Friday, July 27, 2007

Rain in July

All very weird, a rain shower this morning. Normally, here in east Bali, we don't get so much as a drop of moisture from April through October. But this year, we've had rather frequent showers during JULY!

Sulawesi, east of here, is getting floods every bit as bad as those in Wales and England. Logging in the jungle has compounded the problem of mudslides.

It is always a little depressing to drive into Denpasar and see, on the roadside, shop after shop selling massive slabs from tree trunks, roots, etc. I saw a news report on Al Jazeera last week in which a camera crew visited some of the illegal devastation of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), and there is just far too much logging going on, too much for the government here to regulate.

Anyway, I urge my friends to be very careful about buying tropical lumber. At this point, I would urge a boycott of Indonesian lumber until the government can get a handle on managing the problem. Why create a massive market force for the lumber, even through legal channels? The framework in place for managing forestry is not working.

So, as I look over my garden, an acacia tree flourishing in the moisture, alamanda vines reaching higher, I see my own little paradise maturing and becoming lush. But this rainfall is causing some big problems in larger, far more important areas.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The King of Kowloon is Dead at 85

Hong Kong artists loved this guy's ranting calligraphy which decorated traffic signal boxes, support posts at ferry concourses, temporary walls, and walkways. Now he's gone, leaving behind a few remainders of his unique work.

Hong Kong was not usually subjected to graffiti, and Tsang Tsou Choi's work stood out. He often chose gray surfaces, as I recall. He really did beautify the duller parts of Hong Kong, and to this uncomprehending English speaker, his calligraphy was every bit as decorative as a stone stele in a Chinese temple.

I remember noticing the writings in about 1990, as I was struggling to learn a few Chinese characters. I knew gwok, one of the words usually written out in a size larger than the rest of his wallpaper-ish spreads of writing. I have never really learned exactly what he wrote until today, as I took in the obituary report on Star News Asia, as I was eating a pile of pasta.

Every now and again a Hong Kong artist would honor Tsang's work. Lau Gin-Wai, an art critic turned restaurateur had Tsang decorate a few walls at his restaurant The Yellow Door. Someone else had Tsang write all over glass bottles. And, time and again, his work would make its way into art photography and even the odd fashion spread.

In place where ancestors are worshiped, but where calling attention to yourself is a faux pas, Tsang was tolerated as a kind of oddball. Even on government property (like the General Post Office and the Star Ferry concourse), his work stayed for years, unmolested. I think it's because his graffiti actually looked pretty good. It was Hong Kong's greatest public art.

Here's a snapshot of the man's work, with an admirer taking pause to enjoy it.

His handwriting was consistent and unmistakable, a kind of crude version of Han era calligraphy. And the content perhaps spoke to the everyman who would like to assert his place in an overcrowded city, under a waffling government, within a tiny appendage to the massive state of China.

This is site specific work at its purest.

Tsang shone as heroic, a man who shunned intrusions into his life and spoke out in text only. In this way, he was a writer's writer. Farewell, old man.

Portrait of the artist from Frank Chan's site:

Saturday, July 21, 2007

All Things Tiki

Last time I was in Tucson, I visited Kon Tiki, the local Tiki bar to the Sonora Desert.

Scoff if you like, but this place is great cheesy fun. It is a real relic of the Tiki craze of the last century, and yet it is full of patrons and should be around for a long time to come.

Visit and see the photos, like this one, by tikijackalope (definitely a contributor who lives in the desert southwest). His critique of the place is quite thorough, and he sums it up with this nice remark: Its a museum to me, a 41 year-old nicotine stained poly-pop decor museum where they coincidentally serve food and drink.
Yes, I would agree. I asked for a watered down version of one of their amazingly alcoholic tubs of glog, and was glad I did, because the pupus they served me were mostly ghastly deep-fried things that would be refused by even a Samoan teenage girl laden with PMS. I had to chase the taro-with-fat with a lot of swigs of tiki brew just to erase every trace. But the ribs were good.

Sorry I didn't buy a souvenir tiki mug, but my shelves don't really need one, do they?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Surf's Up!

Woah-ho! It's high tide and the waves are nearly hitting the cliff!

The black sand stayed extra long this year, and I did enjoy a few long walks at sunset. Nothing better than padding along in bare feet on firm sand. Except maybe the women's health benefits of walking in slightly less firm sand.

But now the July waves are back, and the Japanese surfers at Jasi 1 and Jasi 2 are undoubtedly stoked!

We had a couple of nights of thundering surf, shaking the glass, even! Today, I sit and look out of my husband's office and see the sets coming in gracefully. I went down to the point and looked over to Ujung and saw the beautiful triangles of seafoam that travel swiftly to shore: what waves look like from the side. Photo above was taken during a dry season a few years ago. We had so much rain last month, the grass is more green than shown above.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Olivia deHavilland

Happy Birthday (yesterday, as I write this in Bali), Olivia deHavilland.

I suppose I can just barely forgive her for her anti-Communist campaigning in post-war Hollywood. I think that she was probably not a big witch hunt type, turning people in like Elia Kazan did. From what I know about her, she is very level-headed about self determination, which takes a back seat in Communist politics. The fact that she can spot human exploitation when she sees it (second quote below) means she's not just blindly supporting all that comes with Capitalism. So I'll give her a little honor on her 91st birthday.

She was such a great actress, truly the first leading lady who could be homely (really homely) in one movie, glamorous in the next. Even Kate Hepburn can't make that claim.

Check out her IMDB bio. What a family!

Here's her interesting take on Hollywood:

"The one thing that you simply have to remember all the time that you are there, is that Hollywood is an oriental city. As long as you do that you might survive. If you try to equate it with anything else you'll perish."

I do believe she's referring to the Tai-Pan mentality of the film business in those days. Here's what she said, later, about the TV industry:

"The TV business is soul crushing, talent destroying and human being destroying. These men in their black towers don't know what they are doing. It's slave labour. There is no elegance left in anybody. They have no taste. Movies are being financed by conglomerates which take a write off if they don't work. The only people who fight for what the public deserves are artists."

Tell it, Livvie!