The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Friday, November 30, 2007

Livin' the High Life


From AP via ABCNews. Click on the title of this post to go to the original story.

Dublin Beer Bandit Raids Guinness

Irish Police Hunt Beer Bandit Who Stole 450 Kegs From Guinness Brewery

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK

The Associated Press

DUBLIN, Ireland

Irish police were hunting for a beer bandit who stole 450 full kegs from the Guinness brewery the largest heist ever at Ireland's largest brewer.

National police said a lone man drove into the brewery a Dublin landmark and top tourist attraction on Wednesday and hitched his truck to a fully loaded trailer awaiting delivery to city pubs.

Diageo PLC, the beverage company that owns Guinness, said the brewery had never suffered such a large-scale theft before in its 248-year history.

Police said the raider took 180 kegs of Guinness stout, 180 kegs of U.S. lager Budweiser and 90 kegs of Danish beer Carlsberg. Guinness brews both of those foreign brands under license for sale in Ireland.

Police declined to say whether the theft had been captured by closed-circuit surveillance cameras. No description of the suspect was issued, suggesting that nobody got a good look at him.

Each keg holds about 88 British-sized pints, the most common serving size in Ireland, equivalent to 20 ounces each. The total theft involves 39,600 pints with a retail value exceeding $235,000.

Police said it would be difficult for the thief to sell the stolen beer without attracting attention, unless he has criminal associates who own a network of pubs.

But customs agents say it is common for pubs to sell stolen or smuggled cigarettes and alcohol, particularly counterfeit-labeled supplies of vodka, to avoid paying hefty taxes.

In the past, the outlawed Irish Republican Army and other gangs have hijacked truck shipments of alcoholic beverages and cigarettes for resale in pubs run by sympathizers or friends. Those raids typically happen in rural areas, never in the center of Dublin.

The Republic of Ireland, a country of 4.2 million, has more than 10,000 pubs and bars. The Guinness brewery in Dublin is the biggest supplier, producing more than 5 million kegs annually.

A New Phase


Five months ago, I began training at the Wu Style Academy in Ann Arbor. On that first day, I learned the opening movement of the Wu 108 Standard Form. Last night, I learned the closing movement.

I’ve been concentrating on learning the correct sequence, remaining relaxed, and keeping my weight 100% separated.

The way classes will work for me now: the first 30 minutes is group warm ups. Word has come down from HQ in Toronto to really work these as they help develop the flexibility and looseness required to do the form well. They also drill the real fundamentals of all the movements – keeping the weigh 100% on one foot or the other, turning from the hips/waist, being relaxed, and so on.

The next hour that had previously been spent learning the sequence of the form will now be spent on form refinement.

The group will do the form together, then the intermediate class begins. As posted at the Wu style website, the intermediate level consists of push hands, break fall training, power generation, and some applications, in addition to ongoing form refinement. As new material comes up, I’ll post what it is I’m learning.

In my first intermediate class I learned the first of the twelve types of push hands that is practiced at the school, the most basic one. This is a cooperative exercise between two people. At the other end of the spectrum is free style, where you're trying to push the other person over.

At the end of class, I sat while the rest of the students then did the 54 Competition Form (which I don't know yet, hence my sitting). As opposed to my "square" form, this one is very round; that is, it looks more like what you'd expect Taiji to look like with respect to one form flowing into another. They also did it very quickly. I don't know if this form is technically a "fast" form, but they really flew through it. I guess in competition, you have very limited time for your performance.

Stay tuned. The adventure continues ...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hip Hop in Japan to Promote Cultural Awareness


Below is an excerpt from an article on Yahoo. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

Japan's Ainu fuse tradition, hip-hop for awareness

By Yoko KubotaTue Nov 27, 7:28 PM ET

When Tsubasa Okitsu was growing up in northern Japan, he was ashamed of his heritage as an Ainu, an indigenous ethnic group that has long suffered discrimination in a country where many take pride in cultural homogeneity.

"In the past, I rejected myself as an Ainu," he said, recalling on how his classmates teased him for looking different.

Now the 27-year-old Okitsu has come to terms with his identity as a member of a group of young Ainu musicians and dancers who blend traditional strains and modern hip-hop in hopes of boosting broader awareness of their rich culture.

"We wanted to do something new and cool to improve the status of the Ainu people," Okitsu told Reuters during a recent performance of the group called "Ainu Rebels."

"The way we do it is by playing music and adding our own arrangements and ideas," added Okitsu, clad in a full-length navy Ainu cloak adorned with white scrolling -- and trendy diamond studs sparkling on each ear.

A hunting and gathering people thought to be descendants of early inhabitants of Japan who were later displaced mainly to the northern island of Hokkaido, the Ainu have a culture and language distinctive from those of ethnic Japanese.

Deep-set eyes, muscular bodies and heavier body hair for men distinguish their appearance, although the differences have blurred through intermarriage.

Okitsu, a half-Japanese, half-Ainu lover of hip-hop, founded the Ainu Rebels with other young Ainu living in the Tokyo region over a year ago, creating one of the first performance groups of its kind mixing traditional Ainu culture with hip-hop and rock.

The group plays traditional Ainu instruments such as the mukkuri (jaw harp), sings Ainu poems in the native tongue, raps in Japanese about the harsh experiences of being Ainu and arranges traditional dance steps to rock and hip-hop beats.

The group's only rap song in Ainu is based on a traditional 'yukar' song, an epic about totemic gods and ancestral heroes.

FUSING OLD AND NEW

The fusion of old and new has sparked criticism from some who favor a more pristine approach to preserving the culture.

"Some people say that this is not traditional, that this is not Ainu culture," said Mina Sakai, the 24-year-old leader of Ainu Rebels.

"We think that culture is something that constantly changes. We are confident that we have the spirit -- the spirit that we want to do something, to express something about the Ainu."

Beginning in 1869, the government forced Ainu to change their names, banned traditional hunting and started encouraging ethnic Japanese to settle in Hokkaido.

About 24,000 Ainu now live in Hokkaido, although numbers are imprecise since many still hide their heritage, but their native language is nearly extinct, with just a handful of fluent speakers. Ainu Rebel members are taking language classes, but still have to look up words in a dictionary when writing lyrics.

Despite decades of intermarriage and assimilation, discrimination remains strong in Hokkaido.

Surveys show persistent gaps in income and education, and members of Ainu Rebels still recall being bullied as kids.

"Most of the group's members used to hate the fact that they are Ainu and had a complex," Sakai said.

Performing in the band is a way both to accept their own ethnicity and raise social awareness of Ainu culture.

"Now we are confronting ourselves," Sakai said. "We want people to know the Ainu are here and to know more about the Ainu, and see that we are full of life and proud to be Ainu."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Common Sense


Ben Stein, economist, actor, lawyer, raconteur, bon vivant, and man about town, is a font of clear thinking and common sense. If you click on the title of this post, you’ll be directed to his web site.

"The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want."

Right now, I’m reading one of his books: How Successful People Win: Using Bunkhouse Logic To Get What You Want In Life. (ISBN 1-56170-975-1)

Here’s the Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/How-Successful-People-Win-Bunkhouse/dp/1561709751/ref=sr_11_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1196104757&sr=11-1

The best descriptions of the book comes from that page.

From Publishers Weekly
While the cowboy life is basking in the Brokeback spotlight, Stein (How to Ruin Your Life) believes the mindset of these romantic figures-the cowboys' "bunkhouse logic"-is the ultimate guide to fulfillment in life. But don't let the stature of this breezy book fool you: Stein dispels wishful thinking and exhorts readers to figure out what they want and then to ask for it. Unlike most entries in the self-help field, Stein's writing is dark, funny and devoid of sunny aphorisms: readers should accept that life is a series of potentially debilitating blows, forego "illusions that anything will work out in a just or decent or proper way," realize that "constant ass-kissing is so demeaning to the ass-kisser and the ass-kissed that it cheapens life" and always "dream your biggest dreams." Stein's bunkhouse thinking revolves around realizing the stark facts of life and then acting accordingly, so associating with lucky, successful people is good, but choosing perfection over persistence is bad. Readers may be disheartened to read Stein's flip affirmation of their fears about how the world works, but this guide to playing the game will help those feeling hogtied.

Book Description

How Successful People Win is a serious self-help book using as its central metaphor the life of the cowboy and his behavior as he leaves his bunkhouse. Based upon a lifetime of observation of the successful and how they got that way, Ben Stein suggests that you imitate the determination, inner mobility, activity, flexibility—and the refusal to indulge in self-pity—of the cowboy in order to get what you want out of life.

The idea is that if you never indulge in making excuses, refuse to let other people’s hangups get in your way, and move deliberately toward clearly thought-out goals, you will get where you want to go. Just as the cowboy refuses to allow himself to get sidetracked by trivia, so can you refuse to allow life’s inevitable challenges and distractions mar your own success and happiness. The choice is yours.

------------- Me again.

Clear thinking; seeing life as it is, rather than how we wished it would be has always resonated with me. I think it also resonates well with what Zen and Daoism, while very different things, has to teach.
We create our lives. We live our choices.

The next time you’re at the bookstore, take a look.
You may find that the time it took was a few minutes well spent
.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Teahouse in Hang Zhou


The current post at Martial Views is about energy drinks. It reminded me of tea and kung fu, which reminded me of a post I made a long time ago, about a teahouse in Hang Zhou which has a unique way of serving tea.

Kung fu is expresed in may ways. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a NY Times photo essay on this unique and fascinating expression.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Grand Strategy



A friend sent me this. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to his blog, The Collaborative Vew.


What this concerns is an interview that appeared at
Sonshi.com. “Sonshi” is the Japanese pronounciation of “Sun Tzu.” The website is dedicated to Sun Tzu, and his classic, The Art of War.

On this website is an interview with Robert Greene. Greene, together with Joost Elfers, have produced three outstanding books on Strategy. They are not only well written, they are among the most beautifully produced books that I own. What I especially like about these books are their inclusion of counter examples of strategies, and stories which illustrate various strategies. Among the most engaging stories are of colorful scam artists from the past. One of my favorites was the story of a man selling the Effiel Tower in Paris.

Here are URLs for the books on Amazon:

The 48 Laws of Power

http://www.amazon.com/48-Laws-Power-Robert-Greene/dp/0140280197/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195227636&sr=1-2

The Art of Seduction

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Seduction-Robert-Greene/dp/0142001198/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b

The 33 Strategies of War

http://www.amazon.com/33-Strategies-War-Robert-Greene/dp/0670034576/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195227705&sr=1-4

Below is an excerpt from the interview with Robert Greene. He speaks of “tactical hell”, strategy, and grand strategy. In Daoist thinking, these correspond with Earth, Man, and Heaven respectively. Good food for thought.

Sonshi.com: One of the most outstanding concepts you wrote about in "33 Strategies" was number 15, "Control the Dynamic," a strategy that does not have a reversal. Central to Sun Tzu's Art of War is always being active and taking a proactive stance: from planning ahead in the temple to initiating the time and place of battle. In your opinion, of the 33 strategies, which one do you think applies most often in people's lives?

Greene: It depends on your circumstances. It's all relative. If you are dealing with stressful situations, chapter three on maintaining your presence of mind would be particularly helpful, as would chapter 4 if you find it hard to motivate yourself. Chapters 5 and 6 are particularly relevant to leaders of any group. I make the point that structure is strategy—how you organize your group will determine its mobility, efficiency, morale, etc. Chapter 8 is very important—it is about operating with economy, finding the perfect level between your means and your ends. The center of gravity chapter is critical for attacking any problem. But I suppose if I had to elevate one chapter above the others, it is the longest one in the book—chapter 12, on Grand Strategy. This to me is the apex of strategic thought—the ability to think in terms of a campaign, not battles. This has great relevance to daily life.

I make the point that most of us live in what I call tactical hell. We are constantly reacting to what others give us, managing the battles that confront us day in and day out. We rarely get control. Our minds become dominated by tactical thinking. We can only focus on details. We argue and nitpick about this battle or that battle. It is hell .

Strategy is a kind of mental ladder you climb to get above these battles, gain some perspective and plot your moves. It is a mental purgatory. Grand strategy is simply this idea taken further— gaining a perspective that encompasses months or years. It is incredibly liberating and powerful when you have clear idea of where you want to be in five years, or can focus on what you see as your destiny in life. It helps you manage your daily decisions . "It is not important I fight this battle because it does not serve my overall goals." On and on.

Grand strategy is heaven, one we rarely reach, but must always aim for. It is the ultimate form of rationality. The word is misused nowadays, and I try to correct this in the chapter. I wish everyone would read it. And it is my modest homage to the spirit of Sun-tzu.


http://www.sonshi.com/greene.html

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tang Dynasty Poems, #25: ASCENDING THE PAGODA AT THE TEMPLE OF KIND


The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems anthology is considered a classic of world literature. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an on line version.

From that website:

"
In Chinese literature, the Tang period (618-907) is considered the golden age of Chinese poetry. Tang Shi San Bai Shou [300 Tang Poems] is a compilation of poems from this period made around 1763 by Heng-tang-tui-shi [Sun Zhu] of the Qing dynasty. ...

...
Nearly every Chinese household owns a copy of Tang Shi and poems from it are still included in textbooks and to be memorized by students. We would like to make this World Wide Web version of the poems as a testimony to its compiler's intent : " Learning Tang poems three hundred by heart, you can chant poems though you know not the art ."

ASCENDING THE PAGODA AT THE TEMPLE OF KIND
FAVOUR WITH GAO SHI AND XUE JU

The pagoda, rising abruptly from earth,
Reaches to the very Palace of Heaven....
Climbing, we seem to have left the world behind us,
With the steps we look down on hung from space.
It overtops a holy land
And can only have been built by toil of the spirit.
Its four sides darken the bright sun,
Its seven stories cut the grey clouds;
Birds fly down beyond our sight,
And the rapid wind below our hearing;
Mountain-ranges, toward the east,
Appear to be curving and flowing like rivers;
Far green locust-trees line broad roads
Toward clustered palaces and mansions;
Colours of autumn, out of the west,
Enter advancing through the city;
And northward there lie, in five graveyards,
Calm forever under dewy green grass,
Those who know life's final meaning
Which all humankind must learn.
...Henceforth I put my official hat aside.
To find the Eternal Way is the only happiness.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Women and Martial Arts



I found this video clip on YouTube. It's a jujutsu demonstration from England, from before WWII. The demonstrator is a delightful young woman. Notice how well she moves in a dress and heels.


video