Monday, May 29, 2006

My name and the International Open Mic in Beijing mentioned in an article for The Economist. I don't know how long it will be there, so take a look before it disappears...

Also, poems of mine in quite a few new places right now, if you feel like clicking a look at those: three in Alice Blue, one in Blackbox, seven at Kritya, and five in PoetryCemetery.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Beijing - Wedding Celebration - Mess TentRelatively mellow weekend, although there was a great deal of activity in the neighborhood. When I arrived home on Friday evening, after dinner and bowling with some of my colleagues, I noticed some people erecting a large army-green tent outside of my apartment building—one of the largest I had seen. Previously, I thought the tent was only used during funerals, but as I would learn on Saturday, they were also used for weddings and other events.

Saturday, in the early evening, after spending the day with Angela looking at fabric for our own wedding attire, we returned to find the parking lot outside our apartment building full of people. Large red diamonds bearing the Chinese character for double happiness were attached to either side of the entrance to the giant tent which was packed with revelers eating and carousing. There was also a performance with music and loud distorted singing going on outside the tent which lasted until about 10PM.

On Sunday morning, I woke up at about 7:50AM to the sounds of more music blasting up to us on the sixteenth floor. Was something else happening? There weren't too many people around when I looked out my window. I went back to my book and coffee. A couple hours later, I heard a drummer and some cymbal players begin playing. I looked out the window again and noticed a number of people wearing dragon costumes. A crowd had gathered. It looked as if the wedding celebration was continuing!

Beijing - Wedding Celebrations 4Dragons Bar the WayThere were four dragons in the street dancing around a man holding a greenish orb. After 30 minutes of this, a large crowd had gathered around the dragons. Fireworks and firecrackers were lit. The bride and groom arrived in a stretch limousine and, under a shower of confetti launched from long cardboard cannons, the groom had to carry his bride across the threshold of the building while simultaneously braving the wrath of the dragons. There are a few more pictures in the usual location...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Step onto the rush hour subway, Beijing. Sway with the Chinese people moving from one place to another underground. Watch the flickering advertisements through the windows projected outside the train on the black subway walls as we speed, squeak, hiss and hum along to the next station in the giant tunnel. Judging by the way some people concentrate on me, I must be very interesting...

podcastIconHear something strange. An announcement,perhaps, not loud, but different. As indiscernible to me as any other Chinese announcement on the noisy subway train. The sound increases. Look around. Notice a man walking on his knees, nothing below the knees, through the center of the train holding a small dirty plastic canister in his hands. He gets closer, no higher than my waist, mutters the same xie xie repeatedly as some drop small bills and coins into the canister. The sound gets louder, but it's not the man. He wears a backpack. A cord stretches from the backpack which contains the amplifier. The sound is not clear and beautifully distorted. A boy at the end of the cord holds a microphone and sings or chants or I'm not sure exactly what. They pass me and continue on. Not an uncommon sight...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The weather is finally heating up here. Yesterday was downright hot. The air quality still leaves something to be desired, but at least the weather is turning. It will be nice to have a bite on the street again.

Mostly a technical update this time around. Check out my new links in the sidebar on your left.

Hotmail is finally back after being blocked for weeks here. Not my preferred e-mail choice, but we use it at work and it has been difficult to continue our search for new teachers smoothly. The pitfall of using a free service, I suppose. Using the internet in China is often less than satisfactory and, I imagine, it will continue to ruffle my feathers as long as I live here.

While I can update my blog, it is impossible to view it directly. I can update it without problems, but viewing the results is a circuitous process. Some have asked about how I do it. I mention this because there have been a few comments here and I can't respond to them, especially if the comments are posted anonymously. I receive an e-mail when someone posts a comment, but if it was posted anonymously, I can't reply to it. So, if you have something to say, feel free to continue to leave your comments, but if you really want a response from me, send me an e-mail, which is at the top of the page underneath my name.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

katakloEnded up going out yesterday evening with Seth, Marianna, Angela and Lisa. We weren't out late, though, which made for a relatively restful experience. We attended another Italian event at the Beizhan Theatre, Kataklo, labeled as "athletic dance theater" and featured olympians from the most recent olympic games in Torino. Overall, the show, lasting nigh two hours, was enjoyable. Despite the loose theme of sport, I would have liked more of a plot among the different performances, which simply came across as a number of performances strung together without much other cohesion. Still, there were some very memorable arrangements. The music which accompanied each demonstration was excellent and spanned the globe.

I think we're going to try to get out and see The DaVinci Code tonight, if possible.

On a more personal note, check out me reading poetry at Joe Green's The Jeunesse Doree, which also has lots of other great audio files to peruse.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A day of rest, finally, after a week of ceaseless evening activities. I'm hoping to build upon my rediscovered restfulness by building upon it tomorrow evening, but we shall see. The International Open Mic at The Bookworm received some wonderful media coverage in Beijing this week with the release of the June issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Read about it on the Subterranean Poets website.

Arle-poster-final-thumbAs it is The Year of Italy in China, something I've mentioned here before, there are quite a few events in Beijing which showcase different parts of Italian culture. I went to see a play on Tuesday evening at the Tian Qiao Theater called Arlecchino, Servant of Two Masters written by Carlo Goldoni which was marvelous! The comic play featured some Venetian-masked performers. I could hardly understand a word with my limited Italian, but the performance was still highly entertaining. The main character, the man pictured here, Arlecchino, really stole the show. His antics and, as the title suggests, his predicament, provided for many hilarious moments.

The stage was sparsely set bearing a large wooden platform on which the actor's performed. The only other stage adornment was a kind of clothesline curtain contraption for a backdrop. At intervals during the three-act performance, some musicians would appear from offstage and provide wonderful transitions or accompaniment for the players. One other interesting feature of the performance was an old man who was seated next to the wooden platform who seemed to be observing the play and following a script. At certain points, he would interrupt the scene and compliment an actor or suggest a variation. It was a very nice effect and one I had never seen before. I like to watch plays, rarely do it, and never read them, so my awareness is relatively limited. And with that said, if you get the chance, try to catch this performance at a theater near you.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Some new links in the Roll at your left, if you're interested. Also, there's been an interesting discussion on WOMPO: The Women's Poetry List in recent weeks relating to whether or not it's OK to consider one's self a poet or not. Here're my thoughts about it...

I am a poet. I'm not afraid to admit it, to label myself in such a way. It is closely associated with my persona. It's something I do. I write. I'm a writer. I write in this space. I often write poems. Sometimes I don't do anything. Must one be revered to raise the flag? Will I jinx myself by possibly jumping the gun? Who is holding the gun? Some find it difficult to consider themselves in this light, a poetic light. And it's quite possibly a silly light. Perhaps, it is a fear of commitment. Is my claim illegitimate?

Do I only accept this mantle? Of course not. There are so many others... I'm an American, a Californian, a dreamer, an imperfectionist, a homebody, a traveler, a competitor, a wimp, a student of Chinese and Italian, a foreigner, a blogger, a musician, an elementary school teacher, a naturalist, a philosopher, an e-mailer, a reader, a smoker, a stamp collector, a baseball fan, a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a godfather, a seeker, a forgiver, a lover of life and people, a resident of the planet Earth. I live with you. Are these labels any easier to brandish? Can I escape them? How many labels have I left off the list? Can I possibly list all of them? They continue to change and evolve and dissipate. The Marcacci marketing team is continually at work to redefine and categorize me even without my generous participation.

I say it again: I am a poet. I want to promote it. I want more people to do it, not be embarrassed about it. It's a matter of perspective, a way to live life. To quote one of my own poems, which is really to quote someone else: I think everyone talks poetry all the time anyway. How does that apply to your life? Are you living a poetic life? Does it matter? How are you raising your kids? I know how to raise a gun. I'm not talking about reading the drivel in books and on the web. I'm talking about a creative approach to your interaction with the world, however confined it may be. It's scientific! Make a poem out of your day. Make it yours!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Too many things going on these days to keep up with the blog. Let me try to catch you up, nutshell style...

Friday night I played poker with the boys until quite late. I won ¥32, which is not much, but better than losing it. Our last game with Josh, who will move to Montreal on Thursday. Spent the rest of the weekend in Beijing parks, four of them, relaxing and making poetry films.

Saturday, I went to the Beijing Zoo with a small group of friends. Not my preferred destination, in general, but we wanted to go read some poems with the animals or, at least, in their presence. I didn't think we would spend all day there, but we didn't leave until around 7PM after recording a number of poems and improvisations. We all thought the zoo was quite nice.

Beijing - Purple Bamboo ParkYesterday, we met a larger group of friends at Purple Bamboo Park and proceeded to enjoy a picnic together. After eating, we made our way to the dock and played Frisbee for a short while as a number of people stood around watching us play this strange game. We were killing time while waiting to catch a boat to The Summer Palace. After about a 30-minute ride, we arrived at the Southern entrance.

The Summer Palace was gorgeous and not very crowded in the late afternoon. Surprising for a Sunday with such pleasant weather. All the willow trees were green and a cool breeze was blowing lightly. We found a nice wide area to play Frisbee and we tossed our disk around for a few hours in the dying sunlight. We collected our things and found a nice place to work on an improvised poetry film as the sun was setting. Near the exit, we stopped to finish the rest of the food we had brought with us and by the time we finished, the park was very dark. We made our way out of the huge park and then parted company as one half of us were going in one direction and the other half was going in another. Angela, Marianna, Seth and me, as we live in buildings next to each other, stopped for beers and then went to the park behind our building to drink them before returning to our apartments. A fine weekend, but, as is always the case, gone to soon...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Real rain, not a hard rain but steady, for about half a day yesterday resulting in real gloriously clean air Beijing this morning. So delicious! It's quite windy outside now and a little cool, but it seems like it could be anywhere else. We haven't really had any hot weather yet this Spring, but the days have been comfortable recently.

Enjoying another surprise morning away from work, which translates as blog time. My fifth-grade students are taking a field trip this morning!

Went to a beautiful park next to the zoo and near my apartment on Saturday afternoon with a group of cohorts. The Purple Bamboo Park (Zizhuyuan) or something like that. We were meeting there to do some improvisational video and audio recording. As is fairly common here, there were a number of people, choruses really, singing in the park. The first one we came across sounded like this.podcastIcon

Monday, May 08, 2006

Check out Where We Create, a nice project by Jason Nelson which includes a brief poemish bit and a picture about my work space. Just one description among those of many other creative folks.

Action-packed week of vacation finishing off yesterday with a performance at and around Timezone8 in Dashanzi by the Beijing Actor's Workshop and the Subterraneans called Broken Not Broken. The event helped to launch the new literary, philosophy and science magazine Homonumos, taking place during the DIAF. The magazine includes work in more than five languages, including a poem by your favorite poet. I include the link to their website here even though it seems to be out of order at the moment. If you have questions about obtaining a copy, feel free to send me a message.

The event was unique in that we combined acting, dance, music and spoken word to ambush our audience as we took them from the gallery space, out-of-doors, around the block and back into the gallery. Not an easy feat. We had, perhaps, 100 observers and everyone was fairly impressed by our combined performances. Pictures, audio and video of the event should appear soonish on the Subterranean website...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Beijing - 2006 Midi Music FestivalI have been away more than I like, but I'll try and catch you up quickly. Trying to figure out how to keep a nice balance among all the various things which seem to be pulling me in different directions these days...

Busy past few days, beginning with Monday afternoon for the first day of the MIDI Music Festival. The weather was nice. Didn't like much on the main stage, but I really enjoyed a small show on one of the side stages featuring a strange avant-garde group called Mafeisan. The band began their show by giving an effect-laden noise/distortion performance by manipulating their guitar pedals and other instruments. The lead singer had tremendous energy and had a very strange, almost epileptic, manner of singing and moving around.

Beijing - 798 District - DIAF - BTAPEvents continued on Tuesday with a subterranean performance at the B.T.A.P. Gallery in Beijing's 798 District for the DIAF. Go to the Subterranean Poets website if you want to check out a podcast of our peformance. We were part of a longer performance featuring two other acts. These red-clad, Beijing opera-masked dudes pictured here performed before us, were quite nice to look at. Their performance, in which they actually took the spectators with them to different places around Dashanzi, spanned more than a couple hours. Even though we waited around for a long time, the weather was pleasant and the atmosphere was nice. The other performer was an unusual character who called himself Frog King Kwok.

Beijing - Chaoyang Park - La Notte della TarantaFollowing the performance in the 798 District, we left with a small posse of people and headed out to Chaoyang Park. There was another musical performance featuring some pizzicata musicians from Italy: La Puglia a Beijing. The large group, which consisted of more than 20 musicians and singers, performed for more than three hours. We danced and enjoyed the music and weather before departing for a feast of Japanese food.

After my usual Wednesday night stint, The International Open Mic at The Bookworm last night, I'm ready for a nice relaxing day.