – Saint Augustine Anna Karina and Vivre sa vie Among my obsessions lately have been all things French; witness my continual references to David Lebovitz’ blog about food and Paris. I’ve also been watching a bunch of French films recently. Is it my imagination, or am I understanding more of the dialogue, since the downloads and DVDs don’t include English subtitles? Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie (1962), which I watched again last night for the third or fourth time, is rapidly becoming one of my favorite