Kunming for M_n_i_g

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This is a personal post to show my nephew some changes that have occurred in Kunming’s landscape since he and his family moved north a few years ago. The snapshots are ordinary, so let’s begin. But first, I have to get off the couch and stop acting silly.

It all started for little Kahon right here at Yunnan University Hospital six years and three months ago, in the delivery room on the 8th floor, where the imperative, “Give me back my baby!” let the doctors know that mama’s baby wasn’t leaving mama.

Said baby now speaks better Chinese than me and his parents.

Staying on Renmin W. Road we head west past the next traffic light which is the city’s 1st Ring Road to look at our favorite Muslim restaurant. It’s still there, but the things next to it aren’t. The picture of the restaurant and its neighbors’ destruction was taken from the gate of what was once Kunming University–which is moving forty-five minutes away to Cheng Gong with all the other schools in town along with their undergraduate students

Notice the extensive open space to the right of the last two buildings standing. There are several such projects along the south side of Renmin W. Road, but the entire north side from Kunming University to  西园路 Xiyuan Road has been cleared! Look at  

those tiny buildings at the far left–that’s Xiyuan Road. For folks who aren’t familiar with Kunming, there used to be whole communities living in there, but not anymore. These pictures were taken by putting my camera on top of the wall that surrounds the project.

    

Renmin W. Road is also starting to get torn up for the new subway, but nothing like what has been happening for the last twenty-one months on Beijing Road, where subway construction has caused the traffic from the South Train Station to Metro to become a daily still life delerium for commuters, but that’s another story. 

Peddling up past the Wickerbasket at the 2nd Ring Road we get on the Kunming-Guizhou By-Pass (Guizhou is the next province for those of you without a map) and the west side of town is starting to look like the north side–five years ago.

Then over the railroad tracks (I’ll walk them one day taking pictures) and onto the

the 3rd Ring Road, which I think is only a half-donut because it’s up against the mountains and the lake is on the south side of town. Dianchi Lake, China’s 6th largest lake in area, might be 143rd in volume because half of it is agri-chem/industrial run-off and the other half is only chest deep (this clause is not in error and contains a zeugma). You can’t really drown in it because the pollutants give you buoyancy. But all the fish are dead, so it’s still possible to die in it. 

Anyway, the 3rd Ring Road takes you from the end of Renmin W. Road, where you can still see the “Building China Pickaxes and Sledgehammers in Hand” motif sculpted in cement, all the way to your school! On an 1800 Goldwing you could get there in about three minutes. So let’s take three minutes and head north!

This village, as you can see, is just outside the 3rd Ring Road, as also is the Haiyuan Temple, the temple we visited with your folks, which now has a superior first-class view of this elevated highway whizzing by just fifty feet from its front gate!

Note 黑林铺 Heilin Pu–home again!

   

There’s the rock quarry! The one we used to skirt when making our temple-on-the-mountain trek! This highway takes some of the charm out of the wilderness, a bit like opening a McDonald’s in Shangri-La.

See the white dome of the college across the street from yours? We’re almost there! Oh, and see those tall 19-story apartment buildings? Well, there are 16 of them and they’re sitting right on top of the village we used to visit (below).

I have no idea what their going to build on the other side of the street where we used to sit in that covered gazebo talking to nannies and toddlers; maybe you can figure it out by the lay of the rubble.

The entire village is gone, and the new apartments extend all the way back to where that marijuana patch was on the edge of that big field. The field is still there, but barren, as prep-work is being done to transform it.

Home again.

Home was five floors above that white car. The wall that students used to jump over to escape school supervision is now gone, along with your view, having been replaced by a new housing unit! Let’s walk around to the other side and see…

another housing unit (left) that has been built to replace that smelly little toxic lead-paint manufacturing operation next door–how’d they ever get into your school? Up to your door on the fifth floor…

and look out over the track and field where the Cappa-Weara Guy from Australia played football with the students.

Yes! They put a building on the football field and left the track.

实训楼 “Hands-On Training Lab” means “no more football.”

The house of shattered dreams! After all the research and gathering of materials in America for a dream English Center, just broken promises.

Hey, they’ve got a soaring dragon, too!

To the front gate…

and out on the street–which is now a four-lane road–no more bumps and sawed off tree stumps sticking up out of the pavement (like the one I hit with my foot when riding my bike at midnight–luckily I was wearing low-top boots instead of shoes). And I don’t know how they took that one turn out of the road, but they did, so that it’s now a straight shot all the way to the interchange, which the 1800 Goldwing could do in about 30 seconds if you got everybody off the street.

Look right…

turn left…

past the bridge (which is now a gentle rise just before this intersection)…

stop for noodles…

and finally, Salvadore’s! Coffee, anyone?

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Mine Eyes Have Seen the “Glory of Superlative-Inspiring Trophy Projects”!

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Can we stop calling each other names and making snide remarks all the time? School kids do it and the common yahoo does it ad infinitum on internet political forums around the world, but do journalists writing for the Wall Street Journal on-line and who’ve been to journalism school need to do it, too?

Drum-roll, please, and feel free to sing the first paragraph of the Wall Street Journal article to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic–the author must have been humming Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! while writing. Those of you who are “lyrically impaired” may want to skip this section:

1st line: “Saturday’s tragic train crash near Wenzhou, in the coastal province of Zhejiang[you have to  run-up quick a little bit at the end of that first line, and omit “of Zhejiang” or you’ll lose the cadence]

2nd line: “raises important questions about the Chinese government’s ability” [pause]

3rd line: “to ensure basic safety standards as it pursues the glory of” [long pause]

4th line: [then simply recall ‘His truth goes marching on,’ and sing, quick-time:] “superlative-inspiring trophy projects.”

chorus:
Glory, glory Mao Ze Dong-yah,
Itty-Bitty* put it to-yah,
Economic plums are falling,
[sing, “Superlative-inspiring trophy,” as one word]           Superlative-inspiring trophy projects march on!

[*Itty-Bitty refers to Premier Deng Xiao Ping who, at 5′0″ in 1978 or ’79, effectively shelved communism and harnessed the great motivating power of greed inherent in capitalism to get China off the starting blocks.]

If you’re still with me and not hyperventilating after mucking through all those bracketed comments I made, here’s my beef: “Trophy.”

China is being told she’s a bad girl because she is using her new found wealth to build-up her infrastructure with “trophy” projects, like American men who now can come to China (in the past your American passport kept you standing outside the gate–I remember standing in Hong Kong’s New Territories within a few meters of the barbed-wire-topped 12-foot cyclone fence, and I took a picture of the fence and a sign in several languages that, in so many words, said, “Scram!” and wished I could get in) and pick up “trophy” wives? Is that the idea?

We all know what a trophy wife is, but what’s a trophy project–especially a “superlative-inspiring” one? Let me think, are there other examples? The Eiffel Tower? The Egyptian pyramids? The Empire State Building? The Super Dome? The (truly ‘superlative-inspiring’) American Interstate Highway System where tripple-trailer-tractor rigs roar down three-and-four-lane wide asphalt in freezing rain at 90 mph supplying the hog butchers and candlestick makers and grocers in every nook and cranny of America? How about Amtrack that derails on a regular basis?

  Image by Gemma Sydney
http://www.alphabetagemma.wordpress.com

Accidents happen. And they happen a lot in China. But accidents in China have nothing to do with “China pursuring the glory of superlative-inspiring trophy projects”–just ask the hundreds, thousands of coal miners who get buried alive every year in mining accidents. Or the college students who burn to death in dormitories that keep all their doors barred and locked at night, including the fire exits–what fire exits?

I’m always thrilled when the Chinese send up a rocket and it makes it, or they win a gold medal! So they must be doing some things right. But even though China can cheer me, it can also horrify me, and I would never defend China’s ability to screw up, any more than I would defend America’s. A case in point is the lack of workmanship and attention to detail in home construction in China. The moldings and baseboards in my house look like rats have been chewing on them, and they get worse every time I move some furniture or swat a fly. New apartment houses six months after completion often look like they’re ten years old, and it used to be that after a month they looked completely dilapidated. That’s China. But McDonald’s has moved in, and service is getting better! And China’s trying to keep up.

So if you must cast snide remarks, let the first one come from somebody who has never tried to create English à la Shakespeare with a made-up hyphenated adjective-gerund adjective. Which makes me ask, what, exactly, do they teach in journalism school these days?

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Terminal Velocity

                                          

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Piddlin’ Pot Scam

                                Hudspeth County Courthouse                                The grass is dead, so’s the tree, there’s no flag, and the skies are not cloudy all day!

File:Hudspeth county courthouse 2009.jpg        [Image by Larry D. Moore, used under a Creative Commons Share Alike License.] 

I was born in Texas. Not that that means anything. We left before I could walk or talk or even open my eyes. My mother’s only request of our ramblin’ father was that she not give birth to a child in Arkansas, so we, with one-third in utero, moved to Abilene, and her other request was that we not stay in Texas, so as soon as I was breathing on my own we moved to Colorado where my brother was born. I don’t know if we passed through El Paso just 398 miles southwest of Abilene, but El Paso County is right next to Hudspeth County where Willie Nelson got busted for a piddlin’ amount of pot. 

El Paso & Hudspeth    

The Hudspeth County Attorney C.R. “Kit” Bramblett doesn’t believe that Willie is a criminal–in fact, he’s been a big fan of his for 50 years–and moreover, “Kit” also doesn’t believe that less than four ounces of marijuana in your vehicle should amount to anything more serious than “a traffic citation.” So he cut a deal for Willie, the same deal that he routinely gives to any average Joe Citizen–a $500 fine, and no need to make a court appearance, just “mail in the cashier’s check.”

“Kit,” along with the entire state of Texas, is running a scam, either unwillingly or unwittingly so, because although law enforcement is serving the “public interest” by issuing citations and collecting fines, those efforts have nothing to do with increasing public safety or reforming “criminal” behavior–such efforts serve no purpose other than to collect revenue. At least a speeding ticket, fine, license suspension or revocation allows for the possibility that in the future a reckless driver will use caution and drive more reasonably, thus improving highway safety.

But a fine to “enforce” prohibition and change “deviant” behavior? It didn’t work with alcohol in the past, and no one is expecting it to work with cannabis today in Hudspeth County–and the truth is in the telling of every “law-breaker” happily set free so long as the $500 fine is paid. Law enforcement certainly doesn’t want these people clogging up the jails, and it doesn’t want them off the highways either, because every time Willie or anybody else rolls down Interstate 10 there’s a chance to collect another $500. If Hudspeth County could regularly collect $500 from every smoker of the other weed–tobacco–then the county and probably the state of Texas could retire.

So power to Hudspeth County, I say, which is poorer than dirt and home to nothing more than cacti and rattlesnakes and 3,476 people, all of whom could use the extra cash. The county has little water and scant farmland, and the per capita income of $13,806 is half the national average, and 29.8% of the population lives below the poverty line, twice the national average. But what Hudspeth lacks in resources and jobs, it makes up for in highways–specifically “the intersection of Ranch Road 1111, Interstate Highway 10, and U.S. Highway 80, eighty miles southeast of El Paso” in Sierra Blanca (pop. 517) where the Hudspeth County Courthouse is located and Willie got busted at the lucrative check-point on Internstate 10. “Is that marijuana I smell?”

70,000 fines a year for 70,000 “pot citations” issued in Texas is a cool $35-million for counties across the state, rich or poor. And in case you don’t know, because impoverished people tend to get dumped on, after New York City was prohibited from dumping their garbage in the ocean, Hudspeth became the receiving station for 250 tons of their sewage sludge every week for more than a decade, and the stink could be smelled in Sierra Blanca three miles away. This deal was cut between a “mafia linked” Oklahoma company and Texas politicians, but that, of course, is a whole ‘nother kind of scam. So let’s all smile on Hudspeth County for opting for a less odiferous scam of their own choosing. 

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Dream What You Write

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                           On this blog I have written about interrogators and torture, Vietnam, my cat, and my son, and then I dreamt about them.  A foreigner was being interrogated in Vietnam while my son and I observed the proceedings. Fortunately, the interrogation was painless, and the Vietnamese interrogator was soft-spoken, urbane, and an all-around nice guy. He uncrinkled a big blue plastic map (it looked and sounded like the poncho I wear when peddling my bike in the rain) and asked where he had landed. The man was immediately transformed into my cat–don’t we wish we could take sudden changes in our lives with the same aplomb as we do in dreams?–and pawed at the general area of Laos.

Then my cat traced its route along a river to a fork, and followed the fork heading south into Vietnam. I told the interrogator that the cat’s story was entirely plausable because I could teach a cat to distinguish left and right forks in a river. This dream didn’t have much emotional content, but the next one about a fellow blogger did: 

A beautiful red-head in a blue satin dress gushed that the night before and before her very eyes little notches suddenly appeared in the lid of an opened tin of tuna, and that it was a clear sign that I must certainly have written a story parrallel to her own on her blog–which I hadn’t, but I wasn’t going to say anything. Because she was so flattered by my effort, she was ready to desert her older middle-aged boyfriend (with thick wavy black hair standing off to the side) for me. I took her in my arms and said, “First blush is first blush, darling, but I’m older than your boyfriend.” She immediately turned into a piece of two-dimensional cardboard, and as her boyfriend carried her off the stage he gnashed his teeth at me and said, “I’m not a hundred years old.” Dork.

I haven’t dreamt about the Rapture yet, or making deals with the devil, or my death, or eating gallons of ice cream–but maybe I will. Wouldn’t it be nice to dream about everything you write? Then we could all write within a very limited range of topics, such as deserted isles with beautiful girls.

I sloshed my way through the surf, exhausted, and up on the beach, and caught a glimpse of them, hundreds of them, sloe-eyed and shy, hiding among the palm trees and in the grasses…

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Review: The Best Lighter-Than-Air Reading on WordPress

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Two Priests And A Truck Driver Float Into The Sky
 

“I have been too long gone, but long time readers know that following this blog is like watching a game of cricket. Nothing at all happens for a very long time, then all of a sudden when you least expect it, something very boring happens.

“I kid of course, cricket is fantastic – any game where you play for five days and still often end in a draw is one that this avid procrastinator can’t get enough of. To fall asleep for hours in front of the cricket and awake to find not much has changed – well isn’t that life itself?”

Soaringdragons: So begins a post on vivaminutiae, and it’s one of the best “irrelevant” openings for any article on WordPress that I’ve ever read. The post is about “ballooners,” but the intro is about cricket and the quirkiness of the author. Even avid ballooners would have a hard time figuring out what this post is about were it not for the mention of the “truck driver float” in the title. Then they would be asking, “Why is 6,000 years of human history, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness a metaphor for a cricket match?ken couch

And where are the balloons?” But if you’re not a ballooner you really won’t care if vivaminutiae first indulges in a bit of, well, minutiae before getting around to his subject. It’s not a big sin, we don’t think, but there is a chance that like some great authors he may find himself ultimately assigned to the 1st circle of Dante’s Inferno, but we hope not (unless he likes good conversation).

“This is my longest entry so far, and reflects the high (pun intended) esteem in which I hold those to whom it is dedicated: those magnificent men and their floating machines. Because this latest entry in The Horatio Files would like to pay tribute to the daring men who inhabit the rarified air (okay I’ll stop the lame wordplay – okay maybe a couple more, you’ll have to wait for them…) of the thrilling world of the cluster-ballooner.”

Soaringdragons: Cluster-what? Oh, ballooner. (What do you call a gathering of cluster-ballooners at 10,000 feet who are perilously close and in danger of becoming entangled?) This true introduction is short and to the point, but with enough asides and parenthetical comments (as was the entire faux-introduction) to let us all know that this article is going to be full of them–both amusing and bemusing–and rather than slow down the pace or irritate us, we’ll actually look forward to seeing them. Thus with many more delightful asides and general gabbing we are lead into the wonderful world of “cluster-ballooners”–how they go up and how they come down, sometimes very fast so that the actuarial tables for ballooners are a poorer bet than most horse races.

“This is not for the faint-hearted. You’d have to be some kind of ballunatic to even attempt it. Let me introduce Padre Adelir Antonio de Carli.”

Soaringdragons: Re-coining “ballooner” as ballooniere, balloonario, and ballunatic, the author goes into the history of ballooning, which all started with somebody’s “laundry drying in front of the fire,” and then the first public demonstration of a floating device on June 4, 1783, followed in September by the first “manned” test flight with a sheep, a duck and a rooster who looked at each other and said, “Are we going to market, or what?” 

“I’ll admit that ‘ballooner’ doesn’t sound very cool,” vivaminutiae writes, but his description of the adventurous world of ballooners–which is a very small club of your not so average citizens who often stand in need of extensive psychological rewiring–is very cool and a lot of fun.  So take your laptop out to your backyard and sit in a lawnchair, tie a few balloons to it just as Larry Walters below did in 1982, and vicariously enjoy the ride he accidentally took to 16,000 feet with vivaminutiae!

 Larry takes flight, wearing what ele but aviators

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Unjustifiable Mayhem

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Medical Fact:  Optimum “levels of estrogen in men are essential for a healthy libido and improved brain function….”

Word Fact: “Malkin: An old diminutive of Matilda; formerly used as a generic term for a kitchen-wench or untidy slut.” Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, New York

American Cowboy Fact: “We watched four boozed-up cowboy types kick a faggot half to death between the pinball machines.” Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

vivacious estrogen

When Barry Bonds hit home-run number seventy in 2001 it was caught by a fan named Charles Murphy who was asked how he felt when he caught it. “The rush of estrogen was incredible,” he said. That’s one of the funniest, and truest, sports lines I’ve ever read, even though many people are confused by it and let it go by like a called third strike. Mr. Murphy’s interviewer didn’t get it either and suggested that he should have said “testosterone.” Wrong.

Well Hung Testosterone Molecule

Yes, we all know that “testosterone is for men” and “estrogen is for women,” but the fact of the matter is that all of us, male or female, actually have a mixed bag, so that even Mike Tyson has a little “girl” in him, albeit hard to find. That Charles said he experienced a spike in estrogen is completely believable because Barry Bonds is the closest thing to SuperMAN in human form, steroids or no steroids, and to have caught the shot off his two-pound, 31-inch-long cannon, the recipient, regardless of sex or sexual orientation, is bound to experience a “rush” of estrogen.

Which brings us to the boy in Florida who wore high heels to school. The principal told him to remove the shoes because even though Riverview High didn’t have pinball machines, he was still going to get his butt whupped if he didn’t get rid of the shoes. “As a principal of a high school…I have to make sure he’s going to be okay,” Principal Heilmann  said. “Anytime anyone goes out from, quote, ‘the norm,’ or anytime anyone wants to make a statement, you have to be willing to take what comes with it.” Apparently the principal wasn’t willing to take what comes with a male student wearing girlaphenalia, so off came the shoes. Is this not the reasoned response that has most of us nodding in agreement, for “boys will be boys,” teasing and beating each other, and, besides, they’re just high-schoolers? Well, I’m not nodding. High-schoolers turn into adults.

Heels, no heels, long hair, short hair, lip gloss, no lip gloss, it’s no big deal one way or the other–the world turns. What is a big deal is the principal telling children that if somebody doesn’t like what they wear or what they draw or how they play the harpsichord or sing the national anthem, they must “be willing to take what comes with it,” and not just criticism, but beatings, rape, or murder by goons, brown shirts, pimply-faced schoolmates or anybody else who has a majority view or official sanction as to what thoughts are proper, what life views are acceptable, or how music should be performed.

Years ago the gay community began voicing its disagreement with the prevailing view that homosexuals could be rightfully beaten or killed simply because their behavior did not conform to or sit well with the majority of society’s members, and before that, Malcolm X was saying much the same thing regarding another community of minority standing. My question is, “Who’s running the school? The principal? Principles of decency instilled by education? Or the student body’s goblins and their hounds?” If the principal says he’s in charge, then why isn’t he passing out tire irons? Malcolm X would have.

Which now brings us to the “slut walk.” Tire irons, effective in the short run, must give way to efforts at education, and that’s what I think the “sluts,” untidy or not, working in kitchens or not, frumpy or not, are trying to tell us. A policeman echoing Principal Heilmann’s “belief in justifiable mayhem” by stating that those women who dress provocatively are responsible for being raped makes as much sense as saying a rich man who wears a Rolex is provoking common citizens to snatch it off his wrist. “You’re under arrest! What’s that? The suit was wearing the Rolex on his wrist? I see. OK, give him back his Rolex and you scram. As for you, keep that Rolex buried in a deep pocket and out of sight. And if I ever see it on your wrist again, I won’t lift a finger to stop the person that steals it from you.”

If Principal Heilmann can’t instill values of decency and acceptance in our children, we should at least be able to expect our police and other public servants to uphold the rights and freedoms of anyone who isn’t committing a felony, regardless of how or where they wear their bras and Rolexes, and that would be a good start, don’t you think? And we do need to start somewhere, otherwise we’ll never stop reading stories about bullies lurking in stadium parking lots and in the stands amidst those fans who dare to catch a home run ball and run the risk of an estrogen spike that sets off the hounds.

I wonder if Charles Murphy was wearing high heels when he caught Barry Bonds’ home run.

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