Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Multiculturalism: 1910

Learning about other cultures used to be something that was fun, and it was a good source of new ideas; now it's something you have to do when someone does something wrong.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The product of Victorian religiosity: 1914

He hadn't a God, he hadn't a lover - the two usual incentives to virtue. But on he struggled with his back to ease, because dignity demanded it. There was no one to watch him, nor did he watch himself, but struggles like his are the supreme achievements of humanity, and surpass any legends about Heaven.
--From Maurice--

The standard narrative is that the world has become more shallow as it has moved away from religion. But I think that misses the point. Religion, to me, is shallow. It certainly has no more depth than things you can find in the secular world today. And I'm not just talking about romance, but geometry(!), music, economics, biology, interior design, etc.; there's just so much meaning everywhere. How can you even talk about the depth of religion if you can't see how deep other things are?

P. S. There were some protesters at the Pride Parade I went to a few days ago, and they really have me thinking!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The most valuable crop: 1741

There is a third Sort of Land, which, tho' it appears barren, produces a greater Revenue than all the rest; it consists of a whitish Earth found in several Parts of the North-side of the Island, from whence they get such a great Quantity of Salt...
--From The general history of China--

Salty soil was bad, but really salty soil was a gold mine. So I guess in some instances not only can you not have too much of a good thing, you also can't have too much of a bad one.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Paradise: 1741

This Place may be called, as well as Hang tcheou in the Province of Tche kiang, a City of Pleasure; nothing is wanting here to complete the Pleasures of Life; therefore in the Chinese Books there is an old Proverb that says, Chang yeou tien tang, Hia yeou sou hang, Paradise is above, but below is Sou tcheou and Hang tcheou: One may truly say that these two Cities are the Terrestrial Paradise of China.
--From The general history of China--

I bet if we went back in time and saw those cities we would see all sorts of faults; sickness, poverty and ignorance among them. Which makes me wonder: is there anywhere today someone could call a terrestrial paradise? Perhaps paradise can only exist in our minds, because if anyone came back from "Paradise" they'd be sure to spill the truth and tell us all its faults.

P. S. Using the same logic, I'm pretty sure hell isn't half as bad as some people would have us think.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Composition of a pride parade

25% religious groups:


Metropolitan Community Church


Pictured are the Quakers, Evangelicals, and Episcopalians; also marching were the Lutherans, Unitarians, and non-denominational churches. The Catholics didn't march, but they were in attendance.

25% politicians and political groups:

Make love, not war.


More Politicians

Even more politicians

As you can see, there were plenty of politicians who sent people to march in the parade.

25% familiar household names:

Best Buy


The Home Depot


Pictured are Best Buy, Raytheon, The Home Depot, and Walgreens. Also in attendance were Coca-cola, Pepsi, AAA, Progressive Insurance, esurance, Macy's, Citigroup, Bank of America, and some local businesses and other financial firms.

25% social organizations and bars:




Florida Gay Rodeo Association



This includes some sort of marching band substitutes:

And not officially part of the parade, but important to have around is some haters:


They had a lot more signs than people (they had between two and three people).

Oh, and top everything with plenty of rainbows:

Under the rainbow



Friday, June 25, 2010

Alien wolds: 1741

When, upon leaving Europe, we land in the nearest Borders of Africa, doth it not seem as if we were got into another World?
--From The general history of China--

That's an easy feeling to get. You can feel it going from urban to rural areas, traveling to different cities, even visiting different places in the same city; not to mention all the different communities on the internet. It's surprising, considering how "small" and "interconnected" the world is supposed to have become, that it isn't more homogeneous. If anything, it seems like the more connected a society becomes, the less homogeneous it is.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prescription drugs: 1741

The Medicinal Herbs, in so large an Empire, are doubtless very numerous, but I shall only take notice of the most Remarkable and the most Valuable.

Rhubarb grows in great abundance, not only in the Province of Se tchuen, but also in the Mountains of Chensi. The Flowers resemble Tufts in the shape of a Bell, jagged at the Ends; the Leaves are long, and rough to the Touch. The Root is whitish within, while fresh, but when dryed it assumes the Coulour it has when it comes to us.
--From The general history of China--

The difference between their high priced prescription drugs and ours, is that ours work.

Also, ours aren't good in pie.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The news: 1919

If I stop to add up all the so-called important affairs of state that I have either witnessed or heard about during that time [the past six years], there have been quite a few at that. And yet, not one has left so much as a trace in my memory, and as for their influence on me, it has only been to increase my stock of bad temper.

--From Cheering From the Sidelines--

Current events are like vegetables: adults seem to like consuming them and make their kids join in, they're insubstantial, and they're not something you'd want to live on.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Movie Night

I was trying to make a list of my favorite Chinese movies, and I couldn't help but notice almost all of them are somehow connected to either Taiwan or Hong Kong. Mainland Communist China, with its huge population, doesn't seem to be generating any content entertainment-wise; nothing that I enjoy anyway.

A few days ago El Pollo Real said:
Maybe I'm wrong but I don't see an emerging entertainment culture which is China-based.
Dude, I think you're right.

The one movie from the list I might call a Mainland Chinese production, is Hero. The director of the movie was forced to perform hard labor for over a decade. Most Chinese intellectuals of his generation had a similar experience, or died in concentration camps. For several years all universities were effectively shut down, and China started with a mainly rural population, so it's not surprising that they are short talented people. It's why I don't expect the Chinese to take over the world anytime soon.

Anyway, here's my list (you're welcome to offer suggestions in the comments):

Fallen Angels

In the Mood for Love


Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon:


Eat Drink Man Woman:

(Worth it just to look at the food.)

Master of the Flying Guillotine:

Saving Face:

Almost any non-Hollywood Jackie Chan movie.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Superman!: circa 1328

Woman: "Help! My baby is falling!"

Bystanders: "It's a bird... it's a cloud... it's Saint Augustine!"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Education: 1922

I think anyone who tumbles from affluence into poverty will, on the way down, come to see the true face of the world.
--From Cheering From the Sidelines--

I was going to say this was something you couldn't learn from going to college, but that was before I considered the cost of tuition and with the type of "job training" colleges provide now-a-days. Maybe that's how college education really works; they take middle-class people and convert them into poor people, thus teaching them about the world.

It's like a casino in Las Vegas, but it takes longer and you have to pay for alcohol (if you're a guy).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Practice makes perfect

It's weird being almost illiterate; opening up a newspaper and only being able to read a dozen or so words, and perhaps recognizing the meanings of a few more. But it does have an upside. You know those spam posts you sometimes see in the comment sections of blogs, the ones in Chinese? I love looking at them now, trying to see if I can translate any of the characters.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pop music: circa 1350

Those kids with their crazy music, you can't even understand the lyrics half the time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Teenagers: 1342

I love the body language in this painting. Jesus, frowns, with his arms crossed (is he tapping his foot?) while Joseph gestures with his arm as if to say "Listen to your mother."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Piracy: 1350

Sima Yi ordered one hundred skilled craftsmen to disassemble the devices before him and construct new machines according to the dimensions of the captured models.Within half a month they had built some two thousand that were identical to Kongming's and able to move as well.
--From the Romance of the Three Kingdoms--

Reverse engineering is a Chinese tradition!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Political speeches: 1350

Says the Prime Minister:
Henceforth, those of you genuinely concerned for our kingdom's ultimate fate must vigorously attack my errors and hold me responsible for my failures.
--From the Romance of the Three Kingdoms--

It's hard to imagine an ordinary person, let alone a politician, saying something like that today.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lost Works: 1350

'A Handy Guide for Pacifying the Man.'
--From the Romance of the Three Kingdoms--

 If I know "the man" it involves lots of work at minimum wage.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Philosophy: circa 450 BC

If a cone were cut by a plane parallel to the base, what ought one to think of the surfaces resulting from the section: are they equal or unequal? If they are unequal, they will make the cone have many steplike indentations and unevennesses; but if they are equal, the sections will be equal, and the cone will appear to have the same property as a cylinder, being made up of equal, not unequal, circles, which is most absurd.
--From Maxims of Democritus--

"Philosophers" don't do math much anymore; they don't seem to do much of anything anymore, all the things they used to think about seem to have been taken away from them. But all the old philosophers we learn about, they didn't refuse to consider something because it wasn't "philosophy"; they put their noses into everything and were influenced by it. How practical it used to be to have a philosopher around!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Modern medicine: 1350

In cases of diseases of the internal organs, where applied compounds will not work, he feeds the patient a narcotic potion to induce a deep sleep; then he cuts open the stomach and irrigates the affected areas with medicinal fluids. The patient feels not the slightest pain, and after the irrigation Hua Tuo sews up the wound with treated sutures and spreads salve over it.
--From the Romance of the Three Kingdoms--

Hundreds of years ago, no one could have imagined the miracles of modern medicine.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Guns don't kill people... : circa 400BC

Those same things from which we get good can also be for us a source of hurt, or else we can avoid the hurt. For instance, deep water is useful for many purposes, and yet again harmful; for there is danger of being drowned. A technique has therefore been invented: instruction in swimming.
--From Maxims of Democritus--

Clearly, we should ban deep water.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Action movies: 1350

Ling Tong dove into the fray as Sun Quan rode to the bridge. But it had been torn down at the southern end, leaving a ten foot gap....

...Sun Quan retreated more than thirty spans, then loosening the reins and swinging wide his whip, he urged the horse over the missing planks.
--From the Romance of the Three Kingdoms--

Every cliché has its source.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Celebrities: circa 400 BC

Fame and wealth without intelligence are dangerous possessions.
--From Maxims of Democritus--

We must like living dangerously, considering who we give fame to and for what reasons we give it to them.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Riches: 1350

His family was poor, but he was a devoted student and performed menial chores in exchange for the loan of books.
--From the Romance of the Three Kingdoms--

He worked his butt off, not to own books, but to be loaned books--he had to give them back after reading them! Contemplating his situation and looking at my book pile, I feel kind of dizzy:

And when I think of all the people in college, subsidized by taxes laid on the backs of the poor, who goof-off and have no idea what they'll do with their degrees, I just feel sick.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Spies: 1350

Cao Cao sent them here to spy. I want to give him a taste of his own medicine by giving them certain information to send back.
--From the Romance of the Three Kingdoms--

Spies are only bad if you don't recognize them.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Talking heads: 1350

For the grand strategy of the dynasty, the security of our sacred altars, truly there is a master planner, one utterly different from the boasting rhetoricians whose empty reputations overawe people, who have no peer in armchair debate and standing discussions, of whom not even one in hundred has any idea how to confront a crisis or cope with its rapid development. What a farce to amuse the world!
--From the Romance of the Three Kingdoms--

It's interesting how people can be famous for just spouting opinions, without actually having done anything or having any accomplishments other than talking. Why do we listen to them? Why do we elect them to office?