Monday, October 6, 2008

Edgar Allen Poe

I am currently reading Penguin Classic Reader's edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "Tales and Poems". I have always disregarded Poe as too generic or cheaply horror to ever appreciate him. But lately I have been encountering a whole lot of mention of him as an chief influence of some of my favorite poets, including the French symbolists, so I have decided to re-evaluate him. After reading much of his poetry in the above-mentioned collection, I stand in awe of his musical perfection, his spellbinding and impressionistic imagination, and the depth of his insight into the deepest recesses of the human psyche. His images and subjects are so vivid and lucid and yet at the same time fantastical it reminds me of looking at a van-gogh painting. Here is a poem that I read in-depth, and also some of Poe's and my own notes on the poem.

Notes on Poes Al Aaraaf:

The origin of beauty, a fairy tale, heavily symbolic rendering of vibrant life of the myriad beings of the natural world, the lifeline and interrelationship of flowers, fairies, music, stars and cosmos in ringing images, extended metaphors and musical symbols.

"the verie essence and, as it were, springheade and origine of all musiche is the verie pleasaunte sounde which the trees of the forest do make when they grow" Poes Notes to l. 282

It is, perhaps, not generally known that the moon, in Egypt, has the effect of producing blindness to those who sleep with the face exposed to its rays, to which circumstance the passage evidently alludes.

There is cultivated in the king's garden at Paris, a species of serpentine aloes without prickles, whose large and beautiful flower exhales a strong odour of the vanilla, during the time of its expansion, which is very short — It does not blow till towards the month of July — you then perceive it gradually open its petals — expand them — fade and die. — St. Pierre.

Clytia — The Chrysanthemum Peruvianum, or, to employ a better-known term — the turnsol which turns continually towards the sun, covers itself, like Peru, the country from which it comes, with dewy clouds which cool and refresh its flowers during the most violent heat of the day. — B. de. St. Pierre.

This flower is much noticed by Lewehoeck and Tournefort. The bee, feeding upon its blossom, becomes intoxicated.

"With Arabians there is a medium between heaven and hell where men suffer no punishment, but do not attain that tranquil and even happiness which they suppose to be characteristic of heavenly enjoyment" Note to l. 331

"The passoinate excitement of love and bouyancy of spirit attendant upon intoxication are its les holy pleasures, the price of which, to those souls who make the choice of "Al Aaraaf" as their residence after life is final death and annhilation:
Beyond that death no immortality-
But sleep that pondereth and is not 'to be"
And there- oh! may my weary spirit dwell-
Apart from heaven's eternity - and yet how far from
-Poem reflects attitude as in "sonnet to science' that science has made the fantastic realm of the faries and ideal forms inaccessible.

-for Poe, Poetry is the "rythymical creation of beauty" and truth, by whcih he meant moralizing, factual science, logic, -"the satisfaction of the intellect" -Readers Companion to World Literature, Poe article, p. 418

Al Aaraaf is a star that appeared "brilliantly surpassing Jupiter", then diasappeared just as soon. Poe envisions this as the locale for the arab concept of Al Aaraaf- afterlife between heaven and hell, a place of hedonistic earthly pleasures folowed by the terminal dissolution of the soul; Here lives a godess, fairy, angel, who kneels among a multitude of mythical and wonderful flowers, summons the angels to the earth to help humans, but two angels decide to stay in Al Aaraaf, Ianthe and Angelo (Michaelangelo) neglecting thier duty to God to indulge in their intoxicating passion.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back in Taipei

Ive been back in Taipei for a few weeks now. Sorry everyone I didnt get to see this summer, I spent a lot of time traveling the northeast and up to Canada visiting Family that I didnt have as much free time to visit all of my companions as I would have liked. But dont worry you are all still near and dear to my heart, and I will be back in the States next September to get my Masters in Teaching. Now Im back in Taipei, which is a really wonderful place. I have been riding my bike extensively, and also seeing a lot of independent films at a film festival at the Taipei Film House "Spot". Furthermore, I have started a new part time teaching job, which is very interesting for me because it is a much more regimented, outlined cirriculum where each classes teaching plan is already set. Although it is kind of boring its giving me a better understanding of how the structure of a class is constituted. I am way more adjusted to handling a classroom and thus more able to concentrate my teaching and less on behavoir and discipline. I find that in my second year I build better rapport and command the students attention easier through my adjustment to the role as an authority to the students, a position whcih i am wholly unaccostumed too.
Yesterday I saw the french 1976 film "I love you nor do I", set in the US Southwest about a gay garbage dtruck driver who falls in love with a boyish femme. It was heavily symbolic and imagistic, as well as being absurdly funny at times. It was definitely a hipster flick, they all dressed like 1950's greasers and there was even a roller derby scene.
On Monday, Sept. 22nd I am starting my Chinese classes at a big private university. I will attend classes Monday thru Friday 10-12, then go to one of my two part time teaching jobs. I am looking foward to formally learning Chinese, and thus be able to communicate with the outside world and not mosey about a bumbling fool.
Ive also been attending Yoga and Chi Kung classes at the buddhist tea house, which is really stimulating. All of the other participants are open minded, mellowed out expats, and we all really have a nice time exploring and discovering together.

Reading: Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths, Thomas Merton - Seven Storey Mountain, Poems of Billy Collins, PR Sarkar - Discourses on Tantra

UN says eat less meat to curb global warming

People should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change, the world's leading authority on global warming has told The Observer
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said that people should then go on to reduce their meat consumption even further.
His comments are the most controversial advice yet provided by the panel on how individuals can help tackle global warning.
Pachauri, who was re-elected the panel's chairman for a second six-year term last week, said diet change was important because of the huge greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems - including habitat destruction - associated with rearing cattle and other animals. It was relatively easy to change eating habits compared to changing means of transport, he said.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. These are generated during the production of animal feeds, for example, while ruminants, particularly cows, emit methane, which is 23 times more effective as a global warming agent than carbon dioxide. The agency has also warned that meat consumption is set to double by the middle of the century.
'In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity,' said Pachauri. 'Give up meat for one day [a week] initially, and decrease it from there,' said the Indian economist, who is a vegetarian.
However, he also stressed other changes in lifestyle would help to combat climate change. 'That's what I want to emphasise: we really have to bring about reductions in every sector of the economy.'
Pachauri can expect some vociferous responses from the food industry to his advice, though last night he was given unexpected support by Masterchef presenter and restaurateur John Torode, who is about to publish a new book, John Torode's Beef. 'I have a little bit and enjoy it,' said Torode. 'Too much for any person becomes gluttony. But there's a bigger issue here: where [the meat] comes from. If we all bought British and stopped buying imported food we'd save a huge amount of carbon emissions.'
Tomorrow, Pachauri will speak at an event hosted by animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming, which has calculated that if the average UK household halved meat consumption that would cut emissions more than if car use was cut in half.
The group has called for governments to lead campaigns to reduce meat consumption by 60 per cent by 2020. Campaigners have also pointed out the health benefits of eating less meat. The average person in the UK eats 50g of protein from meat a day, equivalent to a chicken breast and a lamb chop - a relatively low level for rich nations but 25-50 per cent more than World Heath Organisation guidelines.
Professor Robert Watson, the chief scientific adviser for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, who will also speak at tomorrow's event in London, said government could help educate people about the benefits of eating less meat, but it should not 'regulate'. 'Eating less meat would help, there's no question about that, but there are other things,' Watson said.
However, Chris Lamb, head of marketing for pig industry group BPEX, said the meat industry had been unfairly targeted and was working hard to find out which activities had the biggest environmental impact and reduce those. Some ideas were contradictory, he said - for example, one solution to emissions from livestock was to keep them indoors, but this would damage animal welfare. 'Climate change is a very young science and our view is there are a lot of simplistic solutions being proposed,' he said.
Last year a major report into the environmental impact of meat eating by the Food Climate Research Network at Surrey University claimed livestock generated 8 per cent of UK emissions - but eating some meat was good for the planet because some habitats benefited from grazing. It also said vegetarian diets that included lots of milk, butter and cheese would probably not noticeably reduce emissions because dairy cows are a major source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas released through flatulence.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back in the good ol' US of A

Hey I've been back for a few weeks ago and things are good and kickin for me in the teeming nation of nations.  Its been marvelous connecting with friends and family, and I've also been able to take advantage of the plentiful musical oppurtinities, of both playing music with the good ol' boys and attending a kick ass folk festival called "floydfest" in VA.  I  was able to go to a wonderful art park with my grandmother in Philadelphia, hang out with my cousin David who is a rare books dealer and snagged lots of poetry from him, and see Les Miserables at America's oldest theater, the Wall Street Theater.  Next week my Brother Josh and I are headed to New England for Brooklyn, Saranac New York for another folk festival, then to Montreal for a few days, and finally Cape Cod with my family and family from Boston.  I have been busy as a bee trying to see and do as much as I can, as well as get some R and R for Summer break.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

end of the school year travel

I finished the spring semester last week at my English school, and I had a week between when I went back to America for the summer and the end of the semester. So I decided to take this oppurtinity to explore a little more of the island, and Yutsen signed on with me as my local guide, translator, and loving companion. We set off from Taipei on Tuesday to Puli in the high central mountains, then down to the south-west industrial coastal city Kaohsuing.

Puli and Sun Moon Lake

Puli is a small city located in the heart of Taiwan’s central mountain region. The main tourist attraction of Puli is a large brewery of traditional Chinese liquor, which was closed when we tried to go soon after our arrival Tuesday afternoon. So we passed the evening getting to know the small city which offered a host of vegetarian restaraunts because of its close proximity to several Buddhist temples in the area. Puli is also a 30 minute drive from Sun Moon Lake, a top tourist destination in Tiawan. It is a government protected alpine lake surrounded by a beautiful mountain range. Traditionally Sun Moon lake was inhabited by a small tribe of the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan. Their tale is typical of indigenous people: when Han Chinese arrived the natives were decimated by disease and exploitation. Yutsen related that there is an important myth concerning their inhabitation of the Sun Moon Lake area. A group of hunters from a village in the south followed a white deer to the lake and the chief subsequently decided to move the tribe to the area for its hospitality of resources. Now the tribe is basically confined to a protected village on the lake, and they still perform their traditional ceremonies on a sacred island in the middle of the lake, “Lalo island”. We did a long hike around the lake, on and off comftorable lakeside paths dotted with viewing pavilions and benches that allow a nice view of the lake and the sourrounding mountain range which includes a peak reaching 2,000 meteres. Then we climbed one mountain side by stairs which led upp to a huge Taoist temple. The stairway leading up to the temple is enclosed by a fence which hangs small blessing lanterns on which dangle personal blessing to be auspiciously blown into the world. The stairs number 365, so you attach the blessing to the fence next to the stair of your birthdate, since each of the stairs contains a day of the year and also the famous people born on that day is inscribed on the stair. When I saw the steps, each one engraved with a date and Chinese characters, I asked Yutsen if they were Buddhist scripture sutras, and she replied, “No this is Ernest Hemingway’s birthday”. The temple is a grand and elaborate structure complete with golden shrines to the traditional gods in the Taoist pantheon, beautiful frescoes with paintings from traditional Chinese myths. I marveled at a giant sword labeled the “Serendipity sword of dragons blood” accompanied by a Chinglish (poorly directly translated Chinese) account of how when a legendary God-general was welding the sword a fire from heaven cut a dragon that was flying overhead in half and its blue blood fell on the sword, giving it supernatural powers. I also recieved a blessed bracelet in which I had to tell the Gods my name and address in order that they knew who to bless. On our hike back to the main town of the resort, the daily afternoon rains set in, and we made our way back to Puli.


After Puli and Sun Moon Lake, we took the bus to Kaohsuing. We warrived at 4 Pm and Thursday and were picked up by Grance and her friend “Huntz:. Huntz is a very kind and generous piano salesman who was eager to show Yutsen and I around Kaohsuing in his Toyota. Grace said that being a tour guide for out of towners is Huntz hobby, and when her German boyriend came to visit he showed him around too. Kaohsuing is an industrial city in the south of Taiwan which has a large harbour so it is a main shipping center for Taiwans manufacturing base. It is a city of 1.5 million people and is quite a modern motropelis loaded with shopping malls and equipped with a subway siystem, although most of the innvations are reletavily recent. However, like all of Tiawan, it is steeped in traditional Chinese culture, and seems to have even more Buddhist monks, temples and vegetarian restaraunts than Taipei. After picking us up from the train station, we were shuttled to monkey mountain. A mountain on the old city’s edge, Monkey mountain is home to Tiawan’s only native extant monkey populations. There hikers enjoy a view of the city accompanied by hundreds of fraindly monkeys who hang out on the path eager for food and attention. After chilling with our mammal cousins, we went to a kung fu training house bnuilt by the Japanese during Japan;s occupation of Taiwan before and during World War 2. This was a traditional Kung Fu gym complete with a shrine to martial arts and some ancient fighting gear. For dinner we went to a delicious vegetarian restaurant in the company of monks eating pizza. Then, for the ladies, we went to a huge designer brand shopping mall, “the largest in southeast Asia” my Taiwanese hosts informed me, beamingly. And finally we ended up on a mountain with a night view overlooking Kaohsuing.

In line with Huntz boundless hospitality, he provided a room for us in his apartment. We awoke the next morning and had a delivious vegetarian breakfast at hunt’s friends’ moms’ veggie breakfast bar. Then we went to the “love River”, Kaohsuings river attraction for a stroll in the mornings sun and blue sky. Next we went to a giant temple complex where there were Chinese Taoist and Buddhist tamples as far as the eye could see. There was a giant confucious temple and pavilion of the gods on the banks of a large lake. In the temple was a 30 feet statue of a god from an ancient Taoist myth, along with some Pagoda’s and statuesque scenes of Bodhissatva’s and Buddhas hanging out with tigers and dragons that form tunnels. A sign informed us that you must enter through the Dragons mouth and exit through the tigers mouth, for it is bad luck to get eaten by a tiger but good luck to get eaten by a dragon.

After eating a delicious Thai dinner, Yutsen and I were bulleted back to Taipei in a High speed train.

Cloudgate Dance Performance

On the Saturday night before I came back to Taipei, Yutsen and I went to see the “cloud gate” dance performance. Cloudgate is a Taiwanese dance group which has gained international renown for an innovative fusion of modern dance and traditional Chinese arts. The composer of last nights show is an acclaimed genius of modern dance but died at the age of 36 of lymph cancer. His works have achieved great acclaim the world over, and he was the choreographer at the Berlin opera and trained in Germany, the hub of modern dance in the last century. The show was a free performance of the “four seasons”, and Chang Kei Shek memorial hall, a sprawling complex honoring the former dictator and housing the national theater, was packed full of people in the open air mall in typical asian fashion. The show was exceedingly modern in that it was an erratic blend of traditional dance interspersed with writhing and twitching movements that appeared as involuntary movements that people make during times of high stress and intense pressure. For example, the opening dance was a group of high strung dancers in their underwear tossing themselves about in frenetically scratching their body as if they were mad with poison ivy. The naxt moment they would be arm in rm in a traditional waltz., and then again throwing themselves on the floor or pulling their hair out as if they were undergoing a nervous breakdown or were buckling under intense pressure. Other scenes would be the involuntary movements of couples breaking up – mimicking sighing, shouting helplessly. This was all set to passionate latin or german lounge music, or motzarts most moving cannons. One must be reminded that this was performed for an audience of about 30,000 Taiwanese families and couples, not quite getting some of the post-modern manias, but beaming with pride that this was an homegrown institution.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

How Jio Bo Jian (Long time no see)

Well ive been putzin around way too long and have been ever forgetful of posting my latest happenins. There are other reasons too. I moved into a new apartment about a month ago, and I dont have an internet connection there. My new apartment is in an old quarter of town, near the largest Chinese temple complex in Taipei, Confucious and Bo-an Temples. It is primarily populated by older Tiawanese folks, so it is a bit more genuine, traditional and slower paced, and most importantly, cheaper. Its got a nice vibe to it, and there are a few traditional and night markets in the proximity, including one on the street that adjoins the alley where my apartment is. THe night market street has a cheap Juice bar, tasty tea bar, and a vegetarian buffet so it is easy to make myself at home in the area. My girlfriend also lives in the neighborhood and it is on the main subway line into town. I have been profoundly busy of late, attending some outdoor parties at the beach and in the mountains, as well as seeing some avante garde theater and film festivals with Yutsen, my girlfriend.

Recieving the Tao

On a saturday in the beginning of June I went to a taoist initiation with my friend Sophia, a vegan taoist who I met at a vegetarian resteraunt near my work. Yi Guan Dao is a modern Daoist sect founded in China but propagated in Taiwan. They are a modern incarnation of traditional Chinese beliefs-a fusion of Taoist-Buddhist-Confucianist beliefs and p[ractices, a more ritualized, organized and systematized form of Chinese religion based on traditional Chinese spirituality and Taoist philosophy including Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu. They are all vegetarians, as well. Sophias philosophical and spiritual enthusiasm always garuntee an interesting interchange between her and I. She picked me up after work Saturday and took me to the temple complex in the mountains with her fiance, and another member of her temple. I was very excited at this oppurtinity to experience authentic Chinese Taoist spirituality which I have learned so much about in its intellectual and philosophical exchange with modern western culture. Everyone at the temple complex was excited to have me because I was a foreigner, and the movement is largely Chinese, with good reason considering that is steeped in the rich religious and ethical heritage of China. I took part in a "recieving of the Tao" ceremony in which a priest blessed me under the gaurdianship of the "Spirits and Buddhas" who she summoned in an elaborate ritual and esoteric recitations. SHe explained to me the three treasures or practices of Yi Guan Dao in whcih if I practice regularly I can "cultivate Tao" and "enter the gates of heaven". They also explained to me a meditation practice and mantram to help me cultivate Tao. They provided me with some literature about practicing Taoism, which is very interesting because it provides methods for reaching Tao, or the way of all things, through daily practice, meditations, and Yi Ching harmony. The ceremony lasted about an hour, and I was also given a tour of the temple complex which contained a museum of Taoism, with exhibits on Yi Ching, Taoist astronomy and astrology.


Two weeks ago I went to a peace festival in the mountains outside of Taipei. This was a gathering of the alternative, countercultural, anti-war ex-pat and Taiwanese community. Full of jams, dancing, and good fellowship, it was billed as a "celebration of humanity, a chance to show Taiwan an alternate view on life, to move focus away from individual ego towards the greater good" with a whole lot of mud and vibes thrown in. Aside from grooving in the mountains all day long, the most inspirational part of the festival was the "peace circle" held during the Saturday afternoon sunset. This consisted of about half of hte festival goers assembled in a circle hind in hand while an aboriginal drummer and sunger troupe conjuered up benevolent spirits via heartical rythyms and soulful chantings. It was like a giant tribal Hora dance in the mountains, super entrancing and soul bonding. It was so powerful that a clean cut Canadian fellow with a big grim looking cross tattooed on his chest, not the stereotypical flower power type, said to me, " I know I just met you but can I hold your hand" after being broken off from the circle due to the mass movement of the formation. This set the vibe high and the spirit full for the remainder of the evening while soul-funk, reggae, japanese folk, and "tribal trip bop" musicians served up extensive grooves and roots-centric funky rythyms the whole night long. Everyone dancing and grooving in the mud in a far eastern woodstock, I was filled with good heart and spirit for a good time after I returned to Taipei.

Avante Garde Theater

Last weekend I went to an experimental theater show at the National theater. The show was written and directed by an American playwright who has lived in Tiawan for the past fourteen years. It was extraordinaly experimental, with no dialogue. I would describe it as very Dada-ist. The set looked very wooden and rustic, with just a decayed wooden chair and a big wooden box in front of it. In the first scene a woman comes out with a brown paper bag, and her movements are extremely slowed down. She carefully takes out a tape recorder that looks rusty and dusty, places it on the table and presses play. The tape player commences an extremely slow piano music which is the theme of the entire show. Then she places the bag on her head. Another woman comes out and rips the top off the bag (on the womans head) and after a few moments pulls her hand out to reveal that her hand is smeared with blue paint which seemingly originates from the inside of the big on the woman's hand. In the next scene the woman is standing on the table, music playing, and the second woman on looking, and slowly lifts up her skirt to reveal the blue paint splattered on her white underwear. In another scene, a person in a bird suit comes out, pours a liquid from a brown bottle on the sleeping first gilrl and lays down to sleep with her. Another scene displays a masculine woman dressed in a suit who pulls a peice of cloth from her crotch and scissors it off, later to be stuffed in her mouth. The scenes of slow acts of irrationality and visual nonsense proceed for about an hour, all to the tempo of slow and dramatic piano music. At some points the entire 5 or 6 person female cast (including the directors mother, a hearty looking midwestern woman) harmonize elegently to correspondingly nonsensical lyrics. I think the beautiful and slow tempo and singing to graceful piano notes reflect some sort of hope in the midst of the flagrant irrationality, gender and sexual confusion of the modern hyper-information over-sensitized post modern reality.

Pictured above is the Temple complex located across the street from my new apartment.

Me skankin and rockin with groovy Taiwanese at Peacefest.

Yutsen at Peacefest.

More from the Temple...

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Peaceful Warrior

Last night I watched the movie "A Peaceful Warrior". It is about a restless, naive, and egotistic young championship gymnast who comes under the tutelage of a wise, zen master type mentor he owns a Gas service station. The movie documents the waking and wizening up of this young man as he goes from being a typical headstrong and selfish American party-animal college student into an aware and mindful of the present moment inner warrior. The wise service station mentor was played by Nick Nolte, and he was full of wonderful parables and idioms taken directly from the wisdom traditions of east and west. I would like to share some of the useful quotes from the mentor character, Socrates:

1. Life has three aspects: Paradox, Humour, and Change.

2. Paradox: Life is a mystery; don't bother figuring it out.

3. Humor: No matter what circumstances, do not lose your sense of humor.

4. Change: Do not be so sure in life; anything can change.

5. There is never nothing going on. There are no ordinary moments.

6. This moment: The past and the future do not matter; all that matters is now, this moment.

7. It's not the destination that brings happiness, but the journey.

8. Take out the trash from what's inside your head.

9. Empty your mind.

10. Everything has a purpose, even this, and it's up to you to find it.

11. A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does.

12. I call myself a Peaceful Warrior... because the battles we fight are on the inside.

13. A warrior is not about perfection or victory or invulnerability. He's about absolute vulnerability.

14. There is no starting or stopping - only doing.

15. There's no greater purpose than service to others.

16. Everyone wants to tell you what to do and what's good for you. They don't want you to find your own answers, they want you to believe theirs.

17. I want you to stop gathering information from the outside and start gathering it from the inside.

18. People are not their thoughts, they think they are, and it brings them all kinds of sadness.

19. Death isn't sad. The sad thing is: most people don't live at all.

20. What time is it? Now.

the Free Market in the 21st century

This article highlights the windfall profits that multi-national corporations are lining their pockets with while the rest of the world continues on a downfall plunge into starvation and poverty. As the supply of staple foodstuffs dwindle due to increased demand that has "partly been caused by the boom in biofuels, which require vast amounts of grain, but even more by increasing appetites for meat, especially in India and China; producing 1lb of beef in a feedlot, for example, takes 7lbs of grain." (Would we be having such a serious crisis if the Indian and Chinese kept to their religious heritages and maintained a vegetarian diet?); Giant agribussinesses reap huge profits from skyrocketing prices -

"Monsanto last month reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m (£275m) to $1.12bn. Its profits increased from $1.44bn to $2.22bn.

Cargill’s net earnings soared by 86 per cent from $553m to $1.030bn over the same three months. And Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world’s largest agricultural processors of soy, corn and wheat, increased its net earnings by 42 per cent in the first three months of this year from $363m to $517m. The operating profit of its grains merchandising and handling operations jumped 16-fold from $21m to $341m.

Similarly, the Mosaic Company, one of the world’s largest fertiliser companies, saw its income for the three months ending 29 February rise more than 12-fold, from $42.2m to $520.8m, on the back of a shortage of fertiliser. The prices of some kinds of fertiliser have more than tripled over the past year as demand has outstripped supply. As a result, plans to increase harvests in developing countries have been hit hard."

On Top of that, investment banks are doing the same speculating on these dwindling foodstuffs -"investment in grain and meat has increased almost fivefold to over $47bn in the past year". This excessive greed and "immoral" behavoir is downright irresponsible, and this immense wealth made off the suffering of the worlds poor should be confiscated and redirected towards solutions for the apocolyptic global food crisis. This is the same as huge profits oil companies are making off of increased oil prices while the communities of the world pay the price.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

My yoga routine

As much as possible I try to do the postures of yoga for their manifold health and spirit benefits. I practice a mixture of Ananda Marga Yoga, Vinyasa, Anusara Yoga, Classical Hatha Yoga, and Iyengar yoga, all picked up from various classes in each style over the past 5 years. I became interested in Yoga as a way to practice meditation and also improve my physical health. Now that I have been practicing it on a regular basis for quite some time now, I have found it is a subtle system of total health, mind and body. There are countless physical benefits, such as weight loss, muscle building, greatly increased flexibility. They promote mind body and harmony, positive thinking and positive self-image. It excercises the intuitive faculties of the mind. Yoga connects you to the source of mind, body and breath. It brings in a new awarenes, one that is more organic and connected to subtle aspects of life. I am speaking from my own experience, which has confirmed the testimony of a tradition that has roots over 7,000 years.
Any constructive criticism from fellow yogis is welcomed and encouraged.
I always try to wait three or four hours after I eat before I begin my practice. I do it almost everywhere, in the big city, in the mountains, on the beach, even in freinds apartments with a hangover. All that is required is a body and a basic knowledge of right and wrong posturing. I welcome pain which acts as a massager for breaking the new joints and muscles out of suspended animation, but if I have any suffering or post-practice pain I seek advice from a qualified Yoga instructor or physician. If it is a pose which is aptly held for a long time, such as shoulder stand, I breathe consciously through my nose for 30-60 breaths while in the posture, and repeat 2 times. If it is a posture which I only hold for 8 seconds 8 times, I hold my breathe while in the pose, inhale/exhale going in/out of the pose depending on the posture. Usually when I go into a bending posture, such as standing/sitting forawrd bends,, I breathe out going into the posture and in coming out. When it is a more strenious muscle building posture such as wheel posture I breath in going into the posture, which provides more strength. The benefactors of the Yoga tradition maintain that for the full range of psycho-somatic benefits of regular yoga practice to be effective, a vegetarian diet is incumbent upon the practitioner.
My basic routine is as follows, more or less (unless I need to work on a particular part of my body in which case I consult for the appropriate healing postures):
1. Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutation), with arm and leg posture 4X
2. Tree posture>Warrior III 2X each side
3. Pyramid posture 2X each side
4. Yoga Mudra 8X
5. Seated Spinal twist 2X
6. Dangerous pose and Cow faced posture (legs in dangerous posture, arms and back in Cow Faced) 2X
7. Sitting forward bend, butterfly stretch 2X
8. Cat/Cow posture 8X
9. Cobra 8X
10. Bow Posture 8X
11. Locust posture 2X
12. Wheel posture
14. Shoulder stand into plow 2X (hold shoulderstand for a minute each)
15. Fish posture 2X (between shoulderstands)
16. After these Asanas, I self message my whole body, then I lie in Corpse Pose for 5-20 minutes.
17. After Yoga Asana, I practice tantric meditation for 30-60 minutes. Any sort of meditation after yoga practice is key to fully integrating the powers of yoga. It re-orientates the awareness fully into the mind-breath continuum.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

general thoughts on general thoughts

today the weather was very nice, sunny and pleasant, the kind that laid back summer days are made of. After I woke up I worked for a few hours teaching 10 yr olds about colonial america and related vocabulary for a short story in their reading book. Then they did oral presentations which us foreign teachers had to evaluate. Some of the kids are so shy that they are inaudible and have to dictate to their FT who relays it to the rest of the students packed in the library room. Following teaching I hung out and got a seaweed-yam-rice burger from a japanese fast food resteraunt chain a la McDonalds with my new co-worker who is from Rockville Maryland and whose parents are Taiwanese. Then I went for a hike in my mountains, then off to Wulai hot spring resort with some people in my yoga club. Wulai is a hot spring resort town to the south of Taipei set fairly high in jagged and lush mountains, we sat on a bench on the side of a street and dipped our foot into a pool of 100+ water straight from the hot springs in the stream below. I made peanut butter sandwiches for Zoe and Yogindra, two taiwanese Yogis as the hot spring water massaged my calloused (from previously mentioned hike) feet. Then we went into a path where other Taipei day-trippers were checking out the display from the fireflys, all concentrated in this one area due to displacement from the Taipei basin. Following that I hit a late night meditation session at the yoga house with my boy Dada K.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

widening perspectives

On Thursday night I visited, along with my freind Colleen, a friend of ours, another foreign teacher who out of the blue found out she has a brain tumour last Sunday. It was an incredibly inspiring experience, because her attitude was so positive and graceful , and her smile was so bright and she also was so open. Her vibe was so uplifting. Another freind kept asking about her condition, and she didnt want to go into it, but finally she said that the surgery is incredibly dangerous, the tumor has spread into the inside of her brain, and she also can no longer drain spinal fluid from her brain. So the situation doesnt look good, but she said finally, she is able to focus and appreciate the present moment. She said she is the kind of person who is always worrying about hte future, or about the past and never ever feel in touch with the present moment. She said this situation allowed her to appreciate this feeling that she never could, and it seemed like it gave her such a wider perspective of life, I was really moved and touched by this experience. The following night I had a profound discussion with my freind Oliver about death. He says that he thinks it is a positive thing becuase it allows one to move onto a bigger thing than all the petty worries and entanglements that burden our daily existence and produce so much suffering. Death allows us to move onto a bigger thing becuase we are part of something here, something that must be cosmic since we are of the same basic substance as the milky way and beyond. He said that the positive thing about death provides release from our tiny perspective, almost like the parable of Plato's cave. I have spent the weekend digesting these thoughts, and I really wanted to write them down. I hope I didnt freak out anybody with such morbid ramblings, but I really wanted to share them with my fellow terrestrial cosmic life travelers.
Anyway yesterday I had to sub a class in the afternoon, then I went to my french freind Olivers for some wonderful conversation, and barbecue on his rooftop becuase it was such beautiful weather, sunny and in the 80s, a real rarity on this subtropical island. Then we went to a progressive house dance party at a japanese club that my coworker's freind DJ'ed so had guest passes and got in free. There wasnt many people there becuase the music was a little too sophisticated for most Taipei clubgoers, who usually groove to Hip Hop, but there were some alternative people like me. I even saw one taiwanese guy in a tye dye which was refreshing. Today I went to a skatepark near my girlfreinds house, I picked up a board becuase there are a bunch of skateparks around here which set me craving to carve concrete. I met some Taiwanese skaters whjo are always really cool and freindly. Then I met with my girlfreind and we discussed Chinese poetry because I picked up a book of 100 T'ang dynasty poems, which are so beautiful.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

thoughts on eating organic and teaching english

So every morning I eat at this organic market. I get this multi-vegetable green juice which is the lifeblood of my day, I have been taking it every morning for about six months now. I was very sick with lymes when I first started drinking it, and I think it along with daily yoga practice helped my system recover (and continues to recover) from the trauma that the lymes did to my system. I live in a kind of nicer suburb (although still heavily urban) area northeast of Taipei, and its full of well to do families and Taiwanese are really into food and health so the organic thing has really caught on here. However, unlike in the states, only 30 and 40 yr old woman really eat organic, and all the people who work there are of that demographic, and so they are thrilled to have me come in every morning for breakfast and are so eager to say hi to me and teach me some Chinese. Its a really wonderful vibration, and I think my continued and consistent presence makes them so happy. They always say to me, "You are part of our family" and it makes me feel so good because my family is on the other side of the Earth. I think one needs to build a loving community in order to feel like one has a place and a home, and its such a gratifying feeling.
Teaching English is going really great, and I really am getting adjusted into the teacher role, although it is probbaly one of the biggest challenges insofar of my life. Its also difficult adjusting to the day-to-day realities of working in a full time job in that sort of 9-5 setting although everyone nows I'm kind of pretty wierd and alternative. There is a wonderful ambience among me and my coworkers, and my foreign teacher colleague, Paul, from England is a great guy who has the same sense of humor and taste in movies and television, so we have lots of laughs and running jokes which makes working so much better. And all the Chinese teachers are so sweet and down to earth, I think they enjoy my presence as muhc as I do theirs. Teaching English is basically creating games and activities, and some free discussion with the kids, and a whole lot of "whiteboard discipline". "whiteboard discipline" is basically dividing the class into two teams, and giving them points if they participate or win in the competitive activities, like spelling games and basketball incorperating vocubalary excercises. Whichever team has the most points at the end of class gets a prize of some gummy bears or maybe fake money. The best thing about teaching, in my opinion, is when you come up with a really fun and creative activity thats also really funny, and the kids love it, and you love it. Its such a group mind thing, and its so cool because the kids get so into it, they put all of their heart and soul into it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

why i laugh alot and love everybody

blogs are great because they are a place where its perfectly ok, and even expected to be self-indulgent, which is what I am good at
anyway I thought Id try my hand at it and include some of the music ive been grooving to over the past few -

-Donna the Buffalo (thanks to Jim)
-Burning Spear, Peter Metro, Black Uhuru, Israel Vibration, (thanks to my french buddy Oliver who is the authority on all things Reggae)
-Country Gentleman, Seldom Scene (thanks to Daniel)
-Good Ol' Grateful Dead (thanks be to God)

Friday, April 18, 2008

whats living in asia like?

superficially its like living in a developing world las vegas-lots of neon lights, commercialism, 24 hour convenience stores and scantily clad girls. But under the surface its so far from the west becuase the mindset and attitudes are so traditional, very heirarchical and Confucian, especially here in Taiwan which is an island of ethnically chinese with a strong Chinese heritage and a landscape influenced by the west and modern Japan. The Chinese are so busy, and there is no such thing as night time or bed time, people are up and working at all hours, stores are open all the time, and you can even hear kids playing at 1 or 2 oclock in the morning if its nice outside. Furthermore, asians are so commercially minded its crazy. There are vending stands, stores, shopping malls, everywhere; even high in the mountains there are coffee shops. Here in Taiwan there is the night market phenomenon, which is an ancient Chinese tradition dating back to the Sung dynasty. But the modern Taiwanese night market is like a boardwalk fair with lots of cheap clothes, fake designer jeans, and gobs of deep fried traditional Taiwanese cuisine, ranging from stinky tofu to raw blood cakes. Its also interesting becuase poeple are very traditional here, even the most seemingly western/cosmopolitian Taiwanese person will believe strictly in traditional Chinese medicine, adorned with really far out gems and buddha amulets and wife to be fruitful and multiply.Its also a heavily buddhist country, so there are buddhas and monks everywhere, and every kind of buddhism from tibetan to zen to chinese.
People here are so humble and freindly, women are so gracious and bow and say thank you a lot and giggle when you talk to them, men are always so solicitious and eager to assist you. However becuase of this different mindset communication between people is so much different, which is very difficult working with Taiwanese becuase you never know what you need to know or when you need to know, or your never informed about things when you need to which can be a major source of frustration, but you just have to learn to swallow your pride. It's mind boggling how the basic concepts of what to expect from others and reality can be so alien to your own, and its incredibly eye opening.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I still exist!

after recieving several admonitions from freinds and family alike I have returned in blog format. Thanks everyone for reading my blog, I really appreciate your support . my life in taipei is going really fast, so fast that i forgot who I am and operate under the illusion that I am a chinese man named "Bee" until I see my big sexy jewish nose. Of late I have been teaching full time, learning chinese during half time and serving my female mistress "yutsen" over time. Yutsen is an actress of the theater media and I learn a great deal about drama and theater from her, as well as some chinese and a lot about asian and taiwanese culture so Its a really rewarding relationship. I have also kept up my near daily meditation and yoga practice. For those who have not been informed, I will be in the US from July 14 to the end of August. Then I will return to Taiwan for another year of teaching english and learning chinese. I will enroll in a Chinese course, as well as teach english part time. I went to Thailand for a few weeks during winter vacation, but I do not have any pictures becuase I characteristically lost my camera. It was amazing, it was paradisical. I met amny people who had backpacked the world over for years and said that this was the place they kept coming back to. It was a beach on an island in the south, that you had to take a ferry to get to the island, and then a boat to get to the beach. The beach had a yoga resort, so it catered to the hippy bohemian backpacker yoga audience, it was kind of like a beach resort for hippies. I met many people who had a high-powered job in a western country, only to leave it to live in a hut on this beach. I stayed in a bungalow on a beach adjoining the main yoga resort beach that was liek a big cove with a priovate beach, and I would go to sleep with the sound of monkeys and waves crashing. And the whole thing, room and board, cost about 100 us dollars for a week. Not to mention fresh cooked Thai food, in my opinion the best food ever. After I got back from Thailand my parents came to visit me for two weeks, and I was the tour guide for taiwan,., It was amazing seeing them, my familyu and I have such a great time, even my 79 yr old grandmother came, I am so thankful to them for coming and feel so proud that they would come visit me. Pictures to come....

Saturday, January 5, 2008

buying things is easy-and fun

today i picked up a few items from a bookstore near the largest university in Taiwan, National Taiwan University. They are as follows:

map of greater taipei - for some so far unsuccessful outside of Taipei, the supposedly beautiful northern coastline of Taipei
lonely planet thailand - heading to taiwan for my three weeks winter vacation, going south to the beaches, hopefully this will come in handy,
William Wordsworth poems selected by Seamus Heaney - I have had a hankering for the verse of the pre-eminent Romantic poet...

other than that things are well by me. I went to a New Years party at my American freind Colleens house, which was fantastic with lots of interesting and freindly people, Steve Fleg and Jeff Chen celebrated with us, who are currently walking the whole of the island on a month long pilgrimage for the god of walking and exploration.

"I'd forever talk to you,
But soon my words,
They would turn into a meaningless ring."

"The little hedgerow birds,
That peck along the road, regard him not.
He travels on, and in his face, his step,
His gait, is one expression; every limb,
His look and bending figure, all bespeak
A man who does not move with pain, but moves
With thought. -He is insensibly subdued
To settled quiet: he is one by whom
All effort seems forgotten; one to whom
Long patience hath such mild composure given
That patience now doth seem a thing of which
He hath no need. He is by nature led
To peace so perfect, that the young behold
With envy what the Old Man hardly feels."

also pictured is Jessica, who I went to Israel with last summer.....