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 ~


Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween

A delightful mix of a few of my favorites ...







Mary Shelley's Frankenstein hasn't been one of my favorite horror books. However, the movie "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" is my favorite film version of the story. Robert DiNiro as The Creature highlights just what a range Mr. DeNiro has an an actor. I've also seen Helen Bonham Carter in many movies and I think her best scene anywhere, hands down is in this film.

Ms. Carter plays Victor Frankenstein's love interest, Elizabeth. She is killed by The Creature and Doctor Frankenstein attempts to ressurect her. The best scene in the whole movie is where Elizabeth begins "coming to" after the procedure and it slowly begins to dawn on her what Frankenstein did, until she comes to the full realization of what has become of her.

My favorite Halloween book is Dracula by Bram Stoker. I love annotated books and one of the ones annotated by Leonard Wolf (he has several) is my favorite. Of the movies, the classic Dracula starring Bela Lugosi is the standard by which the others are judged. Another of my favorites is Bram Stoker's Dracula, starring Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder. Finally, Mel Brooks did a great job with his spoof, Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Way of the Warrior

In the early 1980's, the BBC did an eight part documentary on Asian Martial Arts. You can find segments of this documentary on YouTube. Below is an excerpt from The Soft Way, showing the practice of XingYiQuan in Taiwan as taught by the legendary Hong YiXiang.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Strategy: How the Underdog Prevails

How does the underdog prevail? I posted previously on the Strategy of Yin. First, by changing the rules of the game that the favorite is playing. Below is an excerpt from an article by Malcolm Gladwell which discusses this topic. The whole article may be read here, and it's fascinating.


I'm also going to post an excerpt from an article analyzing the chances the Amazon Fire has against the Apple iPad. When Apple introduced the iPad, there was an avalanche of tablets which were "me too" products. Not one of them has been successful.


But the Fire; that's a product to watch. Amazon isn't making an iPad knockoff; they are changing the rules of the game. That whole article may be read here.

Finally, here are some insights into what the basketball coach might have done at The Dao of Strategy blog.

How David Beats Goliath
May 11, 2009
Annals of Innovation
When underdogs break the rules.

1.

When Vivek Ranadivé decided to coach his daughter Anjali's basketball team, he settled on two principles. The first was that he would never raise his voice. This was National Junior Basketball—the Little League of basketball. The team was made up mostly of twelve-year-olds, and twelve-year-olds, he knew from experience, did not respond well to shouting. He would conduct business on the basketball court, he decided, the same way he conducted business at his software firm. He would speak calmly and softly, and convince the girls of the wisdom of his approach with appeals to reason and common sense.

The second principle was more important. Ranadivé was puzzled by the way Americans played basketball. He is from Mumbai. He grew up with cricket and soccer. He would never forget the first time he saw a basketball game. He thought it was mindless. Team A would score and then immediately retreat to its own end of the court. Team B would inbound the ball and dribble it into Team A's end, where Team A was patiently waiting. Then the process would reverse itself. A basketball court was ninety-four feet long. But most of the time a team defended only about twenty-four feet of that, conceding the other seventy feet. Occasionally, teams would play a full-court press—that is, they would contest their opponent's attempt to advance the ball up the court. But they would do it for only a few minutes at a time. It was as if there were a kind of conspiracy in the basketball world about the way the game ought to be played, and Ranadivé thought that that conspiracy had the effect of widening the gap between good teams and weak teams. Good teams, after all, had players who were tall and could dribble and shoot well; they could crisply execute their carefully prepared plays in their opponent's end. Why, then, did weak teams play in a way that made it easy for good teams to do the very things that made them so good?

Ranadivé looked at his girls. Morgan and Julia were serious basketball players. But Nicky, Angela, Dani, Holly, Annika, and his own daughter, Anjali, had never played the game before. They weren't all that tall. They couldn't shoot. They weren't particularly adept at dribbling. They were not the sort who played pickup games at the playground every evening. Most of them were, as Ranadivé says, "little blond girls" from Menlo Park and Redwood City, the heart of Silicon Valley. These were the daughters of computer programmers and people with graduate degrees. They worked on science projects, and read books, and went on ski vacations with their parents, and dreamed about growing up to be marine biologists. Ranadivé knew that if they played the conventional way—if they let their opponents dribble the ball up the court without opposition—they would almost certainly lose to the girls for whom basketball was a passion. Ranadivé came to America as a seventeen-year-old, with fifty dollars in his pocket. He was not one to accept losing easily. His second principle, then, was that his team would play a real full-court press, every game, all the time. The team ended up at the national championships. "It was really random," Anjali Ranadivé said. "I mean, my father had never played basketball before."

2.

David's victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.

In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath. But then he stopped. "I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it," he said (in Robert Alter's translation), and picked up those five smooth stones. What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David's winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath's rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, "even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn't."

Consider the way T. E. Lawrence (or, as he is better known, Lawrence of Arabia) led the revolt against the Ottoman Army occupying Arabia near the end of the First World War. The British were helping the Arabs in their uprising, and the initial focus was Medina, the city at the end of a long railroad that the Turks had built, running south from Damascus and down through the Hejaz desert. The Turks had amassed a large force in Medina, and the British leadership wanted Lawrence to gather the Arabs and destroy the Turkish garrison there, before the Turks could threaten the entire region.

But when Lawrence looked at his ragtag band of Bedouin fighters he realized that a direct attack on Medina would never succeed. And why did taking the city matter, anyway? The Turks sat in Medina "on the defensive, immobile." There were so many of them, consuming so much food and fuel and water, that they could hardly make a major move across the desert. Instead of attacking the Turks at their point of strength, Lawrence reasoned, he ought to attack them where they were weak—along the vast, largely unguarded length of railway line that was their connection to Damascus. Instead of focussing his attention on Medina, he should wage war over the broadest territory possible.

The Bedouins under Lawrence's command were not, in conventional terms, skilled troops. They were nomads. Sir Reginald Wingate, one of the British commanders in the region, called them "an untrained rabble, most of whom have never fired a rifle." But they were tough and they were mobile. The typical Bedouin soldier carried no more than a rifle, a hundred rounds of ammunition, forty-five pounds of flour, and a pint of drinking water, which meant that he could travel as much as a hundred and ten miles a day across the desert, even in summer. "Our cards were speed and time, not hitting power,"
Lawrence wrote. "Our largest available resources were the tribesmen, men quite unused to formal warfare, whose assets were movement, endurance, individual intelligence, knowledge of the country, courage." The eighteenth-century general Maurice de Saxe famously said that the art of war was about legs, not arms, and Lawrence's troops were all legs. In one typical stretch, in the spring of 1917, his men dynamited sixty rails and cut a telegraph line at Buair on March 24th, sabotaged a train and twenty-five rails at Abu al-Naam on March 25th, dynamited fifteen rails and cut a telegraph line at Istabl Antar on March 27th, raided a Turkish garrison and derailed a train on March 29th, returned to Buair and sabotaged the railway line again on March 31st, dynamited eleven rails at Hediah on April 3rd, raided the train line in the area of Wadi Dhaiji on April 4th and 5th, and attacked twice on April 6th.

Lawrence's masterstroke was an assault on the port town of Aqaba. The Turks expected an attack from British ships patrolling the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba to the west. Lawrence decided to attack from the east instead, coming at the city from the unprotected desert, and to do that he led his men on an audacious, six-hundred-mile loop—up from the Hejaz, north into the Syrian desert, and then back down toward Aqaba. This was in summer, through some of the most inhospitable land in the Middle East, and Lawrence tacked on a side trip to the outskirts of Damascus, in order to mislead the Turks about his intentions. "This year the valley seemed creeping with horned vipers and puff-adders, cobras and black snakes," Lawrence writes in "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" of one stage in the journey:

We could not lightly draw water after dark, for there were snakes swimming in the pools or clustering in knots around their brinks. Twice puff-adders came twisting into the alert ring of our debating coffee-circle. Three of our men died of bites; four recovered after great fear and pain, and a swelling of the poisoned limb. Howeitat treatment was to bind up the part with snake-skin plaster and read chapters of the Koran to the sufferer until he died.

When they finally arrived at Aqaba, Lawrence's band of several hundred warriors killed or captured twelve hundred Turks, and lost only two men. The Turks simply did not think that their opponent would be mad enough to come at them from the desert. This was Lawrence's great insight. David can beat Goliath by substituting effort for ability—and substituting effort for ability turns out to be a winning formula for underdogs in all walks of life, including little blond-haired girls on the basketball court.

------------


Comparing Apples and Fire: iPad Vs. Kindle


...

Even when comparing only to iPad 2's Wi-Fi version, the Apple product offers so much more: a 9.7-inch screen, a minimum of 16GB of storage, two cameras and a microphone, for starters. Battery life is slightly better at 8.5 hours. When the iPad 3 debuts, it will widen the hardware gap even more.

If Amazon isn't taking aim at the iPad, what's the Fire all about?

Amazon is using the Fire to take on Apple. This is Amazon's opening salvo on Apple's mobile business as a whole.

Apple's dominance in the mobile arena isn't just about the iPhone and iPad's hardware. It's about Apple's entire ecosystem. The iPhone and iPad are portals to iTunes, where you can get movies, music, books, apps and more.

The cloud-based nature of the ecosystem means it's both simple and powerful. That's why no other tablet can beat the iPad 2. Many other gadgets have better software and hardware. But they don't have that cohesive ecosystem.

That's why Amazon has set its sights on Apple's ecosystem. Amazon already has instant movie streaming and a music store. It has the Android app store and, of course, the Kindle book store. Plus, Amazon has a massive cloud-based network for processing information. All it needs is a mobile gadget to tie everything together.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Review: Ancient Chinese Warfare

Below is an excerpt from a review of the book Ancient Chinese Warfare by Ralph Sawyer. The whole review may be read here.

Ralph D. Sawyer, Ancient Chinese Warfare. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Pp. xiv, 554. ISBN 978–
0–465–02145–1.
Review by David A. Graff, Kansas State University (dgraff@k-state.edu).

A consultant and independent scholar based in Massachusetts, Ralph Sawyer is best known to both academic historians and a wider public for his path-breaking 1993 translation (with Mei-chün Lee Sawyer) of the Seven Military Classics (Wu jing qi shu);1 although “Sun Tzu’s Art of War” (Sunzi bingfa) had often been translated, several of the less celebrated works in the eleventh-century collection were for the first time made accessible to a non-specialist Western audience.

Sawyer has since published several Chinese military and philosophical texts in translation as well as other books on the Chinese military tradition.2 The latter consist largely of passages translated from traditional Chinese writings, arranged chronologically and interspersed with Sawyer’s commentary; the overall flavor is very similar to the compendia (leishu) produced by Chinese scholars in the Qing dynasty and earlier. The book under review here is rather different; it is the
first of at least two comprehensive volumes on the military history of early China, a work that has been decades in the making.

Ancient Chinese Warfare begins at the beginning, with the archaeological remains from Neolithic times and the early myths and legends that may shed light on their military and political significance. It concludes shortly before the demise of the Shang dynasty in (probably) 1045 BCE.

The Zhou conquest of the Shang and the climactic battle of Muye will figure in Sawyer’s second volume, which will deal with the Zhou dynasty up to ca. 771 BCE.

Although filled with many lesser claims and assertions, this first volume does not argue for any central thesis beyond the obvious one that armed conflict has had a very large role in Chinese history—something misleadingly downplayed by earlier generations of Chinese scholars and Western Sinologists.3 In reaction, Sawyer here addresses almost every conceivable aspect of war, with a level of detail as exhaustive as the extant sources (and the publisher’s bottom line) allow.

To judge by his extensive bibliography and ninety-one pages of notes, Sawyer has collected and digested every relevant book and article in English, Chinese, and, apparently, Japanese, including even obscure, dry-as-dust Chinese excavation reports. The great virtue of this volume is that it makes the refined gist of that material more immediately accessible for both specialists and non-Sinologists. However, every virtue has a concomitant vice. While Ancient Chinese Warfare is
certainly an indispensable reference tool, it is far from a sprightly narrative history to be read cover-to-cover for enjoyment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems, #42: BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: WINTER

From the University of Virginia Chinese Text Initiative:

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. Sun's motivation for compiling the collection sprang from his dissatisfaction with the then popular textbook, the Qian Jia Shi [Poems by A Thousand Poets], an earlier collection from the Tang and Sung (960-1279) periods . Sun made his own selection of Tang poems based on their popularity and effectiveness in cultivating character. Because it represented equally well each of the classical poetic forms and because it represented the best works by the most prominent Tang poets, Sun's collection became a "best seller" soon after its publication. It has been used for centuries since to teach elementary students to read and write, and also in cultivating character. Sun's collection is still a classic today, its popularity undiminished. 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 ."  

Here is #42, BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: WINTER

The courier will depart next day, she's told.
She sews a warrior's gown all night.
Her fingers feel the needle cold.
How can she hold the scissors tight?
The work is done, she sends it far away.
When will it reach the town where warriors stay?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another Year Rolls Around

Another year has rolled around again. Won't you help me celebrate?









My youngest was home for the summer from school and I enjoyed every minute of it. She moved back into an apartment with a year-round lease. The plan is that she'll work out there next summer, or get an internship. That means she'll never really be "home" again.

Sure, she'll be home for weekends, Christmas break and what not. When she graduates, she may move home for a while until she finds work and gets going, but it will be a temporary situation and we know there will be an expiration date.

Turn another page.


One of the things she wanted to do over the summer was start working out again and get back into shape. She had drifted away from that last year at school.

With the amount of hours she was working, she had a hard time getting off of top dead center. However, it came to be that she had a week off and her plan was to get started then. Coincidentally, a co-worker of the Mrs gave her a guest pass to a Women's Fitness Bootcamp, which she passed along.

My youngest really impressed me by getting up every morning to work out HARD starting at 5:30 in the morning until nearly the time she was going to move. She got herself back into really good shape.


Good stuff.

My oldest has been working at her new job for about a year, so that's going well. She's pulling her own weight (ie off of Dad's payroll), living on her own and working on her masters' degree.

As she doesn't really have a lot of responsibilities now, she's taking advantage and doing some traveling; visiting friends who have moved around the country.

The Mrs took a new job this summer. She basically runs the office for a small accounting firm. They told her when she went for the interview that the busy time of year is during tax season and that she'll have time on her hands the rest of the year, so feel free to bring a book or to surf the internet.

She bought herself an iPad2 and has learned how to use it. Where she used to have a big desk blotter sized month at a glance calendar filled with microscopic notes, she now has everything on the iPad calendar and in her notes. She's having a blast with it.

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that it’s been a dream of mine to someday have a modest place on a lake. I’m not into water related sports (although I’d like to take up fishing), but I find the water relaxing and enjoy the sounds and wild life. My idea is to reenact a typical Corona beer commercial.

We didn’t quite make it on the waters’ edge, but did pick up a nice modular home at a very good price one block off of Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes, near a small town in the Michigan’s Thumb area. It’s an easy two hour drive from home that puts it within the limits of a place we could reasonably get away to after work on a Friday. I can live without seeing the lake from my deck (for now). With a modular home we could always move it if we find some likely property somewhere else.

This is a lifestyle change and it’s not without some friction. Furnishing the place is progressing over time. We have to either rent a truck to take up major pieces or buy at the nearest large town and schedule a delivery when we’re there. I’ve had to keep up on the work I do around my home during the week to leave the weekends open.

There’s very little I have to do there. Basically the place needs to be vacuumed and dusted. The landscaping is mostly maintenance free.Of course, having said that the Mrs wants me to paint the interior.

I have to work a little more frantically on the one hand to relax more completely on the other. The same amount of work needs to be done; I just have to move the piles around differently. It’s the yin-yang of things.

Actually, I’ve been here before. When the kids were little, before they started their own activities, we used to have a motor home that we took camping nearly every weekend during the season. We sold the motor home when we built our house because we knew we wouldn’t use it as much. There was a lot to do with a new house and the kids were old enough to become active doing things (Girl Scouts, soccer, volleyball, dance, etc). Indeed the most recent period was when my youngest played travel volleyball and we traveled with her nearly every weekend during the season for several years.

Ultimately, it’s all good. The Mrs and I get away up there. The kids have gone up there with friends. We have friends come and stay with us for a weekend at a time. We spend a lot of time by the water. When the weather makes the lake less inviting, we explore the nearby small towns.

You have to be somewhere and you have to be doing something. This is a lot better than a sharp stick in the eye.

One of my daughters asked me what I wanted for my birthday. After my usual response that I'd like an Amazon gift certificate wrapped around a Snickers Ice Cream bar, I said that what I really wanted was that the four of us (plus the dog) would spend a weekend together at the cottage.

She arranged it. We'll all be there together in a couple of weeks. The weather this time of year may not encourage us to spend much time at the beach, but as a family maybe we'll get through a stack of DVDs that we've all been meaning to watch, or play a few board games. Whatever we do, it will be awesome.


I’d like to bring up a good book that I recently read: The Unknown Craftsman by Soetsu Yanagi. The book is about art, particularly everyday objects meant for daily use which were mass produced before the age of machinery. Mr. Yanagi presents some insights into art, Zen and Daoism in the most practical everyday sense as he describes objects whose great beauty derives from anonymous craftsmen simply doing their work without “trying” to make the objects beautiful or to avoid ugliness.

Last year I reported that I had lost about 20 lbs. Now it's 30. I actually lost a bit more but it was too much.

Shortly after my birthday post last year, I started another new job.

It was kind of funny. I was talking to someone I've known since high school who is the chief engineer and COO of his company. I mentioned that I was a bit frustrated that I had doubled the sales for the products that I was responsible for, but wasn't really making anymore money for it.

He said "why don't you work for me?"

Now I do.

I'm more or less a Field Application Engineer. I'm basically the intermediary between our customers and engineering. I support sales.

I enjoy what I'm doing, I like the company and the people I work with. It is my hope to be able to stay here until I someday retire.

Before enlightenment: chop wood and carry water.
After enlightenment: drink beer and eat pizza.

I may not be enlightened, but I like to drink beer and eat pizza.

My practice has been strong and my mind is clear. It's been a good year.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Missing People in Japan

Over at the Japan Subculture Research Center, Jake Adelstein (author of Tokyo Vice) writes a review of People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman.

An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.


People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman*
By Richard Lloyd Parry (Jonathan Cape 404pp £17.99)

When the disappearance of Lucie Blackman made the news, I was covering it as a reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper. By necessity rather than by choice, I was already familiar with the darker side of the country: I had spent 1999 to 2000 as a police reporter assigned to the 4th District, home of Japan’s largest adult entertainment area, Kabukicho. Despite being from different papers, Richard Lloyd Parry and I worked the story together, exchanging information, contacts and tips. There was a chance that Lucie might still be alive, being held captive somewhere.

The hope that reporting on it might make a difference superseded any journalistic rivalry. Now Parry has written a compelling book about the depravity of man, the difficult pursuit of justice, and how we deal with the wrongful deaths of those whom we loved.

Lucie, a young English woman, came to Japan to have fun and make money as a hostess in order to pay off her debts. She never went home. Her alleged killer, Joji Obara, is a clever man and a graduate of the law department of an elite Japanese university. I write ‘alleged’ because, despite all the circumstantial evidence that he was responsible for her death, the Japanese courts have only convicted him of dismembering her corpse. The charges were of rape resulting in death, but they have not yet been proven to the satisfaction of the judiciary. Obara knows that without a full confession, the Japanese police are handicapped, and prosecutors loathe such a case. He also knew enough of the law to prey on foreign hostesses. Hostessing is not allowed on foreign visas. If foreign hostesses go to the police as victims of sexual assault, they themselves are arrested and often deported, and no charges are generally brought against their assailants. (For years, human traffickers in Japan exploited this same fact.)

Every year, roughly 80,000 people go missing in Japan. The police don’t investigate each disappearance, or even a significant fraction of them. Perhaps if Tim Blackman, Lucie’s father, hadn’t raised hell, the case would never have been seriously investigated.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The 1000 Day Challenge

Every year, I throw the Lenten Challenge out to my martial arts buddies. It's a challenge to train every day without fail for about 40 days. I've seen other people issue challenges for 100 days, or for a season. There's also the 100 Man Kumite.


Nothing beats this challenge. Below is an excerpt from an article on Wikipedia. The whole article may be read here.


Only 46 men have completed this challenge since 1585.

The Kaihōgyō (回峰行?) is a set of the ascetic physical endurance trainings for which the Japanese ‘marathon monks’ of Mt. Hiei are known. These Japanese Monks are from the Tendai school of Buddhism, a denomination brought to Japan by the Monk Saicho in 806 from China.


Part of Tendai Buddhism's teaching is that enlightenment can be attained in the current life. It is through the process of self denial that this can be achieved, and the Kaihōgyō is seen as the ultimate expression of this desire.

There are many serving priests at the Temple on Mt Hiei, but very few of them have completed the Kaihōgyō. Many who have completed it come from outside of the Order.

The selection process for the Kaihōgyō is after the first 100 days of running, the Gyoja (trainee Monk) will petition the senior Monks to complete the remaining 900 days. In the first 100 days, withdrawal from the challenge is possible, but from day 101 onwards the Monk is no longer allowed to withdraw; he must either complete the course or take his own life. The mountain has many unmarked graves from those who have failed in their quest, although none date from the 20th/21st century.
...

The ultimate achievement is the completion of the 1,000-day challenge, which would rank among the most demanding physical and mental challenges in the world. Only 46 men have completed the 1,000-day challenge since 1585.[1]

The Kaihogyo takes seven years to complete, as the monks must undergo other Buddhist training in meditation and calligraphy, and perform general duties within the temple.
 ...
Author John Stevens, in his book, The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei describes the running style which dates back over a thousand years. 'Eyes focused about 100 feet ahead while moving in a steady rhythm, keeping the head level, the shoulders relaxed, the back straight, and the nose aligned with the navel.'

Monday, October 10, 2011

Good Monk, Bad Monk

Below is an excerpt from Kung Fu Magazine. The original article may be read here


The article is about the Chinese martial arts actor, Gordon Liu Chia Hui. Although already famous for his many Chinese martial arts films, those of us in the west may know him best from the Kill Bill movies, where he played the Monk Bai Mei.

Gordon Liu Chia Hui

Good Monk, Bad Monk
by Dr. Craig Reid

Gordon Liu Chia Hui (Cantonese Lau Kar Fai) is one of the coolest kung fu stars you will ever meet.

Though perhaps the most recognized and popular Shaolin-righteous-monk character from the Old School Shaw Brothers kung-fu films, he doesn't promote himself as such, or flaunt himself in "look at me" fashion design, or try to be the next "Hong Kong star" vying for Hollywood's attention. Instead, he's an unassuming man, simple in nature, sincere in spirit and open in heart.

I met up with Liu in the lobby of the Le Meridian Hotel in Beverly Hills, just a few hours after he had finished a few day's stint, dubbing his Monk Bai Mei character from KILL BILL: VOLUME 2. If you've seen his films, his eyes are intense, his body taut, his posture proud, because he's the hero that will save China (or at least part of it). But in real life, he's dressed in dark blue and gray, sporting a gray woolen hat shaped like his bald head, and he has a gentle smile and soft eyes - clearly a man at peace.

We drive to Monterey Park to meet up with a family member and partake in an afternoon of yum cha (dim sum). I politely mention that I'm not into chicken feet and pig ears. Moments later we're surrounded by every waitress and bus boy at the restaurant. None ask for autographs, but just stare and smile, not in awe, but with familiarity. I ask if he's uncomfortable and would he like to go somewhere else. Liu happily smiles, shakes his head, then laughingly orders chicken feet.

Liu doesn't come across eager to please - or full of himself - like so many other Hong Kong imports.

And why? Because he's not opera, he's not flash, he's a real kung-fu man top to bottom, in mind, body and spirit. His life and background as a martial artist is not about entertainment or sport; it's a way of life, the way real martial artists should be: spirited calm, enlightened with humbleness...a dying art.

"I find it sad that most people and kids in Hong Kong nowadays are not interested in practicing martial arts like we used to," Liu laments. "And it's also one of the reasons why the Hong Kong film industry is dying, because nobody wishes to put themselves through the rigorous training like we used to do.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Mastery

Marcel Proust (Remembrance of Things Past):

We do not receive wisdom,
we must discover it for ourselves,
after a journey through the wilderness
which no one else can make for us,
which no one can spare us,
for our wisdom is the point of view
from which we come at last to regard the world.
The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you,
have not been shaped by a paterfamilas or a schoolmaster,
they have sprung from very different beginnings,
having been influenced
by everything evil or commonplace
that prevailed round about them.
They represent a struggle and a victory.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Views of Mount Fuji

Below is an excerpt from a site entitled "24 Views of Mount Fuji" with the art of Hokusai Katsushika, of whom I've posted previously. If you click here, you will be directed to the site where you will find 24 beautiful woodblock prints by the famous Japanese artist.

The woodblock that accompanies this is "Red Fuji Southern Wind Clear Morning".


Hokusai Katsushika was a prolific and influential artist of 19th century Japan, particularly well known for his ukiyo-e woodblock prints. In 1827 Hokusai began producing his most famous work, the series of prints known as "36 Views of Mount Fuji". Another 10 prints were later added to the series.

In 1985 Roger Zelazny wrote "24 Views of Mount Fuji, by Hokusai", for which he won a Hugo award in 1986. The story was inspired by the protean face of the mountains near his Santa Fe home, and on an abridged collection of Hokusai's prints with which he was familiar. The novella is divided into 24 chapters, each named after one of the prints, and each the setting for the chapter's events. The effect is a sort of literary pavan; lyrical, graceful, and tragic.

Having read and appreciated the story, I became intensely curious concerning the prints themselves, and resolved to locate as many of them as I could on the internet. After considerable searching, I succeeded in finding all twenty-four prints. These I present below, along with the titles cum chapter headings.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Who Needs Fiction or Strategy #1: Deceive the Heavens to Cross the Ocean

A friend sent me an article from which I've posted an excerpt below. The full article may be read here.


Strategy #1 from The 36 Strategies, "Deceive the Heavens to Cross the Ocean" involves using a ruse, which is just what our Romeo did.


The story which goes along with this strategy goes something like this:


This stratagem references an episode in 643 AD, when Emperor Taizong of Tang, balked from crossing the sea to a campaign against Koguryo. His general Xue Rengui thought of a stratagem to get the emperor across and allay his fear of seasickness: on a clear day, the emperor was invited to meet a wise man. They entered through a dark tunnel into a hall where they feasted. After feasting several days, the Emperor heard the sound of waves and realised that he had been lured onto a ship! General Xue drew aside the curtains to reveal the ocean and confessed that they had already crossed the sea: Upon discovering this, the emperor decided to carry on and later completed the successful campaign.


Hitman falls in love with target and fakes her murder with tomato sauce


With a gag in her mouth, a machete in her side and covered in “blood” this woman looks like the victim of a brutal murder.

But Iranildes Araujo did not suffer a cruel end – her death was faked with tomato sauce after a hitman fell in love with her.

Hired killer Carlos de Jesus was paid £345 to murder Iranildes by Maria Simoes who thought she was having an affair with her husband.

But when de Jesus saw his intended target he fell head over heels and confessed to her.

The pair then conjured up a plan to fool his employer into believing he carried out the hit.
Iranildes said: “I tore my shirt, put the knife by my side, then he tied me up and smothered me with tomato ketchup.”

The former convict then sent the sham photo of Iranildes to his client.

But the ruse was discovered three days later when Maria saw them kissing.

Amazingly she went to police to complain she had been conned out of her money.