Monthly Archives: January 2009

Links to Guzheng and Erhu Music

29 January 2009

I am changing the video links on my main page, so I’ll preserve my guzheng and erhu links in this blog entry. 

1.  I really love this clip of guzheng music, which is called "Autumn Waterfowl Playing in Cold Lake"

2.  I also enjoy this animation of a variation on (I can’t properly translate) Cherry Blossom Dream.  In this particular variation, it’s called Drunken Cherry Blossom Dream.  You’ll see why: 

3.  The erhu is a phenomenal instrument.  The name literally means "two strings," and that’s exactly what it is.  Two strings played with a bow running in between them and no frets.  The range of expression and emotion is astonishing.  I find the instrument extremely difficult to play, both because of bowing technique and also fingering. 

 

4.  Drumming is just too cool!  It is an integral part of lion dances and folk life.  This demonstration is in Chinatown in New York, but I think it’s nice: 

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Mai Gei Wong Wing Chun (a type of Kung Fu)

 

28 January 2009

Before we went to China, my daughter had studied American Karate.

We promised her that she could continue these studies after we were in China.  This was a bit ignorant on our part. For reasons that don’t need to be stated, Japanese martial arts are not popular in China.  We were also hampered in our efforts to find a martial arts teacher by a couple of other factors.  For one, there is the idea of just finding out where to go.  If you don’t speak the language, how can you even find out where to study?  Secondly, there was a factor involving safety. 

Some of the places we visited were unsafe.  Some didn’t use any safety precautions when they were sparring.  Others used training methods which could damage the body.  One place seemed safe enough, but nothing seemed to be taught, either. 

Fortunately, we eventually found a man I only know as Shifu.  Shi fu is the term which means "Master".  His real name is Wong Nim Yi, and he is a master in the form of martial art called Wing Chun, or Ving Tsun (an alternate spelling).  Here is the English version of his school’s web site: 

click here for Mai Gei Wong Wing Chun

A demonstration of the form may be found at these links: 

Click HERE for Wing Chun Demonstration

and at:

       

(The pole he so deftly maneuvers in this video is about 10 feet long and weighs about 20 lbs., just guesstimating.  About double the length and bulk of a bo staff.)

On a much more personal note, here is a collection of our family photos, along with some video clips, which I’ve made into a slideshow at the following link :

CLICK HERE   (link to slideshow)


(THIS SMILEBOX SLIDE SHOW HAS SEVERAL VIDEOS EMBEDDED SO IT TAKES QUITE A WHILE TO LOAD):


Finally, here is a bit more information.  The Wing Chun school of martial arts has a long heritage that was almost wiped out during the civil war and, later, the cultural revolution.  A museum devoted to Ving Tsun martial arts has been opened at the Wong Fei Hung Temple in Foshan.  The museum has a room dedicated to photographs and history of the art, the Masters, showing as well some equipment.  One of the most interesting things to me was an interactive  video which had demonstrations of various forms such as the "crane" or the "tiger".  Each animal has a characteristic which the practioner seeks to incorporate into the form. At last report, I was told that demonstrations are held every Saturday mornings at 10:00 A.M.   The demonstration includes a Lion Dance.  There are other activities at the temple on Saturday mornings, such as demonstrations of Chinese opera as well.  Like many temples in China, the main part of the temple doesn’t seem to get much use but it has been generally rehabilitated to use as a public gathering place to demonstrate or preserve some shadow of pre-cultural revolution culture. 

To get the temple, take the bus from Guangzhou to Foshan, and exit at the main bus station.  It is just a five minute walk (East, I think) from the bus station to the temple.  The temple itself is a fascinating Daoist place, so plan to spend several hours.  One word of warning, however: do not go unless you are with someone who speaks Chinese.  No English is spoken in Foshan, and this temple is not a well known tourist spot, so a foreigner attempting the trip alone could well run into difficulty.  Taxi’s in Foshan are also not well regulated, and your taxi driver may try to cheat you (not that this doesn’t happen elsewhere, but my luck in Foshan has been particularly bad). A day trip to Foshan ought to also include a trip to the Nanfeng Kiln, the oldest continually operating pottery kiln in the world.  The travel guidebook Lonely Planet has links to these places, but even with the addresses it may be hard to find them without a strong knowledge of Chinese.  There is public bus service between the two locations.  

If this has whetted your appetite, here are two more videos from YouTube.  You can also do a web search for " mai kay wong wing chun kuen".  If you do so, it’s likely you’ll find links to Bruce Lee, because he studied Wing Chun in Foshan (and then added in additional forms of kickboxing to his technique later).   Notice the perfect balance and centering.  When Shifu does a demonstration, at times his hands move so fast that it is not possible to follow them with the eye!  This is a particularly suitable form of martial art for someone with a smaller physique. 

          

An American version with American language explanations: 

  

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HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!

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Three Years of Blogging!

I just realized it has been three years since I started my blog!  To date, it has had about 19,000 cumulative hits.  Since I am no longer living in China, I am at a crossroads.  I have plenty to talk about concerning my life in China, my reflections on that, and even lately I’ve been thinking about how my experience changed me as a person.  I also have about 30,000 pictures, a fraction of which are actually decent.  Or, I could shift my focus on my blog to what I’m currentl doing in life.  Or, I could try to draw a balance.  I think I’ll just keep trying to balance for awhile.  If my focus changes entirely, I think it will be time to shift to a new blog.  In the meantime, I think I’m still mentally engaged in my China experience and things Chinese that I have plenty to write about for quite awhile.  Indeed, I find myself being shocked at some things back in the USA, and I think my Chinese friends would find certain aspects of my culture here as amazing or exotic as I found their culture when I first went to China. 

So ….  I’ll keep on blogging, for now at least. 

Here is my very first entry, from January 2006.  By the time I wrote this, we had been in China about 18 months so I had my feet on the ground just a bit.  I still love Hong Kong, and I still have the photo album on my blog.  I even add to it from time to time. 

_____________________________

Quote

Talking about Quiet Day

   2006 01 28
 
           
 
 
Pretty much just a chillin’ out day.  It was sunny with dappled clouds in the sky, pretty sunset.  Cold for here, high maybe around 20 C / 65 F?  Dunno.  We were more comfortable running the heaters in the rooms we were in.  Tomorrow going to Hong Kong.  The picture for this entry is David and me on the train to Hong Kong.  It’s a pleasant two hour train ride from here.  Plus you add an hour for getting to the train station and going through immigration and customs. 
 
Hong Kong is such a beautiful city that I have a whole photo album devoted to it. 

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HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!

23 January 2009

In a few days we will celebrate Chinese New Year, the start of the new year in the traditional Chinese calendar!  We are leaving the year of the Rat and moving into the year of the Ox.  The big date this year is January 26, 2009. 

Across China right now, millions and millions and millions of people are traveling to their "lao jia" or "old home" for family reunions.  The national holiday is one week, but people traditionally spend as much as a month at their home for family gatherings.  Chinese children have a month off from school now, too. 

Here is a photo of the children I taught last year celebrating the Dragon Dance in their classroom.  The Dragon comes around and eats lettuce, then he spits it out across the room.  Wherever the lettuce lands, brings good luck to the place.  We did not use lettuce, but the real dragon (in the photo above) did!  He went to every large room and floor in the 22 floor hotel and spit lettuce on each floor! 

Here is a link to a popular children’s song that is heard all around China at this time of year.  Join in and enjoy!  The words in Pinyin and translated are: 

Mei tiao da jie xiao xiang

Meige ren de zui li,

Jian mian di yi ju hua,

Jiu shi gong xi gong xi

gong xi, gong xi, gong xi ni-a

gong xi, gong xi, gong xi ni

On a big or little street

Kindly people warmly greet

On their lips are words of cheer

For a joyful new year

All sincere congratulations,

Happy new year yes to you!

 

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Inauguration Speech of Barack Obama, 20 January 2009

 

The New York Times reports today that CCTV edited parts of Obama’s acceptance speech.  Here it is in its entirety: 

 

These photos show people gathered for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America on the National Mall January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. (First is AP Photo by Susan Walsh, second is by Mario Tama/Getty Images) #
both from the page http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/01/the_inauguration_of_president.html

****

PRESIDENT BARACK Thank you. Thank you.

CROWD: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation…

(APPLAUSE)

… as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.

(APPLAUSE)

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

(APPLAUSE)

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died in places Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

(APPLAUSE)

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.

The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.

We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality…

(APPLAUSE)

… and lower its costs.

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

MR. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.

But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

(APPLAUSE)

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

(APPLAUSE)

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We’ll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan.

With old friends and former foes, we’ll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.

And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

(APPLAUSE)

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.

And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those…

(APPLAUSE)

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

(APPLAUSE)

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.

We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.

It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break; the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.

It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old.

These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

(APPLAUSE)

So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.

In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river.

The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.

At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you.

(APPLAUSE)

And God bless the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

For related news article, click HERE

Transcript

Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address

Published by the New York Times, January 20, 2009, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions.

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LAST MINUTE RULINGS

9 January 2009

Last minute changes to regulations, last minute political appointments, last minute purchases.  Outgoing presidents are notorious for them.  Particularly when one political party has lost to another in a presidential election, the outgoing president will seek to implement as many regulations and appointments as he can prior to final departure from office.  The outgoing president will also seek to implement these changes in ways that are not easily reversed by the new president.  For example, President Bush recently reclassified many political appointees at federal agencies as civil servant positions, a move designed to make these ideologues hard for Barack Obama to get rid of. 

In that same category of outgoing political moves, a new Bush Administration ruling by the U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey greatly reduces the current rights of appellants who have lost their immigration cases in the U.S. (administrative) immigration courts.

Generally speaking, a litigant in judicial proceedings in the U.S.A. has a right to "due process." Our concept of "due process" includes the idea that a judicial hearing  ought to be fair.  One component of a fair hearing is to have a lawyer who effectively represents the person.  The opposite of "effective assistance of counsel" (the ideal) is "ineffective assistance of counsel". 

In the monopoly game of life, we think that a person ought not "go to jail" merely because his lawyer failed.  If a person can show that they lost their case as the result of ineffective assistance of counsel, then they are usually entitled to a new hearing in which they can obtain better legal representation.  This doesn’t mean they win.  It doesn’t mean an asylum seeker doesn’t get deported.  All it means is that we think they ought to have a fair hearing before that decision is made. 

There are other parts to the analysis.  In legal analysis, there are finely tuned distinctions between the Fifth Amendment right to counsel and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and these are also included within the broader concept of due process.  But the bottom line is simply that a party who may be deprived of significant rights as the result of an adversiarial hearing is generally entitled to effective representation by counsel.  This doesn’t mean he’s entitled to the best lawyer that ever was, nor does it mean that he’s entitled to win.  It just means we want the hearing to be fair.  If it’s not, he gets a new hearing.   

The Bush administration argues that this has been abused by litigants who routinely claim they received ineffective assistance of counsel merely as a delaying tactic to deportation.  The Bush administration argues that as soon as a party loses, he files a petition for new hearing based on ineffective assistance of counsel, resulting in delay of the inevitable deportation. 

Well, duh.  In our legal system, a lawyer’s job is to represent his client.  It’s the job of a lawyer, in an adversarial system, to raise every possible avenue that may have merit, regardless of whether it may be a winning argument or not.  In my role as lawyer, it’s not my job to decide the merits of a case.  It’s my job to present my client’s best case and then to let the court or jury decide.  So, raising an allegation of ineffective assistance of counsel is really just part of the process to determine whether a person has had a fair hearing.  Any advocate would be crazy not to raise it.  It’s part of life, get over it. 

Not everyone agrees with me, however.  In a world where we hear of cases being reversed because of "technicalities," some people would think this qualifies as a technicality.  I "love" the way these words are bandied about.  Technicality.  It sounds as if the rules were nothing but minor trivia.  Let’s see.  My lawyer missed an important deadline so that my case got thrown out and I am deported.  Maybe it’s a technicality for someone sitting on a nice warm sofa, but it’s not a technicality for the person who perhaps is facing torture in their home country.   

The Attorney General, in a ruling that illustrated partisan political divide, ruled that a non-citizen has no right to effective assistance of counsel in a civil case.  The trouble is that hard cases make bad law.  There are undoubtedly cases where strikingly meritorious petitions for immigration are screwed up on account of ineffective assistance.  Under the reasoning of Michael Mukasey, if your lawyer showed up drunk at your immigration hearing, you’d have to move forward and, if he failed to introduce key evidence, you’d still have no grounds for a new hearing. 

Do we really want to create a rule of law that says people who may have had ineffective assistance of counsel are not entitled to a new hearing?  Because, you can’t really know if they had effective counsel or not until you examine the claim underlying the petition. 

The Attorney General’s opinion attempts to address this situation by saying the immigration courts could reopen a case, in their discretion, as a matter of grace.  However, there is already sharp lack of consistency among immigration courts, with some granting as many as 90% of their asylum cases while others deny as many as 90% of their asylum petitions.  To remove effective assistance of counsel from the category of fundamental right, in my opinion, moves down the slippery slope towards general lack of regard for due process and makes the immigration system into more of a sham.

This country was founded on the principle of rule of law rather than of men.  In my opinion, due process ought to be a fundamental component of any judicial proceeding which carries the imprimatur of the United States government. 

Obviously George Bush doesn’t think so, but I hope the Obama administration will reverse this Attorney General’s opinion as soon as he takes office. 

Here is a citation to the N.Y. Times article, which I commend for its excellent reporting of the crucial facts: 

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