Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cooking and the Arts

friends came on weekend and I decided to give it a wok. had never been calling me for the longest time, until one day the spell was broken when I heard: cooking is an arts too. - I got hooked. western is a culture experience to me (eating is not enough). my foreign vocabulary expands in grocery learning to cook, I discovered a new matrix of beauty in the smallest measurement which could've been overlooked so easily - as small as a tiny freshly green chervil sprig, with a smell spelling imagination...
the wonder of life to me: there's something to learn in just about every corner;
and in each corner, there's a way to live life artistically, which I'm still learning... :) 
have a good week!
a big fan  

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Abrasive, weird, and completely unafraid to say what was on his mind, Frank Barone was the best character on "Everybody Loves Raymond." Raymond's father Frank was the perfect sidekick for Marie, who more often than not stole the show. His constant barrage of insults brought her down to earth, when everyone else was afraid to stand up to her. And had any other character uttered Frank Barone's lines, they would have become instantly unlikeable. But Frank Barone remained loveable throughout. Here is why Frank Barone was the best character on "Everybody Loves Raymond."

"Everybody Loves Raymond" was one of the most critically acclaimed American sitcoms of its time. It ran from 1996 to 2005, and can still be seen in syndication several times a day all over the country. I admit I was one of the few American viewers who didn't love "Raymond" during its initial run. I found Ray Romano's character Raymond Barone incredibly annoying, what with that nasal voice and pathetic fear of his beautiful wife Debra. I didn't care much at all for his brother Robert, played by Brad Garrett, either. He was nothing but a big goof and the character was overdone, overacted. But I did love "Raymond" when I began watching it in syndication on TBS, not because of Ray or Robert, but because of their hilarious parents, Frank and Marie.

Frank Barone was played by legendary character actor Peter Boyle, who passed away in New York on December 12, 2006. His trademark "Holy crap!" was hysterical, and just about every line he uttered during the show's long run was perfectly delivered. With Frank's strange look and attitude, the character could have been easily dismissed as nasty and mean, but quite the contrary, everybody loved Frank.

And Frank Barone loved Marie's cooking, and deep down, he even loved Marie herself. The insults, the one-liners, it was just the way they were. Everybody used to get a few digs in on Frank, too. They remarked about his baldness, his weight, but Frank Barone always had a comeback, and when he didn't, he simply brushed them off.
"I'm not some trophy wife!" exclaimed Marie, portrayed by Doris Roberts, on one occasion. "What contest in hell did I win?" said Frank.

Peter Boyle gave the character of Frank Barone heart and warmth, and the legendary actor is already missed, as is the show, "Everybody Loves Raymond." Boyle's seamless portrayal of Frank made him the best character on "Everybody Loves Raymond."

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New York Comedy clubs - A recent visit

I recently visited New York City and came away with a few great findings. There are thousands of people who tour New York City every day from around the United States and the world. There are so many different cites to see and so many things to do that it can be overwhelming. For anyone who wants to laugh and be entertained, New York City offers some great comedy clubs. The three best comedy clubs are: Laugh Factory, Caroline's, and HA! These three comedy clubs are all located in Times Square or just off of it.

The Laugh Factory is my personal favorite comedy club that I have been to several different times.
Famous comedians have been to the Laugh Factory and the chain comedy club can be found in almost every state in the country. The list of famous comedians who have performed at the Laugh Factory in Times Square in New York includes Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle. The Laugh Factory is a really nice place and has a great atmosphere. Tickets are a little expensive. For most shows, each ticket is around $30 plus you have to buy a 2 drink minimum of either alcoholic drinks or soda. Thus your total will come out to about $40. When the show is about to start, all the people will be brought up to the show room which has nice leather benches and tables for people to sit. There is a big stage that is lit very well from lighting and there is an MC who will start the show and introduce all the comedians. Just about every comedian was funny, although some were hysterically funny while others were just mildly funny. Altogether it was a great evening that was highly entertaining and definitely I would recommend to people. The most memorable time I remember at the Laugh Factory was when four Afghanistani ladies were sitting in the front row of the show and every single comedian made jokes about them. The ladies took the jokes in stride but it was still very funny.
Caroline's is another great place to stop by. I've only been there once but they have a great show for their audience. The comedy club is located on Broadway Avenue in New York City, right near Times Square. The list of past comedic performers includes Jerry Seinfeld, Rosie O'Donnell, Tim Allen and Jay Leno. Caroline's has a very nice and elegant atmosphere with tables lit by candlelight. Prices for comedy shows is a little expensive; slightly more than Laugh Factory, ranging from $40-$50 a show. However, the comedians are usually big names or people who will become big names in the entertainment industry. Caroline's definitely knows talent in comedy when they see it and you will get your money's worth for the night.

The comedy club called HA! In Times Square is very different than the other two mentioned comedy clubs. In fact the only reason that I have listed this comedy club is because it is so cheap. Admission is $9 plus the 2 drink minimum which can be found at almost every comedy club. Thus the total you will spend for the night will be a little less than $20. HA! has some decent comedians but they are not nearly as
funny as comedians in Caroline's' or Laugh Factory. In addition, HA! lacks the track record of famous comedians appearing at their club. Furthermore, the atmosphere at HA! is simply poor in comparison. The room is dimly lit and the stage for comedians is small. Usually the audience size is nowhere near as big as the other two comedy clubs. Some comedians are funny but for two comedians I saw at their club, they didn't have prepared material and instead used the audience for their jokes. This resulted in dead air time and moments of awkward silence which was not a good thing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Heaven is round, Earth is square

The shapes presented here by the moving printing blocks - round, square, ying yang, and calligraphical character He (和, meaning 'unity, harmony')...embrace many traditional ideas...
ancestors believed that the heaven is round...they observed the moon the sun, which come and go and come - universe must be like a closed circle, repeating itself to eternity. this round celestial order was used in many architecture, for example, the temple of heaven (天坛), where emperors worshiped in the aim to connect themselves to heaven...
the earth (terrestrial order) was believed to be square, steady and solid, carrying all living things including us. so the ordinary people's home was often structured in a square layout, called Si He Yuan (四合院).
heaven is yang, earth is ying...I often think the connection between ancient philosophy and marxism (which is much more than just communism) to chinese is perhaps between ying yang and dialectics (辩证法) -
everything is made out of opposing forces/opposing sides.
gradual changes lead to turning points, where one force overcomes the other.
change moves in spirals not circles. (negation of the negation)
- so far, my life experience cannot refute it.
calligraphy is a very broad topic. it's an arts and also the history of chinese the language. the script styles changes along time, leaving us varieties. for example, attached is the development of the word Ma (horse) written chronologically in: oracle, bronze, big seal, small seal, clerical, regular traditional, regular simplified, semi-cursive, cursive script, etc.
to understand calligraphy, a very interesting start is the word Mi (rice). it's one of the most simple characters, but defines the spacial relationships of all the 8 voids on paper. for example, space 1 and 2 are normally smaller than 3 and 4, which are smaller than 5 and 6, which in turn are smaller than 7 and 8, etc. this rice theory was summarized by Qigong (启功, chinese calligrapher/artist/sinologist, 1912-2005). I thought it's a very elegant - the rules of the most complicated phenomenons are often hidden in the simplest form, like universe to a cell...
share a young chinese artist/calligrapher Xu Bing (徐冰)'s work the book from the sky (天书) and the book from the earth (地书). - a more academic contemporary chinese artist.
(to be continued.)
A big fan

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Idioms and Attainments

3000 disciples of Confucius chanting 'all men are brothers', a quote from the Analects (论语, ca. 479-221 BC)...
...once, I was shelf-reading a textbook called 'religion' in a college bookstore - I was curious how it's taught here. to my surprise, Confucianism was listed as one of the religions...if I don't mistake, religion by definition concerns 'the cause of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies'. Confucianism has nothing to do with it. it's rather a one discussion between Confucius (chinese call him Kong Zi 孔子) and his disciple Fan Chi (樊迟), according to the Analects, Confucius expresses his take on gods as '敬鬼神而远之', which left chinese an idiom Jing Er Yuan Zhi (敬而远之), meaning: stay at a respectful distance. considering his era (551-479 BC) when worshiping was a passion a norm, his view was quite an alternative...chinese respect and learn him more as a very wise human being, rather than a perfect saint.
...what the disciples are holding are the Analects carved on bamboo strips. papermaking has traditionally been traced to china about 105 AD. before that, words were recorded in all sorts of medias, including ceramics, oracles, silk, and bamboo strips. legend has it that when the major thinker Hui Shi (惠施) in the Warring States Period (5th-211 BC) was to give lecture, his 'books' (carved on bamboo strips) filled five horse wagons. that left chinese another idiom Xue Fu Wu Che (学富五车, literally 'knowledge fills five wagons') to describe a learned man. once said, if being cast away, there is one book she'd bring with her - the dictionary of idioms...chinese idioms (Cheng Yu 成语) are a set of traditional idiomatic expressions, most of which consist of four chinese characters. they are derived from ancient literature, often a philosophical story or a poem. to learn them is to learn ancient contexts and the moral behind the stories. - indeed, very interesting. they made chinese language capable of expressing sophisticated meanings concisely. there're 5,000 to 20,000 idioms (depends on dictionaries), among which over 100 were from the Analects.
share Confucius' own account of his progress and attainments that we often compare with ours (at birthdays) -
三十而立 四十不惑 五十而知天命 六十而耳順 七十而從心欲
at thirty, I had planted my feet firm upon the ground.
at forty, I no longer suffered from perplexities.
at fifty, I knew what were the biddings of Heaven.
at sixty, I heard them with docile ear.
at seventy, I could follow the dictates of my own heart; for what I desired no longer overstepped the boundaries of right.
(to be continued.)
A big fan

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Music to my ears

...I spent the night organizing music...listening to classical is like watching the world - whenever something is learned, it's time to be modest and learn it again I think...
share -
chopin. ballade no 1 in g minor op23 (1835-36)
...also share some memorable performance by young chinese virtuosos well received by the world -
+ sa chen (b. 1979. prize winner of some most prestigious competitions...leeds, chopin, van cliburn)
...I think this was in va cliburn competition in 2005: ravel gaspard de la nuit.
she came to new orleans to give a performance after katrina despite the old concert hall was destroyed...
+ another sichuan (the earthquake province) native - yundi li (b. 1982. the youngest pianist to win chopin competition at 18. since 1985, the 1st prize was not awarded to anyone until in 2000, the world found him.)
...chopin piano concerto no.1 in 2000. second movement. warsaw philharmonic orchestra. conducted by kazimierz kord.
+ I guess everyone knows lang lang (b. 1982)...just share an intimate piece accompanied by his father playing erhu -
horse. composed by haihuai huang. a chinese piece in his recital in carnegie hall. 2003.
the recording of the recital wan a 2005 amadeus austrian music award. the recital dvd wan 2005 echo klassik.
...and two of my recent paintings -
+ a red flower. oil on canvas. 8'x11'...on its way to kids from the earthquake. 6/1 is childrens day. over 4,000 newly became orphans...
+ current. watercolor on paper. 16'x20'... no, heart is not light lately.
A big fan

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Going on..?

it's been so much information lately. spent the day in museum to be quiet...
I find myself often walking fast when it comes to contemporary western arts.
there's a feeling of void. after kandinsky, dali, pollock, feels (is it just me?): out of focus.
- I joke with friend: western depression used to be fine.
if to see the world art in continuity, I think what's really happening is chinese contemporary arts.
I haven't been following the skyscraping auction price, but
just for one thing: they're actively self portraying. - how exciting: artists not being tired of themselves.
I won't consider the culture revolution era being blank in arts. the real void was in 80s and 90s.
it has never been lack of ideas, but the sense of self...
people here think it's the repression. but I think it was too much influence from the west:
artists follow - what's worse? 
but it came back interesting recent years...they found their way.
this soil they grew in is not pure. they find a way to express it shamelessly.
honesty builds up confidence. always.   
it's something much more interesting, substantial and vangard-ing.
world is in a fusion, I think.
searching for modern culture identity would be more and more difficult. and unnecessary.
for cultural identity has always been in every viewer. often merely a matter of scale.
- thought this is what I want to share more than Confucius today.
A big fan

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

hand in hand

the problem is not we're having too little, but how little we create...
A big fan
...a special story forwarded by a friend this morning:

The girl (Ma, Li 馬麗) was a beautiful promising professional ballerina when she lost her right arm in a car accident in 1996. She was only 19. Her handsome boy friend walked away from her.  She tried to kill herself only to be saved by her parents. Her love for her parents gave her the strength to live.

She learned how to live her life independently.  She learned how to write Chinese beautifully and how to do many things including combing her hair, which she had to cut short from the waist-length to shoulder-le ngth.  She learned to cook and to wash clothes ...In a few months she opened her small bookstore.

Five years later in 2001, she was invited to compete at the 5th national special performing art competition for handicaps and won the gold medal.  That success gave her the hope to return to her beloved stage.

In 2002, a handsome 20-year-old young man (Li, Tao) madly fell in love with her.  She ran away from him for fear of being hurt again. After she disappeared in Beijing, Tao searched her up and down despite his parents' strong objection and ridicule. He finally found her dancing in a bar. They have never been separated since.

They were very broke when SARS was spreading because all theaters were closed. In a cold snowy night, when the two huddled in an underpass to wait for the sunrise in order to catch a bus after a long day at a movie shooting site working as extras, she suddenly had the urge to dance in the snow with him. She had used her dance to tell him her story so many times before and this time, after their 'dance' ended, he suddenly realized that THIS should be her unique performance.

In September 2005, she ran into a 21-year-old young man (Zhai, Xiaowei  翟孝偉).  He was being trained to be a cyclist for the national special olympics.  He had never danced before.  He climbed on a tractor when he was 4 years old and fell off it and lost his left leg.  His dad asked him, 'The doctor will have to amputate your leg.  Are you afraid?'  He couldn't comprehend what would be so different so he said no. His dad said, 'You are going to face many challenges and difficulties in life, are you afraid?'  He asked, 'What are 'challenges and difficulties'? Do they taste good?'  His dad laughed with tears, 'Yes, they're like your favorite candies.  You just need to eat them one piece at a time!'  (Then his dad ran out of the room in tears.)

So he's always very optimistic and athletic with a great sense of humor. He had tried high-jump, long-jump, diving, swimming, and just settled on cycling.  His coach believed that he would be able to get 2-3 gold medals in the national special Olympics games. 

He initially didn't understand how he could 'dance,' so Li invited him to see her performing 'Hand in Hand' with another male actor.  He felt that he saw a perfect soul dancing on the stage and agreed to give it a try. 

One would not be able to imagine the kind of challenges and difficulties they faced. He had NO dancing background and she is a perfectionist. There are so many touching stories.  Much determination has gone into the making of this performance. Just for that one 'drop' move at 3:41 of the clip, he landed her on the hard floor more than 1000 times...

To get the move right, they started at 8 a.m. and got the first successful move shortly after 8 pm! All they did was to train and to practice from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. day-in and day-out ...The rest is history.

In April they were one of the finalists among 7000 competitors in the 4th CCTV national dance competition. It is the first time a handicapped couple ever entered the competition. They won the Silver medal with the 99.17 high score and not to mention the highest audience popular votes. They became an instant national hit.  

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Zhi Yin

so exciting: gymnastics, diving, phelps.
...I think the most tranquil is when the huge scroll opens...what dancers are painting here is ink wash (水墨), the branch of chinese painting being the closest to calligraphy. earliest chinese paintings were ornamental. during the Warring States Period (403-321 BC), it became representational of the surrounding world. artists from the Han (202 BC) to the Tang (618-906) dynasties mainly painted human figures. gradually, they started singling out the background landscape as the main subject, leaving out the humans - many considered the landscape paintings were the highest form of chinese painting. the techniques can be roughly divided into the meticulous court-style (Gong Bi 工笔) and freehand style (Xie Yi 写意). some freehand ink-wash landscape artists I like - Wang Zhirui (?-?), Ba Da Shan Ren (1626-1705)...
the instrument used here is Gu Qin. seven strings. four octaves. original scores read like this. the earliest ones being found dated about 2500 years ago, mentioned in writings dating back 3000 years. among its players, Confucius is a famous one - well, ancestors don't say 'play' Gu Qin, but 'caress' (抚琴). often times, subtle gentlemen carry them to quiet places, in mountains, by lake, or in a bamboo forest...the left hand walking on the strings changes the pitch of the right hand notes at the tails of each sentence, letting emotions fully diffuse into the surroundings...another famous player is Boya from the Spring and Autumn Period (roughly 8th to 5th century BC). he was highly admired for his unparalleled skills, but not being understood - he felt. one day, a woodman Zhong Ziqi heard his playing in a woods and was able to pronounce all the meanings as if reading Boya's mind. they became good freinds. when Ziqi died, Boya broke the strings and vowed never to play again. the story gave chinese a word Zhi Yin (知音, literally 'to know one's music') to describe a close and sympathetic friend, a soul mate.
thanks to the invention of paper, the scores were kept and learned generation by generation...share Boya's score played by Guan Pinghu (管平湖), a 20th century Gu Qin master. his recording was included in the Voyager Goldern Record and sent into outer space by spacecrafts from both NASA and China. - perhaps some alien Zhi Yin is enjoying them right now :)...2500 yrs ago, when Boya was playing this song, Ziqi amazed,'how vast are the rivers and oceans!' - and the music was exactly called Liu Shui (Flowing Water).
(to be continued.)
A big fan

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jian Fou

my euro friend said 'explain this to me', with eyes nailed on the screen. - we were re-watching the complete version of opening ceremony on a korean channel the next day...but oh my, my eyes were busily absorbing too - too overwhelmed to say anything.
dividing the ceremony into each chapter, there're still a lot of details to explain. share some of them:
the countdown
what's used here is 2008 'drums' borrowing inspiration from an ancient ceramic wine container Fou (缶). the ancestors used to drink, sing and tap beats on it - gradually, it became a percussion instrument, more belonging to the ordinary people than to the privileged class. the cubic shape of these drums is from the container of the Fou, called Jian (鉴). it's like a wine cooler or heater (some chinese wine are to drink when heated). attached is a photo of a copper Jian Fou ("曾侯乙"铜鉴缶), 61.5x62cm, 170kg, attributed to the Era of Warring States, a period covering from some time in the 5th century BC to the unification of china by the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC. many ancient poems and writings mentioned using Fou as an instrument, although here, to be accurate, it's Jian that's being used. - I guess its cubic shape is more suitable for the performance.
the red mark on the forehead of the drummers I think is a motif borrowed from facial makeup in Peking Opera, where every color, shape and their location on the face shows a specific character of the role. red is usually reserved for characters of royalty, integrity and courage.
(to be continued.)
A big fan

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...too busy. running btw diving, gymnastics, and phelps...don't want to miss anything. :P
...continuing with ceremony is the 29 steps of fireworks (artist guoqiang cai. refer to my earlier sharing for his exhibition in nyc) 'walking' down the central axis of beijing city, symbolizing the 29 olympics arriving at the bird's nest. the central axis of beijing is a perfect start to study chinese architecture and urban planning...the earliest written urban planning in china dated back to 3000 years ago (周礼・考工记). it emphasizes a symetrical arrangement, from a single unit to group of houses, imeperial palace, up to the whole city plan. beijing's north-south central axis, the 'dragon's pulse', runs 7.8km, being the longest in the world, begins in the south at Yongdingmen Gate, musically threading over 15 ancient heritages, including the well known Tiananmen and The Forbidden City, and ends at the Drum and Bell Towers - now another 5km is extended into the Olympic Green featuring Bird's Nest and Water Cube. it has been the center of culture and politics. the emperors used to sit at the north, facing south. till today, most chinese prefer house with openings facing south - but not necessarily fengshui or mimicking the kings I think, rather for the better seasonal temperature and air circulation...
one of my fav moments is when the five rings were lifted slowly from the ground by Fei Tians. pure, sensual, magical. in Buddhism, Fei Tian came from the combination of god of fragrance and god of dancing and singing. strictly speaking, itself is not a god, and has no gender. no feather no wing, fly with their airy-fairy dresses and floating clouds. - something I practiced with mosquito net when I was little Dun Huang, Shanxi Province, over 4500 of them were painted on the wall of 492 caves. starting from Northern Wai Dynasty (386-534 AD) and onwards. there you can examine the change of their shape, style and fashion, from Indian Buddhism to a combination of Buddhism and Taoism, so on. attached one here.
Fei Tian's beauty and elegance have been major inspiration to artists and dancers...share: Fei Tian Dance
(to be continued)
A big fan

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