Stop the Presses!

It is March 20, 2017 in Kunming China and I’m here, and WordPress now works in China! Welcome back everybody, it’s great to see you again!

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Still Closed

China’s still closed to WordPress as of February 20, 2017.

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It’s a Firewall, Right?

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Since the summer of 2011 China has blocked WordPress, and a bunch of other stuff on the internet.

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Writer’s Block and War

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“Writer’s Block” is an illusion, but we create it for myriad reasons. Want to get rid of yours? Sit down and write one-hundred words–any words you want–random sentences, phrases, words in a dictionary, today’s headlines, a recipe, or what I’ve just written and not edited.

Then stop being the “writer” and become the “editor”! Why? A writer is active and an editor is passive. If action is demanded, you’ll sweat and freeze up. If you’re passive, all you do is fix things. Have you ever heard of “editor’s block”? You don’t believe it’s this easy? Here: 

Illusions come in all shapes–cones, cylinders, pyramids, blocks. As children we created myriad shapes, but other children would try to destroy them. Want to get rid of them? The other children? Read them a recipe or today’s headlines. Useless suggestion? Then murder them, but only if you first declare war on them.

“He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice…. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.” –Albert Einstein or Camus?

Answer: Einstein

Have you ever watched a military parade–rank by rankfile upon file–especially an old black and white parade without music or a soundtrack? It’s quite eerie, and, comical. You half-expect Charlie Chaplin to suddenly stick his face in front of the camera, and made up to look one-half like Hitler and one-half like Einstein, mimic the marching spinal cords.

There, see how easy it is? The rest of what you write is your choice, and you’ll find yourself inspired to continue writing about either Chaplin or Einstein or Camus or war or prison.

Or delusion: “The earth is our tomb, yet see how the children of men spill each other’s blood to possess it.” We experience our own selves as being separate from other human beings because we have unlearned that we are, in fact, a part of the whole–ask any baby who we really are, and it’ll stop crying and smile at everybody. So we become beasts, and as Pogo once said, “We have found the enemy, and he is us.”

Yes, friends, we are the problem, not writer’s block, and until we return to babyhood and relearn how to embrace all living creatures who share this “big blue tomb,” we’ll continue to cry endlessly .

“A human being is a part of a whole…. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” —Albert Einstein

“When I talk about the Vietnam war, I talk like a beast and with great anger. If I talk like a man with reasoned consideration and compassion I will cry. Cry endlessly. —

“He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”  —Dr. Johnson (epigraph, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson)

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Clive, Phil, Walter and Francis–Experts All

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“And in both cases they said we know how do this better than you. Go away. I mean they said it nicer than that, but that’s naturally what you get. That was not from the director (Scott Derrickson) by the way who was extremely nice, but it was from some of the suits at Dimension’s who had absolutely no interest in Clive Barker’s involvement in a Hellraiser movie. Why would you get Clive Barker involved in a Hellraiser movie?

“The thing about a sequel or sequels is that everybody becomes an expert. Everybody who’s seen the other movies all feel ‘We know how that’s done.’ ”  

Clive Barker answering Question #2 at the Egyptian Theatre, August 25, 2000

Obviously, everybody doesn’t know how it’s done. Genius and art make good movies, and art isn’t simply copying what has been done before. An abundance of talent, experience, and drive (not to mention the appropriate demeanor and trim of beard and looking like Darth Vader) is always required for box office prizes, or more rings–Phil Jackson Phil Jacksoncan’t just show up as the coach of a fabulously talented Laker team and win more championships if all he does is punch a time clock. The reason that most sequels fail is that you can’t go a second time on a first date and expect to experience the same giddy anticipation and excitement. So most of us with no experience to direct or coach (or date somebody twice) would readily agree that to manage and deal with the cool disdain and arrogance that permeate the highly vaunted egoes that skitter across the entertainment and sports stages would be a task not even worth considering–(“Who’s the runt with no credits?”)

But I have learned over the years while dwelling in foreign lands (well, land) that people who bring to these shores their national-cultural-jingoist biases have absolutely no problem with instantly assuming the air of an expert, and they’ll gladly tell you exactly what is wrong with the people and country you live in and what should be done to fix it and why you should listen to them say so ad nauseum.

And it doesn’t matter how long they have been observing the land and people on whose merits they have come to feel compelled to give instruction–one week (a tourist), a month (an extended vacation), or ten years (nothing better to do)–they will put forth assessments at complete variance with one another and adorned with their particular prejudices and uneven degrees of myopia, and continue doing so until  their arrival back on their own shores, and there, with short surcease, take up once again to offer their expertise to naive and like minded audiences who look at each other and gasp in crescendos at the telling of strange tales from far away lands–have we really not progressed over the last 400 years? Are we nothing more than Sirs Walter “Have a smoke!” Raleigh (1552-1618) and Francis “Armada, Schmarmada!” Drake (1545-1596), distant relatives and budding seeds of what was to become the British Empire which opened the doors to “experthood” for the rest of us?

And I’ll admit I’m guilty, I’ve done my part, too. It’s fun! It’s fun to know something about which very few people know anything, and freely exaggerate as you go, depending on how much you have imbibed, and feel the spark of confidence that dazzles the crowd and elicits their effusive approbation, listening to them issue forth their “oohs” and “aaahs”–and why not? If you are looking for sport you can twist the audience any which way as is your wont, either making them wish they were as adventurous as you, or, with extreme insinuation, having them praise God that they’re nothing like you and have been blessed with the wisdom to stay home for the duration of their lives and leave the travails of mastering the world and stage to the savvy likes of Mssrs. Drake and Raleigh and Jackson and Barker.

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Nuke China! But not while I’m here.

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Both AP and Reuters reported that the Chinese government was displeased with President Obama’s reception of the Dalai Lama. Both accounts were posted by Yahoo.com and below is a sampling of reactions submitted by readers. The first comment imparts to us the very essense of what the world of “reader comments” is all about:

“I don’t even bother to read the articles anymore. I read the headline, scroll to the bottom, and post a comment against the party that I hate.”

If that isn’t direct enough for you (with regard to China), then there’s this: “Lets stiff them for all of their money! then nuke ’em.”

And: “Bring it on China. I’m sick of fighting these endless guerilla wars anyway. I’d like to see the full force of the US military when they’re actually allowed to use it against another legit military.”

To a “yahoo” respondent who said the US military is currently too extended to destroy China, another “yahoo” said: “Our military is too powerful. We could destroy this planet without using half of our weapons. I despise reading ignorant comments from fools like you. We have weapons that could destroy all of China within minutes.” My response to this would be: “But would you really want to?” But I didn’t post it, of course, because he probably would want to make oatmeal out of a fifth of the human race. Maybe if he believed in God he would hesitate before flipping the switch, or maybe, it would make him reach for it a little bit faster. But enough conjecture, shall we blather on?

One of my favorites: “Don’t you know that you are targeted for total destruction if you cause our country to disembowel you?”

Another contributor, calling for restraint and stating that the Chinese people are not the problem, wrote: “It is the Chinese government that is the problem. Along those same lines, people don’t fight wars, governments do.” To which I replied: “If it were true that ‘governments fight wars,’ and not people, there would be a lot less wars.”

Then followed a warning: “They (the Chinese) behave much like North Korea, and we are close to nuking North Korea. Tread lightly, China.”

And a friendly warning for those closer to home: “WWIII….Brace yourselves…Get right with Your Maker…”

And an unfriendly proposal for those fellow-Americans sitting across the aisle: “You sick moefoes ought to be taken out back and shot.”

Then somebody mentioned the fact that the US dollar is smaller than the Canadian dollar, which, I guess, is tangentially pertinent to the Dalai Lama’s visit, and this diversion from China to Canada elicited this remark: “I’m an American living in Canada for past 5 years. If it’s ANYTHING American..they don’t want us. These people are some of the most rude, arrogant and backwards people on the planet..they just have everyone else fooled with their friendly smiles when they come down to the States to vacation! They HATE us.” Which made me want to respond, let’s nuke Canada, too!

In responce to someone’s ill-composed criticism, a condescending exhortation: “norman! normannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! is that some kind of new english your practicing? i find its better to insult someone when using correct grammar…just saying” This grammatical advice contains a mere two grammatical errors.

Someone else opted to swim against the flow and comment on behalf of China’s future: “In ten years China is going to be #1 and the USA will be #2.” This provoked a contagion of very ungracious “replies,” probably by gun-owners possessing multiple guns. Myself, being a loyal American and a defender of truth and liberty, but a chicken at heart, would have supported the original claimant with: “It is my understanding that the United States is already #2 in many areas, as well as #3 behind both Japan and China in the purchase of luxury items. Furthermore, our great, though diminishing, wealth is presently not even enough to keep us ahead of Cuba, that veteran and unwilling performer in a 50-year marathon economic embargo/blockade imposed by the United States, with regard to infant mortality rates.”

Dear reader of this post, if you would like to blather, uh, contribute anything more to this discussion of the “Dalai Lama” a.k.a. “Canada,” “English grammar,” and “fellow Americans,” you’re welcome to leave a comment, even if “you haven’t read this post.”

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Collateral Confabulation

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You can lie to a grand jury and get away with it if you confabulate, because if they catch you, they’ll forgive you because it’s a “condition” that can’t be helped and doesn’t equate to perjury.

Confabulation isn’t just making stuff up, it’s “filling in the gaps of lost memory.” I’ve caught myself confabulating three times in the not too recent past, and it always embarrasses me when I’m “caught.” I don’t do it intentionally, I just get things mixed up, sometimes mixing up my life with historical events or scenes out of a movie.

I also manage to get short guys mixed up, so I once confused Ty Cobb with Napoleon, either imagining Cobb sliding into horses with his spikes raised high at Waterloo, or Napoleon standing at the plate in a Tigers uniform setting the record for bases on balls. When I found out that Cobb was 6′1″ tall my multi-cultural mixed-doubles confabulations stopped, but maybe had Cobb actually been at Waterloo the more than runtish Napoleon could have learned how to spike Wellington to death and avoided exile.

Speaking of “runts” and “exiles” brings to mind the Hollywood movie “Collateral” with Tom Cruise portraying a character that hated being in L.A. because it was too spread out and “disconnected,” this from a socio-pathic character whose middle name writ large was DISCONNECTED while he ran around in Jamie Foxx’s taxi-cab all night murdering government witnesses, a kind of “work” that is the ultimate expression of the “little man” complex. Since we all know that Tom isn’t Ty Cobb, the best line in the movie was made by the gangster (Javier Bardem) who had hired Tom but was talking to Jamie but thought it was Tom, when he said, “I thought you’d be taller.” It’s nice to know Hollywood leading actors can let themselves be made fun of and also end up in permanent exile on L.A.’s rapid transit at the end of a movie.

I didn’t like the movie because of the violence and horrible mindset of the Cruise character, but around the seventh viewing I started to wait for certain scenes where Tom kept slipping back and forth between being a complete, if rather cardboard, sociopath and a man of deeper merit, exposing sensitivities toward such diverse issues as “whale hugging,” labor law, jazz, motherly love, and the psychology of denial and romance–all very serious mood confabulations of sorts: “Have you joined Oxfam, Green Peace, Save the Whales? Do you know how many people died in Rwanda before sundown?” Tom lectures Jamie Foxx. “I don’t know any Rwandans…” “You don’t know the fat guy in the trunk, either.” Funny stuff.

But my Oscar nomination for the best supporting actor definitely goes to the security guard outside the gangster’s dinner-dance joint, a bulked-up Nicolas Cage look-a-like who says to Jamie, “Whassup, homes?” He was bigger than Ty Cobb, corn-fed and equipped with security belt and night stick, and he had such a thorough command over his space on the sidewalk, that without menacing Jamie, he did let him know that he was out of his element, leaving Jamie to feel small and helpless.

I don’t recommend the film even though I’ve now watched it twelve times, but the photography is excellent, as is the music, and that’s no confabulation.

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