Whales navigate Northwest Passage for first time in thousands of years

Bowhead whales have navigated the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans for what could be the first time in nearly 10,000 years.

Researchers from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources used satellite tracking to monitor the movements of the whales – and found that, last year, whales from both oceans entered the passage to reach an area called Viscount Melville Sound.

Bones found on beaches in the region suggest that the last time the whales were here was around 10,000 years ago.

It was previously thought that the sea ice in the Northwest Passage was too impenetrable even for Bowhead whales, which are known for their ability to navigate ice-bound seas.

The team says the discovery has huge implications for the ecology of marine life in the region.

“[The findings] are perhaps an early sign that other marine organisms have begun exchanges between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans across the Arctic,” they say.

“Some of these exchanges may be harder to detect than bowhead whales, but the ecological impacts could be more significant should the ice-free Arctic become a dispersion corridor between the two oceans.”

Earlier this year, researchers from the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research spotted a single Pacific gray whale off the coasts of Spain and Israel, which was beleived to have got there via the Northwest Passage.

They say that the movement of species along this route could have implications for North Atlantic fishing stocks.

via Whales navigate Northwest Passage for first time in thousands of years | TG Daily.


The monstrous fact. From bail-outs to debt peonage.

There is one monstrous fact stalking Europe and no amount of debating will make it go away – there isn’t enough money to make the bank bail-out’s work.

There isn’t enough money in Europe’s bail out fund, the EFSF, despite this morning’s vote in the German parliament. The vote this morning was to ‘increase’ the EFSF not to what the banks and the Americans have already insisted it will need (read – what they want) – more than a trillion euros – but to what was ‘agreed’ some while ago and had to then be ratified by member states. The mainstream financial news outlets seem keen to give the impression that what was voted for in Germany was ‘it’, the final fix, the super-EFSF. This is NOT the case. What was agreed to in Germany is what Geithner and others had already said was woefully insufficient. That is why the vote has not heralded a massive rally in Europe or America. There has been a muted increase on exchanges because today’s vote is a step towards the Uber plan.

That plan will see the EFSF working with the ECB to create what amounts to a vast CDO (Collateralized Debt Obligation). This ‘CDO’, which the banks and the Fed want so badly, will be a supra-national version of the CDOs which brought us to this state in the first place. What I think would happen, is Greece would be forced to put up assets as collateral. These could be parts of Greece and its infrastructure and/or the income from them, and future tax receipts as well I imagine. This ‘income stream’ will be the promise written on new bonds/debt which the CDO will sell to investors. Those ‘investors’ will probably be the central banks and even the self same insolvent private banks who are being bailed out in Europe and beyond.

via The monstrous fact. From bail-outs to debt peonage. | Golem XIV – Thoughts.

Li Ching-Yuen, Died Aged 256 (or 197)

So, what did you do with you life?

Oh, for the first 100 years I lived in the mountains and traded herbs. Then I joined the army to teach martial arts.

His secrets:

Tranquil mind
Sit like a tortoise
Walk sprightly like a pigeon
Sleep like a dog
Gotu Kola

Born in 1677 or 1736, died in 1933!

From wiki:

Some claim that Li Ching-Yuen was born in 1677 in Qi Jiang Xian, Szechuan province. By his own account, he was born in 1736. However, in 1930, Professor Wu Chung-chieh of the University of Chengdu discovered Imperial Chinese government records from 1827, congratulating one Li Ching-Yuen on his 150th birthday, and further documents later congratulating him on his 200th birthday in 1877. In 1928, a New York Times correspondent wrote that many of the old men in Li’s neighborhood asserted that their grandfathers knew him when they were boys, and that he at that time was a grown man.

He began gathering herbs in the mountain ranges at the age of ten, and also began learning of longevity methods, surviving on a diet of herbs and rice wine. He lived this way for the first 100 years of his life. In 1749, he moved to Kai Xian to join the Chinese army as a teacher of the martial arts and as a tactical advisor.

One of his disciples, the Taiji Quan Master Da Liu told of Master Li’s story: at 130 years old Master Li encountered an older hermit, over 500 years old, in the mountains who taught him Baguazhang and a set of Qigong with breathing instructions, movements training coordinated with specific sounds, and dietary recommendations. Da Liu reports that his master said that his longevity “is due to the fact that I performed the exercises every day – regularly, correctly, and with sincerity – for 120 years.”

In 1927, Li Ching Yuen was invited by General Yang Sen to visit him in Wan Xian, Szechuan. The general was fascinated by his youthfulness, strength and prowess in spite of his advanced age. His famous portrait was photographed there. Returning home, he died a year later, some say of natural causes; others claim that he told friends that “I have done all I have to do in this world. I will now go home.”

After Li’s death, General Yang Sen investigated the truth about his claimed background and age. He wrote a report that was later published. In 1933, people interviewed from his home province remembered seeing him when they were children, and that he hadn’t aged much during their lifetime. Others reported that he had been friends with their grandfathers.

Li’s obituary was printed in The New York Times, Time Magazine, and other publications. The Time magazine article stated that in 1930 Professor Wu Chung-chieh, from Chengdu University, found records from the Chinese Imperial Government congratulating Li Ching Yuen in his 150th birthday in 1827.

He worked as an herbalist, promoting the use of wild reishi, goji berry, wild ginseng, he shou wu and gotu kola along with other Chinese herbs. Li had also supposedly produced over 200 descendants during his life span, surviving 23 wives.

Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

THE “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli …” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”

This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

Another argument runs that junk food is cheaper when measured by the calorie, and that this makes fast food essential for the poor because they need cheap calories. But given that half of the people in this country (and a higher percentage of poor people) consume too many calories rather than too few, measuring food’s value by the calorie makes as much sense as measuring a drink’s value by its alcohol content. (Why not drink 95 percent neutral grain spirit, the cheapest way to get drunk?)

Besides, that argument, even if we all needed to gain weight, is not always true. A meal of real food cooked at home can easily contain more calories, most of them of the “healthy” variety. (Olive oil accounts for many of the calories in the roast chicken meal, for example.)In comparing prices of real food and junk food, I used supermarket ingredients, not the pricier organic or local food that many people would consider ideal. But food choices are not black and white; the alternative to fast food is not necessarily organic food, any more than the alternative to soda is Bordeaux.

The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.

via Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? – NYTimes.com.

World Wide Credulity Crunch

Does anyone anywhere believe anything they are told, on any subject, by any government official, financial expert or banker? Beneath all the outright lies, hopeless spin and half truths there is a more fundamental and corrosive problem. WE DON’T BELIEVE YOU!

The global reserves of credulity have been pillaged and squandered. We have been told too many times that this or that economy was fundamentally sound, that problems were contained, or would definitely be over by Christmas, that Spain was not Greece, Italy was not Spain, that Ireland’s banks were fixed, that we were all in it together and that all the banks are superbly well capitalized.

Even the banks don’t believe. Each protests that they are fine and yet none of them trust each other and won’t lend a dime.

We have found ourselves living in an entire economy of lies. Borrowers lied. Lenders lied. Insurers insured the lies but were lying themselves. The regulators who oversaw the lies lied about how sound the lies were and the people who rated the lies were the most AAA of liars themselves.

Lies like debts can be printed up at will. In fact most of what is being printed in banks and newspapers are all lies related to each other. But what none of the liars remembered is that lies can only be redeemed if there is an equally endless supply of credulity. And although we frequently lament the stupidity, cupidity and cowardice of ‘people’ even they have a finite supply of credulity. And it has been exhausted.

Credulity cannot be printed up, borrowed or electronically magic-ed into existence. There is no EU stockpile or emergency supply. Once its gone its gone. And some time ago I think we reached Peak Credulity and it has been in steep decline ever since.

via World Wide Credulity Crunch. | Golem XIV – Thoughts.

Texas drought worsens from ‘abysmal’




Nearly 97 percent of Texas is in either exceptional or extreme drought.

From June through August, Texas suffered the hottest three months ever recorded in the United States, according to the National Weather Service. And the 12 months ending on Aug. 31 were the driest 12 months in Texas history, with most of the state receiving just 21 percent of its annual average rainfall.

Record heat has extended to other states: Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma joined Texas in posting their warmest August on record.

In Texas alone, agricultural losses have topped $5 billion.

via Texas drought worsens from ‘abysmal’ – Weather – msnbc.com.

9/11 The Official Story. Or, 9/11 is a joke

On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 men armed with boxcutters directed by a man on dialysis in a cave fortress halfway around the world using a satellite phone and a laptop directed the most sophisticated penetration of the most heavily-defended airspace in the world, overpowering the passengers and the military combat-trained pilots on 4 commercial aircraft before flying those planes wildly off course for over an hour without being molested by a single fighter interceptor.These 19 hijackers, devout religious fundamentalists who liked to drink alcohol, snort cocaine, and live with pink-haired strippers, managed to knock down 3 buildings with 2 planes in New York, while in Washington a pilot who couldn’t handle a single engine Cessna was able to fly a 757 in an 8,000 foot descending 270 degree corskscrew turn to come exactly level with the ground, hitting the Pentagon in the budget analyst office where DoD staffers were working on the mystery of the 2.3 trillion dollars that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had announced “missing” from the Pentagon’s coffers in a press conference the day before, on September 10, 2001.Luckily, the news anchors knew who did it within minutes, the pundits knew within hours, the Administration knew within the day, and the evidence literally fell into the FBI’s lap. But for some reason a bunch of crazy conspiracy theorists demanded an investigation into the greatest attack on American soil in history.The investigation was delayed, underfunded, set up to fail, a conflict of interest and a cover up from start to finish. It was based on testimony extracted through torture, the records of which were destroyed. It failed to mention the existence of WTC7, Able Danger, Ptech, Sibel Edmonds, OBL and the CIA, and the drills of hijacked aircraft being flown into buildings that were being simulated at the precise same time that those events were actually happening. It was lied to by the Pentagon, the CIA, the Bush Administration and as for Bush and Cheney…well, no one knows what they told it because they testified in secret, off the record, not under oath and behind closed doors. It didn’t bother to look at who funded the attacks because that question is of “little practical significance“. Still, the 9/11 Commission did brilliantly, answering all of the questions the public had except most of the victims’ family members’ questions and pinned blame on all the people responsible although no one so much as lost their job, determining the attacks were “a failure of imagination” because “I don’t think anyone could envision flying airplanes into buildings ” except the Pentagon and FEMA and NORAD and the NRO.

via The Corbett Report | 9/11: A Conspiracy Theory.

Meanwhile, in 1997… The Ice Monster Cometh

This is home. This shoddy flat in Southsea/Eastney with the cold kitchen, divided from the lounge by the red framed windows and doors. The white grubby kitchen with the dirty hob and the crumbs on the floor. Ice monster living in the top of the fridge, occasionally melting into the salad compartment where the orange juice is kept. Above the fridge sit two boxes of vegetables. Right is Nick’s, left is mine. Ingredients for the week. Longer for onions. The shelves next to the cooking machine hold the staples – pasta, rice, muesli, dried fruit, herbs, spices, millet, bulgar – in jars and bags. I am a part time hippy and a part time fool. I am Adam on the eve of destruction. Nothing to hold me here but excuses and fear.

Meanwhile, in 1997… Torn Between This and The Other

All around is apparent evidence that normality is actuality.
People seem OK, mostly, muddling on, the shops open and close, the days go by.
Unless you explore and delve and experience you may not know anything different, living in blissful(?) ignorance the best you can, not exploring your fear, no sense of wonder.
Or the sense of wonder is easily satiated with some words by those in the know.
Much more fun to find out for yourself, opening up so many questions that the mind boggles.
And once you have opened the door how can you go back?
It doesn’t work that way.
A peak into the other, invalidating the ordinary life of satisfaction and decay.
The sense of nagging, the sense that I should be doing something else, a yearn, a drive.
I am torn between worlds and do not know how to reconcile the split.
The separation between the other and the normal hurts me so much.
Advice is out of the question because who really knows how to live?
Will it be like this forever?
I need some commitment.
But – oh! – the pain of criticism and the uncertainty of it all!
It tears at me and the pain is constant.
Loneliness? Where are my people?
I have no idea who or where they are. I make no attempt to find them, except those who fall into my circles of friendship.
I live in fear and console myself with the, possibly true, assertion that I need no one.
Perhaps it is not loneliness but a more general fear.
Can fear exist on its own?
I don’t think so.
The feeling that I am not doing the right thing, in relation to – what? – my conditioning and ideals I have set, dreams and aspirations.
And thought running through it all.
And sometimes another way of being, of bliss, before thought comes back.
This is what I want to be.
Otherwise life consists of chucking stuff into my senses, criticising, enjoying, rationalising and… going round and round.
There is a big difference between understanding and ideas.
Understanding is final, done.
Ideas are a fucking pain because you can never become an idea. They go on forever, subtly changing.
People’s ideas of me are different than my own and the actuality is different from them both.
Body, energy, waves, vibes seem much truer to me than thought, ideas, faith and trust.
Don’t use spirituality as an escape. It it there, yes, but it is not an escape.
Go through the pain, learn.
It is not a crime to be you.

Scrap Book: Where were you on 9/11?

I was in London visiting my friends Tim & Nadya in south London. In the afternoon of 11 September 2001 I’d gone to Putney for a yoga class at the Sivananda Centre near the river. Browsing in the bookshop before the class I overheard the attendant and a customer talking about a plane having hit the World Trade Centre. I imagined they meant a light aircraft – some kind of mini-disaster of a solo pilot lost in the fog or something. It was time for class so I immersed myself in the Rishikesh Sequence for an hour an a half. On the bus back to Peckham Rye I didn’t hear anything more and had quite forgotten about the plane story. On return to my friends’ house they said have you heard? The twin towers have collapsed. What?? I looked at the TV and saw footage of a burning tower, my mind assuming it was a movie, despite what I had just been told. I was quickly updated with the whole story and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening glued to the news channels, the pictures almost too vivid and explosive and destructive to be real life. Earlier footage of people jumping to their deaths from their burning offices was soon edited out of broadcasts, while the second explosion and the collapses were pretty much on repeat loop.

Here’s a photo from the day, with Tim in the foreground, Tygar behind the TV looking rather upset by it all, and the cat doing the admirable thing and snoozing on the warmth of the TV.

American Veda by Philip Goldberg

In the last month I have finished reading two books! So what? Well, I very rarely finish reading books. My shelf is full of uncompleted ‘interesting’ reads that somehow I gave up on, a bookmark marking the high or low water mark. I do aim to finish them all… someday. The two books I finished recently were The Fry Chronicles by Lord Fry, and American Veda by Philip Goldberg. It’s a good read – a comprehensive history of Indian Vedanta-yoga’s influence on Western thought and culture, or as the subtitle has it: ‘From Emerson and the Beatles, to yoga and meditation – how Indian Spirituality changed the West.’

It came to me through the archives due to its many references to Krishnamurti. Here are some extracts and highlights from the book, with related media from the www:

Emerson accused Christianity of “noxious exaggeration about the person of Jesus,” imploring ministers to cast behind them all conformity and acquaint man first-hand with Diety.

“Let me admonish you, first of all, to go alone; to refuse the good models, even those which are sacred in the imagination of men, and dare to love God without mediator or veil.”

~ Emerson

Vivekananda on yoga:

“It is wrong to believe blindly. You must exercise your own reason and judgment; you must practise, and see whether these things happen or not. Just as you would take up any other science, exactly in the same manner you should take up this science for study. There is neither mystery nor danger in it. … Any attempt to mystify these things is productive of great danger.”

Aldous Huxley said that ‘the unit of world peace is individual peace, that a forest is only green as the individual trees in the forest are green. He thought material objects were, like the shadows in Plato’s cave, the visible expression of an underlying nonmaterial essence.’

Star Wars was structured from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the archetypal hero’s journey.

We all know about the Beatles hooking up with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Harrison and McCartney continued a TM practice. In 1969, George Harrison produced an album Radha-Krishna Temple, from which Govinda was the second single:

Stevie Wonder was also influenced by the Mahamantra. John Coltrane said his goal was to point out to people the divine in a musical language that transcends words. His widow, Alice, became Swamini Turiyasangitananda – her name meaning ‘the bliss of God’s divine music’. Philip Glass is heavily influenced by Yoga-Vedanta.

An example of a less successful import:

Satchidananda’s message to the 60s flower children was: you can’t take a pill to become enlightened any more than you can take one to be a doctor. He prompted many to switch from drugs to meditation and asana. Peter Max followed suit.

Swami Rama’s office sign read: Swami Rama: Inquire Within. During 1970 and 1971 scientists recorded his ability voluntarily change his skin temperature, raise and lower his heart rate, alter his brain wave patterns, and ceasing his heart. This enabled Western medicine to increase its understanding of the mind-body relationship.

BKS Iyengar cured himself of influenza, malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid, through asana and pranayama. He went on to be the single most influential yoga teacher in the world. Students included J. Krishnamurti and Yehudi Menuhin, with Iyengar yoga being perhaps the most well known variety of postural yoga.

The influence of India in the work of Yeats and Eliot is explicit. After discovering Vedanta aged 30, he said that it “confirmed by vague speculations and seemed at once logical and boundless.” He wrote: The mystical life is the centre of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write. Among many others directly influenced were Huxley, Isherwood, Maugham, Salinger and Hesse.

In Cosmos (the most successful PBS program in history) by the great Carl Sagan (the less evil Agent Smith!) he visits a South Indian temple and explains that Hinduism is the only religion whose proposed time-scale for the universe matches the billions of years documented by science.

Harry Oldmeadow said he was, “at once so deeply Christian and so deeply Hindu, at a depth where Christian and Hindu in their social and mental structures are blown to pieces, and are yet found again ineffably at the heart of the other.”

‘Thomas Merton’s admiration for Eastern Mysticism came as a revelation to Catholics, many of whom took it as permission to explore those pathways themselves.’

The Gospel According to Thomas discovered in 1945 ‘reads like an Upanishad’:

“When you make the two one, and when you make the inside as the outside, and the outside as the inside, and the upper side as the lower; and when you make the male and the female into a single one … then shall you enter the Kingdom”

Eckhart Tolle’s work is ‘so suffused with Vedantic principles as to infuriate Hindus who would like him to pay proper homage.’

Says Goldberg at the end of the book:

“We need cosmically conscious minds and cosmically compassionate hearts. Vedanta itself says that its own eternal truths are virtually useless unless grounded in the direct experience of ultimate reality.”

I’ll leave you with my current favourite American Vedanitst musician, MC Yogi, who blends two of my loves: hip-hop and yoga. His album’s been in the Top 20 world music charts for over two years.


Ai Weiwei on Beijing’s Nightmare City

Having just been, I found this piece on Beijing by Ai Weiwei very interesting:

Beijing is two cities. One is of power and of money. People don’t care who their neighbors are; they don’t trust you. The other city is one of desperation. I see people on public buses, and I see their eyes, and I see they hold no hope. They can’t even imagine that they’ll be able to buy a house. They come from very poor villages where they’ve never seen electricity or toilet paper.

Every year millions come to Beijing to build its bridges, roads, and houses. Each year they build a Beijing equal to the size of the city in 1949. They are Beijing’s slaves. They squat in illegal structures, which Beijing destroys as it keeps expanding. Who owns houses? Those who belong to the government, the coal bosses, the heads of big enterprises. They come to Beijing to give gifts—and the restaurants and karaoke parlors and saunas are very rich as a result.

Beijing tells foreigners that they can understand the city, that we have the same sort of buildings: the Bird’s Nest, the CCTV tower. Officials who wear a suit and tie like you say we are the same and we can do business. But they deny us basic rights. You will see migrants’ schools closed. You will see hospitals where they give patients stitches—and when they find the patients don’t have any money, they pull the stitches out. It’s a city of violence.

The worst thing about Beijing is that you can never trust the judicial system. Without trust, you cannot identify anything; it’s like a sandstorm. You don’t see yourself as part of the city—there are no places that you relate to, that you love to go. No corner, no area touched by a certain kind of light. You have no memory of any material, texture, shape. Everything is constantly changing, according to somebody else’s will, somebody else’s power.

To properly design Beijing, you’d have to let the city have space for different interests, so that people can coexist, so that there is a full body to society. A city is a place that can offer maximum freedom. Otherwise it’s incomplete.

I feel sorry to say I have no favorite place in Beijing. I have no intention of going anywhere in the city. The places are so simple. You don’t want to look at a person walking past because you know exactly what’s on his mind. No curiosity. And no one will even argue with you.

None of my art represents Beijing. The Bird’s Nest—I never think about it. After the Olympics, the common folks don’t talk about it because the Olympics did not bring joy to the people.

There are positives to Beijing. People still give birth to babies. There are a few nice parks. Last week I walked in one, and a few people came up to me and gave me a thumbs up or patted me on the shoulder. Why do they have to do that in such a secretive way? No one is willing to speak out. What are they waiting for? They always tell me, “Weiwei, leave the nation, please.” Or “Live longer and watch them die.” Either leave, or be patient and watch how they die. I really don’t know what I’m going to do.

via Ai Weiwei on Beijing’s Nightmare City – The Daily Beast.

Giant red crab invasion!


Huge crabs more than a metre across have invaded the Antarctic abyss, wiped out the local wildlife and now threaten to ruin ecosystems that have evolved over 14 million years.

Three years ago, researchers predicted that as the deep waters of the Southern Ocean warmed, king crabs would invade Antarctica within 100 years.

But video taken by a remotely operated submersible shows that more than a million Neolithodes yaldwyni have already colonised Palmer Deep, a basin that forms a hollow in the Antarctic Peninsula continental shelf.

They are laying waste to the landscape. Video footage taken by the submersible shows how the crabs prod, probe, gash and puncture delicate sediments with the tips of their long legs. “This is likely to alter sediment processes, such as the rate at which organic matter is buried, which will affect the diversity of animal communities living in the sediments,” says Craig Smith of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, whose team discovered the scarlet invaders.

via Giant red crabs invade the Antarctic abyss – environment – 07 September 2011 – New Scientist.

We Need To Do More When It Comes To Having Brief, Panicked Thoughts About Climate Change

Indeed, if there was ever a time when a desperate call to take action against global warming should race through our heads as we lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, that time is now.

Many well-intentioned people will take 20 seconds out of their week to consider the consequences of the lifestyle they’ve chosen, perhaps contemplating how their reliance on fossil fuels has contributed to the rapid melting of the Arctic ice cap. But if progress is what we truly want, 20 seconds is simply not enough. Not by a long shot. An issue this critical demands at least 45 seconds to a solid minute of real, concentrated panic.

And I’m not talking about letting the image of a drowning polar bear play out in your mind now and then. If we’re at all serious, we need to let ourselves occasionally be struck with grim visions of coastal cities washing away and people starving as drought-stricken farmlands fail to yield crops—and we need to do this regularly, every couple days or so, before continuing to go about our routines as usual.

Suppose you’ve just sat down in a crisply air-conditioned movie theater. Why not take the length of a preview or two to consider the building’s massive carbon footprint? Imagine those greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere, disrupting ecosystems and causing infectious diseases to spread rampantly, particularly in regions of the world where the poorest people live. Visualize massive storm systems cutting widespread swaths of destruction. Think of your children’s children dying horrible, unnecessary deaths.

You might even go so far as to experience actual physical symptoms: shaking, hyperventilation, perhaps even a heart palpitation. These are entirely appropriate responses to have, and the kinds of reactions each of us ought to have briefly before casting such worries aside to enjoy Conan The Barbarian.

via We Need To Do More When It Comes To Having Brief, Panicked Thoughts About Climate Change | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.

Forbidden City and Beihai Park


Slept until gone 0900 – what a treat after the broken up nights. Breakfasted at 10 (great omelette chef at the hotel) and then out into Beijing. Took the subway Line 10 south for a few stations, then onto Line 1 west to Tiananmen Square.

As soon as I was at pavement level the offers came – come and see our art gallery, do you need a guide, have you seen the great wall? I did go and see some student artwork and of course they did try to sell me some prints. The art was good, if derivative. I left without buying and headed into the entrance of the Forbidden City.

Past the first gate there’s a long, wide walkway with many sellers and tourists headed deeper inside. To go further you need a ticket. It was about £6 for an adult. I tried to buy an audio commentary but my money was rejected as fake. That’s odd, I thought – it came from Thomas Cook in the UK I thought. Wasn’t sure I wanted audio anyway, so headed into the paid zone, through huge gated archways, walls painted a deep red.

Inside are a series of very large courtyards, divided by more archways, with gold coloured roofs. Everything is on a grand scale – from the walls, the cobbles, to the cauldrons for putting out fires, kept frost free in winter by fires. A river runs through the city, with decorative white stone bridges.

Further inside, the scale gets more human, with walled streets, halls, palaces, pavilions and gardens. The temperature was well over 30c today, and often I would stand next to the air conditioners inside the exhibitions to cool down. If I faced the ac, others thought I was looking at something very interesting through the mesh. You could look into the rooms, but only through rather murky perspex.

In the northern section were the palace gardens and family residences. The pavillions had names like Palace of Gathered Elegance, Palace of Earthly Honour, Hall of Mental Cultivation. The gardens had a variety of very old trees, some interesting rock formations and fish ponds. By this stage the crowds were dispersed throughout the many courts so it was possible to feel quite peaceful in places.

It took a couple of hours to walk round most of the ancient fortress city, 1 km long. I left via the north exit so I didn’t have to walk all the way back south, over a wide moat surrounding the whole compound. I headed west towards Beihai Park, with its large lake and White Dagoba. On climbing the hill and walking past the monument I noticed a sign saying Caves. It wasn’t highly publicised. I paid 50p to climb down tunnels hundreds of years old. I found myself laughing at the contrast – suddenly I was alone underground. Along the tunnels were 100 statues of emperor looking fellows. Each one represented three birth years. Mine was number 48, an ugly bearded little fellow. On the exit were fine views over the lake. Then a Sunday afternoon walk in the shade along the east side of the lake, paddleboats paddling and picnicking people.

So, quite a Sunday Weekend Walk, several hours. After a walk east I hopped in a taxi and headed back to the Hilton. Here’s a video I shot of that ride:

Then out for a Chinese massage at a centre near the hotel. A tiny Chinese lady dug deep into my city- and book fair-stressed body, through pyjamas, I suspect using acupressure points. She was tough! Afterwards, again the 100 Yuan note was rejected. The manager came with me to the hotel to get a replacement. I remembered then we had taken one note when selling some Chinese books on the last day of the fair.

In the evening a final meal with Zhang Dan, Derek and Marleen at an Italian restaurant near The Village. They had hundreds of photos of the owner’s uncle with celebrities – Paul McCartney, Patrick Swazee, Sigourney Weaver, Arnie, etc. Very 80s, including the music. A fairly quick meal, all of us still quite tired from the time zones and the fair. Outside the hotel, a fond goodbye as we went our separate ways – Zhang Dan to her home nearby, and tomorrow, me to Heathrow, Derek & Marleen to Bali.

A Meeting with the Krishnamurti Chinese Committee


A public day at the fair, but still not very busy at all. We had a good couple of meetings with existing publishers looking for new titles and were able to offer appropriate titles to their previous publications and interests. Time too for a game of Chinese battleships, with aeroplanes instead of ships. Our last day, since we have had all the meetings we need to, and Sunday is really only a public day and that type of contact is not why we are here. In the afternoon we said goodbye to The Cage, leaving out some literature for those who wanted some information in our absence.



I enjoyed working at the fair with Derek and Zhang Dan. The new contracts we initiated will increase the availability of Krishnamurti in Chinese, sales of which are already doing very well. A book fair is something I had never done before. Speaking of which…

Saturday evening I had been invited by a member of the Chinese Krishnamurti Committee to attend an event at their new venue, a café style meeting place in the north west of the city. At 1745 Zhang Dan and I set off from the Hilton for the subway station down the street. ZD has been helping us at the fair all week. She said that an email had gone to the committee mailing list announcing my attendance, and a charge of £2 was being made, which included a light buffet. I’d emailed before to say I wasn’t one for giving a formal talk and was told it would be a casual gathering. I wasn’t sure I’d be the ‘main attraction’ or what, but it seems I was. We arrived and mingled and I ate some melon and grapes, not quite trusting the other foods. I am sure it was clean and healthy but neither did my stomach want much food right then. I chatted with Fanfu, the organiser, and Sue, a translator, her bright daughter playing and running about, enjoying herself.

On wandering around I saw on a blackboard that there was a schedule and that there was to be a meeting at 1930. We all sat down, around 25 of us, and I was asked to introduce myself, and was then translated. Then a question and answer session commenced. I was a little nervous at first, but the normal fight or flight response – the highly charged nerves and wanting to flee – didn’t kick in. Luckily it wasn’t too hot in there and so I felt quite comfortable. All eyes were on me, apart from one guy who had obviously been dragged there by his girlfriend and spent the entirely time texting or looking at the floor. A range of questions in Chinese followed, Sue translating them, me answering as clearly as I could. The questions were about Brockwood, the Foundation, the Centre, Krishnamurti, his teachings, what they meant to me, why I worked there for such low pay. I tried to answer honestly and ‘deeply’, given the translation. I had to remember to stop after a few sentences to allow Sue to translate. People seemed very interested and extremely curious, in me and what I had to say. It was all rather surreal, but then most of the trip to China has been.

After answering a question about theme weekends at the Centre, one younger guy asked, ‘I have come a long way to be here tonight. Do you think your what you just said is important?’ Some objections came and discussion amongst a few ensued. When things had calmed down I said, ‘I am just giving answers to questions, and of course compared to the fundamental issues of life, this info isn’t important. But it’s easy to criticise. If you want to be serious, ask a serious question.’ He didn’t. Later he said there has been a total change for him. I said, ‘Good for you!’ It seems he is renowned as a bit of a stirrer and each time he said something there were ruffles of disagreement. As soon as the Q&A was over, he left the building.

Fanfu said he thought I answered ‘rather well’. I liked doing it. Despite all the eyes, I enjoyed myself and could have gone on longer than the hour and a quarter. I didn’t really expect the formal Q&A scenario. Another surreal moment when one lady’s question was, ‘You are very handsome!’ She’d been taking photos throughout. I made some ugly faces while everyone was laughing. Generally, I tried to take the emphasis away from trying to understand ‘Krishnamurti’s teachings’ to: What are your own reactions, and what is taking place within yourself, now and when you read or listen or watch?

So, my first experience of anything of that kind, apart from some casual tours of the foundation and the brief Q&A we did at one of the international committee meetings. It’s a good little place they have set up. Afterwards I chatted with a few who spoke better English. I felt I was experiencing a real community there, not only the people inside but entering the grubby street with men playing chess at the roadside and families and small apartments. Very different to the routine hotel to conference centre to restaurant to hotel, so far this trip.

The subway back was full of the Saturday night young. I am used to the looks and looks-away and looks by now, a tall Westerner in a carriage of Asians, all of us wondering quite what I’m doing there.

Van Gogh vs China


A rather uneventful day at the book fair, although successful meetings with publishers. Also took some time to wander around the place and check out the exhibitor’s stands. Van Gogh prints at the Netherlands area and the ultra modern Chinese/Asian aesthetic elsewhere. A general feeling pervades amongst exhibitors that this hall is much too far from the city centre and attendance is way down on previous years. Apparently the French and Germans are going to make a formal complaint to the organisers.

Here are some more photos from around the fair: