Sunday, August 31, 2014

再见 Del Mar !

I'll probably not be back in Del Mar again until next summer. But I take many a happy and tasty memory with me as I head across the sea!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Reel to real

My departure for China is less than a day and a half away. I still don't really know what I'm going to be doing there, but I find I'm cool with that. I've done ok with parachutings into other countries in the past (England, Japan, France, Australia) but I think my lack of panic also marks something else, since those were all countries to which I had affective ties, while I was until recently almost culpably cold to China. No longer, I feel I've become quite the Sinophile!
A big part of that has been the time I've spent with the language, literally adjusting my body to its contours. But another part has been - thanks to Netflix - the extensive diet of Chinese films I've been watching (building on my foundation in animation): films in every genre but romcom, some very good, others not so much; mainland, Hong Kong, exile, diaspora; big box office hits, flops, banned movies; historical and contemporary, supernatural and documentary, art...

Aftershock 唐山大地震”
Sacrifice 赵氏孤儿”
Confucius 孔子”
Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons 西遊·降魔篇”
Not One Less 一个都不能少”
Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles 千里走单骑”
Uproar in Heaven 阿闹天宫”
Dreams of Jinsha 梦回金沙城”
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Ocean Heaven 海洋天堂”
Life on a String 边走边唱”
Farewell my Concubine 霸王别姬”
Lan Yu 蓝宇”
City of Life and Death 南京! 南京!”
Detective Dee & Mystery of the Phantom Flame 狄仁杰之通天帝国”
Last Train Home 归途列车”
Everlasting Regret 長恨歌”
24 City 二十四城记” (source of picture above)

I know, I know - for better and worse, life isn't like the movies. Working that out will be one of my discoveries in China!

Friday, August 29, 2014


On a clear night, earthshine makes visible the dark side of the moon!

Final countdown

Here's another reason to go see Offense & Dissent before it closes next Wednesday. While some of the content appears headed for an afterlife in other media (on the university archives site as well as other websites), this will be your last chance to see the brilliant commissioned editorial art, including this work Dimitry Tetin designed to work with/off the Matsunaga section. Its masterful palimpsest of New School catalogs and pixelated images of a racist culture - you can't see them except at a distance! - all in a display evoking the original Matsunaga exhibit powerfully and eloquently frame the question of a school's capacity to transcend the times it lives in.

Some more flora of Del Mar

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Big surf continued today, sets of long swells coming hitting the coast at an angle. At least at high tide the crashing waves were a bit sloppy

but this didn't deter surfers and even a stand-up paddle boarder.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Surf's up

A storm off Baja has been sending extremely large breakers our way. I decided to visit them under the stars at the Del Mar beach, which has floodlights shining on part of the surf (though these aren't so big).


My UCSD days usually start at this Peet's Coffee on the ridge, with views toward (and breezes from) the Pacific on the one side, past the jagged buildings of the Rady School of Management, and over sports fields toward the mountains of East County on the other...
After that, it's off to Geisel Library, with great views of its own.
(By the way, I'm still very impressed at what my little camera can do!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


The red tag marks where I'll be staying in Shanghai! (The colored lines appear to be subway lines.) And here's the (much) bigger picture:


I'll miss these plants of Del Mar!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Velella velella redux

The by-the-wind sailors have made their way to Torrey Pines State Beach! A few are still luminous blue but this bleached skeleton, its polyps having abandoned ship, is what I remember from childhood. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Getting closer!

I know where I'll be living! It's a few minutes' walk from this subwaystation (Jiangwanzhen on the 3 line), and not that much farther from the campus of Fudan University, all in a suburb north of Puxi.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Where are you going to? Do you know?

I'm ten days from arriving in Shanghai, very exciting! Tomorrow night I'm meeting the kind folks from Fudan who are letting me stay in their apartment so I'll have answers to some or all of these questions. But as of now...

I don't know the address where I'll be staying.

I don't know if I can access my usual e-mail.

I don't know what my phone number will be.

I don't know if I'll be able to keep this blog going.

So much for contact with all of you! There'll be a way, but I don't yet know what it is. (The loss of FaceBook I know to expect and am actually partly looking forward to.) If this blog is inaccessible I'll have someone add a post with a link to where I can be found. But also

I don't know know what I'll be doing there, or with whom!

I'm a little less worried about this than I perhaps ought to be. I tell myself I've done this before - heading to an unknown land. I remember the many enthusiastic accounts of Shanghai as a world city, friendly and New Yorklike. I've heard that through something called VPN anyone can get over the "Great Firewall of China." As for the Chinese end, several people have told me not to expect more than "contact me when you get here" from Chinese people in advance - but once I'm there they will jump into action. Perhaps, indeed, I have too many leads: a Chinese man from the Luce Foundation told me I should go to China with only one contact, as that person would inevitably introduce me to her/his friends, they to theirs, and soon my dance card would be full. And of course this is sabbatical, it's supposed to be unfamiliar territory! (And I do have a project, and people on the Shanghai end who are committed to helping me with it.)

But still, it is a little weird to be slipping (to be able to slip) so completely out of "my life." I can't help remembering times when I was a lot younger heading off to unknown climes, and was a lot less certain of who I was or what I was about (not to say I am certain now...!). But then I recall that, in each of those places, I found my people... so my questions really are the more pleasurable "what/who will it be?" rather than "will there be anyone/anything."

And then there's the language thing. It is so exciting to be entering a new linguistic world. An old friend of mine whom I saw in Berkeley, a translator, had a nice way of approaching the clichéd question of what learning a new language does to you. It's not just that it teaches you to see the world in a new way, teaches you (or makes you aware of) new feelings - though it does those things, too. It's not just that it gives you new perspectives on the worlds/words you've taken for granted. It gives you "a new dimension," she said, "a new life."

It may be I've put off getting answers to all these questions because I'm savoring the mystery of it all!

(The title of this post was inspired by the bizarre soundtrack of our Starbucks which went right from Billie Holiday's "Good Morning Heartache" to Diana Ross, though not "Theme from Mahogany." And the photos, by Fan Ho, are actually of Hong Kong half a century ago.)

Friday, August 22, 2014



This is fun - apparently the first Ottoman map of the United States, "published in Turkey during the first Barbary War (1801-05). Ottoman translation of William Faden's "General Atlas of the World," London, 1790-99." It was already well out of date when published - these thirteen colonies quickly stretched their western borders, and the Louisiana Purchase was just around the corner - but a startling reminder of how recently and how quickly the European takeover of North America happened...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Close quarters

Noticed an unusually shiny quarter in my pocket today (the bus I take to UCSD each day costs $1.75 in exact change). It's quite a clever little coin! Part of the America the Beautiful series, it offers two presidential noses in profile, and lilliputian men working on them! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

TPSR textures

Four eyes

The ocean is different every day, indeed every hour. Sunsets are no exception, down to the last seconds. Here are two shots taken by a
docent at Torrey Pines of a "solar mirage" last Saturday as a cloud layer we can't see makes it seem that the sun has become two!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Moral enhancement

The last thing I thought I'd be talking about with my language partner 语伴 was Oxford legal philosophers like H. L. A. Hart (obviously in the English language half of our time together)! Not something I would have thought a topic in Chinese studies of jurisprudence... I haven't read them since college but it might be fun to get reacquainted with the Hart-Devlin debate which, I recall very vaguely, was a major discussion about the state's right/capacity to legislate morality. My language partner is interested in bioethics, and especially in the effectively unregulated Chinese industry of genetic enhancement. He's been reading Jonathan Glover's Choosing Children: Genes, Disability and Design and is taken by the idea of "moral enhancement" of Ingmar Person and Julian Savulescu in a book called Unfit for the Future. This sort of stuff is taught at a medical school in southwestern China? The sabbatical begins!

Monday, August 18, 2014


For all you of who are in New York and haven't yet had a chance to see our exhibit (or see it a second time!), your time is running out!
It closes two weeks from Wednesday. A particularly fun time to go (though you likely won't have time to read any of the exhibition's documents) is next Thursday, August 26th, our Closing Reception. Many of the contributors will be there!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Many mansions

At my mother's Catholic church this morning, a sermon very much in the spirit of Pope Francis. (The Gospel reading was the story of the Canaanite woman.) Our priest, a visiting Vietnamese priest who has a parish in Belgium, told us a great story. A man arrives at the Pearly Gates. "What religion are you," asks Saint Peter. "Episcopalian," says the man. "Go to room 24, but make sure not to make any noise when you pass room 8." Next person was a Baptist. "Go to room 18, but make sure not to make any noise when you pass room 8." Next came a Jew, who was told to go to room 14, and given the same instruction about room 8. "Why do I need to be quiet going past room 8?" he asks. "Because that's where the Catholics are," Peter replies, "and they think they're the only ones here." Quoth the priest from the pulpit!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hearing voices

Had the chance to hear two quite different kinds of song over the last two days: a reprise of the revue "Words By Ira Gershwin," in a return engagement a North County Repertory Theater (where it had its premiere), and Handel's "Agrippina," performed by the up-and-coming singers participating in this year's Opera NEO summer workshop. Well done, both! We all know the songs the Gerswhin brothers wrote together, but who know that Ira also wrote the words for "The Man Who Got Away," "Long Ago and Far Away" or "My Ship" (with Kurt Weill, of all people!)?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Receive benefits as if startled

At least until our own times, the most widely published book in the world was a Chinese moral manual called the Tractate of the Most High One on Actions and Consequences (太上感应篇). It was probably composed sometime between the Song and the Ming dynasties, apparently in spirit dictation from the Most High One, who is none other than the divinized Laozi 老子. It's the first example of the "discursive/scriptural modality" in anthropologist Adam Yuet Chao's influential account of the five "modalities of doing religion" to be found in Chinese life, which is both appropriate, given the text's ubiquity, and a little wicked, since the uses of this rather banal text are rather less intellectual than many text-focused understandings of religion might lead you to hope. Besides following the advice in the text, one could attain religious merit simply by reading or rereading it, or by ritually chanting it, and also by printing it and offering it for free distribution. And merit is the name of the game. I've looked through parts of it, conveniently translated by David K. Jordan here. The ledgers of infractions and their consequences are tedious, including what Jordan tartly describes as the seemingly endless and repetitive list of those human deficiencies that strike amateur moralists around the world as so especially fascinating. But the section Jordan calls "How to be good" contains some useful, if all fortune cookie able, advice, including this

受辱不怨 受寵若驚

 which Jordan renders Suffer humiliation without resentment, receive benefits as though startled. (Paul Carus and D. T. Suzuki - yes, them! - translated it as Show endurance in humiliation and bear no grudge. Receive favors as if surprised.) Do you suppose a year in China will get me to the point where I can determine whether good people really are startled at good fortune or only act as though they are? (Beyond its Chinese context this issue connects, of course, to the question of what Max Weber called the theodicy of good fortune, Theodizee des Glücks, and other old bones I've been gnawing on for a long while.)

Adam Yuet Chao, “Modalities of Doing Religion,” in Chinese Religious Life
ed. David A. Palmer, Glenn Shive and Philip L. Wickeri (OUP 2011), 67-84, 69; image