Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Glory After Emprie




John Lennon was certainly the first among equals in the Beatles and now I’m learning that John Lewis filled the same role in the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ).  Born in La Grange, Illinois in 1920, he served in the army along with Kenny Clarke and the two of them moved to New York in 1945 and immediately succeeded in tryouts for the Dizzy Gillespie band, where they played until 1948.  For the next four years he sessioned independently with various luminaries playing with Charlie Parker, Lester Young and Miles Davis.  In 1952 he founded the Modern Jazz Quartet, with Clarke, Ray Brown and Milt Jackson, which is where I had always picked up the thread. 

I remember first encountering that band some twenty-one years ago.  I’d bought a few jazz cassettes in Kowloon, before heading up to spend a year in Shanghai.  The tape I got had material from the early to mid fifties like Django on it.  I seem to recall I had to un-listen to it a dozen times or so before I could discern what was going on.  Then, eventually, it became the soundtrack for my time there.  The movie soundtracks of my mind, for that time are all set to that glistening foursome.  Whenever it comes on, wherever I am, I am transported there, with my flying pigeon bicycle, heading out from Huadong Shida’s main gate on to ZhongShan Lu. 

Lewis has his own life’s work of material that I began to dig into yesterday, drowning out, as best I could wretched 80’s soundtrack from the Presidente Hotel lobby yesterday.  “Grand Encounter” is the first solo date credited to Mr. Lewis.  Recorded in 1954, when MJQ must have been in their ascendency has a host of standards like the one I’m listening to now “Almost Like Being in Love.”   I can remember reading that Charlie Parker wanted to incorporate the work of Modernist composers like Bartok into his work.  Reading about Lewis, it must have been he, perhaps among others who had the requisite training to try to architect such a possibility for Bird.



The Mrs. was set on seeing a shopping center here in the Algarve, as research for her business.  We drove about Portamao looking for such a place yesterday afternoon.  After driving through the “city center” past a yellow church façade and what must have been the old city square we headed back out the city on the winding roads, shaking our heads spinning through traffic circle after circle looking for a telltale sign.  “Jumbo” with an elephant logo, we followed that for a few circles and came upon the familiar carcass of large, overbuilt mall.  

We circled the leviathan once and then twice before finding where it might let us in to park.  Inside we’re enveloped in the strange familiarity of every mall anywhere in the world.  All the stores are either precisely the same branded experiences one finds in New York or Beijing or they are apparently local or regional approximations of precisely the same type of store.  A shoe store that may as well be called “Payless” a home goods store that may as well be called “Bed Bath and Beyond.”  I’d gotten a text from my sister to buy butter and I went off to Jumbo that could have been Stop and Shop, to find it. 

Returning, with what later turned out to be margarine, I took a seat on a bench, outside of the store my wife was shopping around in, next to an enormous, inflatable Sponge Bob, (What?  No Patrick?) and read a few more pages of Al Venter’s, Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa, which is less, I’m learning, a history of the three wars than it is his interesting but informal, embedded reportage of long caravan treks from one burned out Mozambique hamlet to another, on mine infested highways.  We’ve still got a way to go, and perhaps he’ll round out some of the framing detail. 



Regardless, it is fascinating to consider these contemporaneous conflicts to our Vietnam War, with nationalism and communism similarly smeared into something that is no longer purely either.   Rudimentary Chinese land mines made of jungle wood, detected alongside sophisticated Soviet anti tank mines.  Portuguese soldiers, ill trained, ill equipped, ten thousand miles from home, policing an area the size of Western Europe, territories they have administered for over five hundred years.  Commanders suggesting the revolutions, mid- gestation, were simply local disturbances, terrorist troublemakers, temporal, manageable.

Pausing, staring up from this jungle read of torn up trucks missing limbs, looking at all the Portuguese people some forty years hence, I considered the sergeant in the story and the President of the time, Antonio de Oliveria Salazar who couldn’t imagine ever ceding their colonial possessions.  Couldn’t conceive of a Portugal without the trophies that were half a millennium old.  How could Portugal be respected and prosperous without an imperial identity?  Portugal, as just Portugal could never hold 荣华富贵[1].

Sitting beneath a towering Sponge Bob, staring out at the mall traffic, and the peace and relative prosperity that EU membership, and NATO security, and post-colonial contentment has engendered, Portugal certainly has some tranquility to reconsider and refashion what Portuguese glory and prosperity might now become. 






[1] rónghuáfùguì: glory, splendor, wealth and rank (idiom); high position and great wealth

Monday, July 28, 2014

Improbable Fabric




We didn’t hear much from Fido last night.  He’s barking now, but its daytime.  Monday is well underway in Beijing and emails with to-dos and inquiries and demands a plenty are filling up my inbox.  I’ll make my way over to my nearby three-star Presidente hotel lobby and settle in for a rendez vous with the obligatory. 

I’m not sure if I’ve profiled Mr. Leon Spencer before.  I’ve got the tune “Where I’m Coming From” on and he’s ever so tastefully applying his fingers to the keys, and Grady Tate, whom I’ll have to explore later, is pushing him onward just so on the drums that my wife started to get-down as she was searching for her shirt.  Such is the irresistible power of ripe funky music. The next three tunes on this seem to be some covers I’m less interested in taking on.  Still, sitting there in my breast pocket, singing out from my iPhone, it’s helping this morning.  There’s lite obit on the man that recommends an album that Rdio doesn’t have but I found on Youtube called “Louisiana Slim” that has the incomparable Idris Muhammad on drums.  Yes, this is helping.



It helped yesterday too, walking around in the local Supermarket.  With the wife down joining we offered to make a “Chinese” dinner.  This meant an afternoon trip over to the local shopping mall.  It’s my third time there and somehow whatever anthropological buzz a curious mind might romance out of such a visit to a mall at the other end of Eurasia, has all been tapped.  It’s a supermarket.   Everyone else inside looked tired too.  We got some ribs, we got some soy sauce.  We couldn’t find any ginger.  I knew where the tonic water was and the espresso place on the second floor.  I took to just having Grant Green accompany me, sitting there in my breast pocket and Idris Muhammad was doing his thing in accompaniment.  I think I want to sample everything that man played drums on for a few years there.



Most of the day was on the home front though, playing ‘Marco Polo’ and ‘Sharks and Minnows’ in the pool, and reading.  I set out to do it yesterday and by late evening had managed to finish this second volume of A.R. Disney’s “A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire.”  I know so many of these pieces from other threads:  the role of Macao in Chinese history, the importance of Goa in Asian history, the fact that half a dozen African countries speak Portuguese, the fact that “oh yeah, East Timor speaks Portuguese as well,” the vague remembrance that it was the Portuguese who were kicked out of Nagasaki when Tokugawa Iwase came to power and that, incidentally, there is that enormous Portuguese-speaking country in South America. 

Obviously, I’ve never traced the thread of their particular imperial development before from a Portuguese perspective and reading along as they laced a string of forts around Africa, the Persian Gulf, India, South East Asia, up into China and Japan, before even heading over to Recife in the America’s it is a singularly remarkable progression.  Other Europeans follow of course, and they and the local Arab rulers and Indian rulers and the Shogunate all chip away at Portugal’s imperial tapestry.  Melaka falls to the Dutch, three hundred thousand Japanese Christian converts in Honshu are ordered to cease and desist, the British offer their “help” against Napoleon and wind up with the good harbor of Bombahia or Bombay.   But improbably, many, many possessions that nearly slip, somehow remained Portuguese, time and time again, like a 铁树开花[1]

The tale Disney tells draws to a close around the time of Napoleon’s defeat.  Before coming I’d looked for something to help explain nineteenth century Portugal.  I didn’t see anything obvious, but it’s clear that while Brazil achieves independence in the late nineteenth century, most of the other colonies remain Portuguese well into the late twentieth century.  So today I begin, Al J. Venter’s “Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa, Lisbon’s Three Wars in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea 1961 – 74,” which I found searching Amazon.  It’s a major chapter of Africa’s de-colonization that once again, I really know nothing about.  





[1] tiěshùkāihuā: lit. the iron tree blooms (idiom) / a highly improbable or extremely rare occurrence

The Dog That Did Bark





Murder might be too strong, I concede.  But thoughts were most assuredly murderous this morning, listening to the neighbors’ dog, over the wall, in the adjoining compound, to the one where we are staying.  Like a car alarm that is supposed to announce a threat, or a potential intrusion that is quickly, completely ignored as an annoyance, Fido started yelping intensely around 3:45AM, long before the roosters started crowing, 兔子惊扰[1]  I lay there, with the residue of multiple espressos ingested for the drive down earlier in the day, coursing about my veins and considered his concern.

It’s not my dog.  Perhaps I should have sprung up and been alterted that he was on to something.  Surely, this was not just any bark.  Intensely determined, over and over he called out, “danger, danger,” “concern, concern.”  But it wasn’t my yard either.  And with the exception of his repeated call, there was nothing else happening in the night air.  A thief tip-toeing outside perhaps?  A bear lumbering through the garbage?  Perhaps I’ll head out and find my car has been broken into, or worse.  Then I’ll ring the neighbor’s bell and lament how I should have listened to Fido. But at 3:59AM I wanted to throw a steak over the wall pasted with strychnine. 



We’re back down south by the sea.  Last night I saw the more built up side of this Praiha da Rocha community.  There is a casino, which we avoided and a bevy of posh hotels and nearby condos, that stand above a proper sandy beach, which extends for a hundred yards out to the sea.  This reminded me more of Santa Monica, or some coast of Italy that I’ve yet to visit, than it did the quaint, rough-hewn Fort Funston cliffs that are a closer walk to our home. 

Walking about, on the main strip, after some decidedly adventurous parking we couldn’t find the Mar e Sol restaurant.  Well- dressed couples were heading down to the beach.  No towels.  No flip-flops.  It must be down there.  I went into an ornate hotel, painted in gold.  Fala Inglesh?” “Yes.” As if she was from Canarsie.  ““Mar e Sol ? You wanna go, out the back, by the pool, down the stairs  out on to the boardwalk.  You’ll find Mar e Sol on the right.”   Left actually, but we made it.

Dining is deceptive.  You see the prices and you think dollars.  You understand they are Euros and you discount up.  But only slightly.  Not sufficiently.  Rather it’s satisfying to stare at a menu where all the entrees are 10-something or less.  The bottles of wine are similarly 10-something or perhaps a bit more.  There is a free round of their “dry cheese” with dinner.  The proprietor also fala’s Insglesh,  and he is pedantic but in good measure. The food was delicious.  I had a “Wolf bass”, which I’ve never heard of but sitting there on the sand, sounded hearty. 

Things got more hearty.  Beside us, behind a wall, was a bachelor party that descended into soccer-like chants and shirts coming off.  We joked about what we could do that might offend them.  Behind me, at least, mercifully, was a TV that erred to the merciless.  The same young man in a grey blazer went around to people, asking what must have been embarrassing questions.  The microphone was visible in nearly every shot.  Later I switched to the head table and then, it was all over.  I could no longer ignore the TV as it was within eyeshot.  Let’s hope Air China does not get a hold of this, as its perfectly attuned to their sensibilities.



Charles Kynard is grunting and groaning behind in the background, as if he were Charles Mingus on this funky acid jazz track “Little Ghetto Boy” from the the 1972 album entitled “Woga.”  Not quite sure what that last word signifies though Google tossed up the “World Olympic Gymnastics Academy”, which most assuredly has nothing to do with this.  Born in St. Louis in 1933, he passed in 1979 and though I couldn’t find a substantive obituary, he apparently kept close to L.A. and didn’t record much beyond the contributions we have from the sixties and seventies.  This third tune on the disc "Lime Twig" is slowing it all down nicely.

I’d always rather see a new city or a historical town, than lie around on a beach or sit at the pool.  Today though, will likely be about waterside duty.  I can feel the sun burn already.  I’ve been stealing bits of progress in my second volume of Portuguese history.  This book traces the expanse of empire.  We’re over in Nagasaki, traveling with Japanese silver down to Macao to buy Chinese silk and porcelain, so we can restock with cloves at Melaka.  I’ll take a few disruptive cannonball dives and then find a place in the shade to proceed.  We haven’t even landed in Brazil, yet and I want to understand just when they decided to go west. 
 


[1] túzìjīngrǎo: to alarm oneself unnecessarily (idiom)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Exotic Medievalia




Evora is as beautiful as it sounds.  Drove over here from Lisbon yesterday and arrived around 6:00PM when the sun still had a few hours left to the day.  With nothing else that a street address and the name of the hotel we headed into the city walls in this little Volkswagon I’m driving.  Amazed to see the name of the small hotel we were booked at on a list of arrowed signs, I headed right.  We followed the road through improbable turns that would have been impossible in a car any bigger than this one.  At least three times, when I was about to give up, get out and ask, there’d be another sign with “Hotel Riviera” and numerous other’s names on it.  Cool.   

My wife, who is rather familiar with hutong driving, riding shotgun beside me was unfazed and unimpressed with my flappable navigational ability.  “Did you see that?”  “It’s no big deal.”  “Come on, that was cool.”  “Concentrate on where you’re going.”  I drove up and up, the only way possible forward, convinced I was now completely lost.  Finally I surmounted a hill to a square with Roman ruins and fortress-like cathedral.  Beautiful.  But what now?  Limping along to where the horse and buggy carts were parked, I almost yelped to find yet another “Hotel Riviera” sign and with that, the literal end-of-the-road.  We strolled down a cobble stone path no more than fifty feet, and there we were.  This must have been a karmic gift after my horrendous exploration of the wrong side of the Douro River in Porto. 



Very pleasantly surprised by the accommodations here at this joint.  Lovely older gentleman at the front desk who calmed my fears about getting ticketed where I’d parked.  The rooms are spacious, with what must be twelve-foot ceilings that come to an improbable stone dome over my head, where I am writing now.  It’s one thing to explain the mystery of arch building to my daughters sitting in a church.  It is another matter entirely to sleep beneath said mystery.  Any one of these stones dropped on my head from that height would be more than enough to do me in.

Last night we walked straight up to the Roman temple ruin.  Apparently it was covered over for years and only recently uncovered.  It isn’t anything like the ruins of Ephesus we saw last summer but that it is here at all is remarkable.  I’d laughed when my little one said “No temples” as to her touring preferences in Portugal.  That will be easy love there are no temples they’re all churches.  Very glad to know I was wrong.  I pointed out to my older one that this was the same time as the Han Dynasty roughly in China and that there was not one Han building still standing in China.  Plenty of other remarkable evidence but wooden buildings have not survived.



She said something interesting for a young lady, who has just had years of intense obligatory, Chinese history:  “Chinese history is boring.  I like Greek and Roman history because I find it interesting.”  I tried to tell her that it is OK to say “I am not particularly interested in Chinese history.”  But it sounds ignorant to say that it is boring.  It disappoints me to learn that she feels that way, though I should be thrilled that she likes any history at all, I suppose.  But what are they doing over there, such that they take the sweep of Chinese history and make it “boring” where as Rick Riordan, and “The Lightening Thief” and hopefully a few of our trips, have made Greco-Roman history compelling?   Bad history teachers will be 千古罪人[1]

I was following suggested names in Rdio and came upon a gent I didn’t recognize, Mr. Les Baxter.   I have on the song “Moonscape” from the 1958 release “Space Escapade.”  I suppose I prefer Sun Ra for my 1950's space exploration but still, its pleasant.  Mr. Baxter who looks more like a quarterback than he does a curator of the exotic, seems to have had a rather prolific output in the late fifties and early sixties sound-tracking the unexplored from space, to jungles to Babylon.   I had been familiar with Martin Deny’s work and this seems to fit squarely into that genre, that mixes jazz capabilities with Hollywood necessities. There was a quote from Mr. Baxter’s wiki page by David Troop which seemed fitting:

Baxter "offered package tours in sound, selling tickets to sedentary tourists who wanted to stroll around some taboo emotions before lunch, view a pagan ceremony, go wild in the sun or conjure a demon, all without leaving home hi-fi comforts in the white suburbs."


This all seems fitting, listening now, having actually made it out of my exotic Chinese suburb to the wilds of medieval Portugal.  I’ll cue up some more pagan sounds for the ride back down south today, and ignore that fact that Baxter’s sampling is all a bit a-historical and thoroughly of his time.







[1] qiāngǔzuìrén sb condemned by history (idiom)

Summary 300




Down in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel around 4:45AM for a conf call with three continents.  Done.  Success.  It’s over now.  And I can head back to bed.  But you know how it is.  I’m up, even if the hotel isn’t.

Driving up from Portamao to Lisbon yesterday I marveled at the predictability of the Portuguese highway system.  On the major highway, the A2, every exit is announced well in advance, and profiled again as it draws near.  After every exit, about two kilometers on there is a rest stop.  All the historic sites are marked with a simple, picturesque representation, color coded in brown, so you know, and every river we cross is named.  No one passes on the right.  People run right up behind you, flash their lights and you pull over to let them pass.  No hard feelings.  You’re car is obviously well equipped to go 180MPH.

Today will be Lisbon part two, this time with the wife, rather than the kids.  From my vantage the pressure is off.  This is the best way for she and I to do this, as I am not obsessed with seeing obligatory sites.  If it's a repeat, I’m fine.  If its brand new, all the better. 



I note over to the left there is a pitcher full of fresh squeezed orange juice and I’m gonna go help myself to a glass . . . It’s amazing.

Looking through this rendering as we reach the 300th posting mark, I note that this was a sloppy, harried segment.  It looks like one day forgot to mention music another day I used the same cheng yu, twice in a row.  It was one of the more traveled sections as well, with three continents covered across the nineteen day span.  Sixty-five days to go till the anniversary is met. 

Later now, perfect follow-up day in Lisbon.  Walks through the two neighborhoods I didn’t really get to see with my kids and wanted to see more of, Alfama and Barrio Alto.  Fabulous compliment to this imperial capital.   



Now we’re off to Evora.


Cheng Yu
1.  不分胜负bùfēnshèngfù:  unable to determine victory or defeat (idiom); evenly matched / to come out even / to tie / to draw
2.  敢为人先:gǎnwéirénxiān to dare to be first / to pioneer (idiom)
3.  千古罪人: qiāngǔzuìrén:  sb condemned by history (idiom)
4.  独来独往 dúláidúwǎng: coming and going alone (idiom); a lone operator / keeping to oneself / unsociable / maverick
5.   洋洋得意 yángyángdéyì:  immensely pleased with oneself (idiom) / proud / complacent
6. 怜香惜玉: liánxiāngxīyù:  to have tender, protective feelings for the fairer sex (idiom)
7. 功成名就 gōngchéngmíngjiù:  to win success and recognition (idiom)
8. 天崩地裂 tiānbēngdìliè: heaven falls and earth rends (idiom); rocked by a major disaster / fig. violent revolution / major social upheaval
9.  随遇而安 suíyù'ér'ān:  at home wherever one is (idiom); ready to adapt / flexible / to accept circumstances with good will
10. 斗鸡走吗dòujīzǒumǎ: cock-fighting and horse-racing (idiom); to gamble
11. 恨之入骨hènzhīrùgǔ:  to hate somebody to the bone (idiom)
12. 恨之入骨 hènzhīrùgǔ:  to hate somebody to the bone (idiom)
13. 惨不忍睹 cǎnbùrěndǔ:  spectacle too horrible to endure (idiom); tragic sight / appalling scenes of devastation
14. 卑鄙龌龊bēibǐwòchuò:  sordid and contemptible (idiom); vile and repulsive (esp. character or action)
15. 筋疲力尽 jīnpílìjìn:  body weary, strength exhausted (idiom); extremely tired / spent
16. 可歌可泣 kěgēkěqì:  lit. you can sing or you can cry (idiom); fig. deeply moving / happy and sad / inspiring and tragic
17. 横眉怒目 hèngméinùmù: lit. furrowed brows and blazing eyes / to dart looks of hate at sb (idiom)
18.  与日俱yǔrìjùhuī:  for as long as the sun continues to shine (idiom)
19. 凭轼结辙: píngshìjiézhé to drive non-stop as fast as one can (idiom)


Music Shared
Jack McDuff, “The Honeydripper” from the 1961 album “The Honeydripper.”
Desmond Decker “Intensified 68”, from 1968.
Dodo Marmarosa, “Moose the Mooch” from 1958 album “Pittsburgh, 1958.”
Gerry Wiggins, “Teach Me Tonight” from the 1960 album “Wigin’ Out.”
Various artists, “We Are the World”, from 1985
George Benson, on the 1969 album, “Tell It Like  It Is.”
Shirley Scott “The Scott” from the 1963 album, “Great Scott.”
Chet Baker “Angel Eyes” from 1959.
The House Band at 26th an Mission:  Angel Eyes, 2014
Boogaloo Joe Jones “Boogaloo Joe” from the 1969 album, “Boogaloo Joe.”
Billy Butler “Blow for the Crossing” from the 1971 album “Night Life.”
Larry Young “Of Love and Peace” form the 1969 album “Of Love and Peace”
Amalia Rodrigues,  “Estranha Forma de Vida” from 1965.
Tommy Turrentine “Time’s Up” from the 1959 album “Tommy Turrentine.”
Sam Rivers “Point of Many Returns” from the 1965 album “Contours.”
Benny Bailey “Alison” from the
Julius Watkins’ album  “I Sastanak u studiju” from late 1950s.
Freddie Redd, “Shadows” from the 1960 album “Shades of Redd.”



Media Shared
Father Kapaun on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/embed/AZuPrQBSDCsp
Desmond Decker’s obituary in The Guardian:
Dodo Marmarosa’s obituary in the Post Gazette: http://old.post-gazette.com/obituaries/20020920marmarosa0920p2.asp
“We Are the World” on Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Are_the_World
Shirley Scott on Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqJ_ho8hvLE 
Simon Leys essays on the Cultural Revolution “The Chairman’s New Clothes”
“Positively Fourth Street” on Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positively_4th_Street
“A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire” by A. R. Disney
“Movin Rigs” link
Amalia Rodrigues on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFgctURyGp4
Amalia Rodrigues on Wik: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Am%C3%A1lia_Rodrigues Hieronymus Bosch, “The Temptation of St. Anthony”
Albrecht Durer “St. Jerome in His Study”
St. Jerome in His Study on Wiki:
The Triptych of the Temptation of St. Anthony on Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triptych_of_the_Temptation_of_St._Anthony
The Church of Sao Francisco, Porto on Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_S%C3%A3o_Francisco_(Porto)
Dom Luis I bridge in Porto on Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dom_Lu%C3%ADs_Bridge









Thursday, July 24, 2014

Specs on the Yellow Toad

The familiar sound of Jackie McLean’s bright alto matched beautifully by Tina Brooks’ tenor.  What a lovely pairing.  The tune, “Shadows” from the Freddie Redd album “Shades of Redd” in that magic jazz year of 1960 when Rudy Van Gelder must have been recording 365 days in a row.   I’ve always had the score for “The Connection” the Jack Gelber play about junkies waiting to cop heroin, which was recorded a year before this.  Freddie Redd was responsible for all the songs, as I recall.  I seem to remember reading the liner notes and seeing that Leonard Bernstein attended a performance and was overheard whistling “Who Killed Cock Robin” on the way out.

Born in Harlem in 1928 I’m happy to report that Freddie Redd is still alive and seemingly active, from his residence in Baltimore.  Listening to this follow-on album “Shades” it is lovely from start to finish and it is hard to understand why it didn’t launch a string of such releases throughout the decade.  It looks like he only recorded one other album the following year on Blue Note, that wasn’t even released until 1988.  As explored earlier, it would appear that he had a similar experience to Tina Brooks who recorded incredible albums that Blue Note decided not to release until later.  Perhaps, like Brooks, he had a habit that tainted his relationship with the label and eventually with everything.  Like so many of his peers, Dexter Gordon, Joe Albany, he fled New York and spent the next decade in Denmark and France, returning in the mid seventies.



Today, I’ll head back up to Lisbon.  My little Volkswagon rental only lists the speed in KPH and, a typical American I have next to no idea how fast I was going.  I only know it was very fast, I made good time, and occasionally there were still people passing me.  I figured I was pushing ninety MPH but it turns out that I was pushing 120 MPH, which is silly with or without proactive highway policing.   We’ll budget a bit more time for today journey.   No need to whatsoever to 凭轼结辙[1] in my little rental.

Sitting back at my perch at the Presidente Hotel, where I’ve come for the last three days so that I can get online.  The same Germanic family is sitting across from me again this morning.  Caught mom staring at me.  I must look off with my headphones on, sitting here alone, typing for the third day straight.  The kids all look just like mom with their straight blond hair and slightly suspicious looks.  Dad doesn’t look so Teutonic, from the back.  



Catching up on the news it’s rough out there.  The Times had an interesting summary article examining Obama’s foreign policy challenges, suggesting the complexity of so many cross cutting cleavages and their interrelations.  How can you push Egypt on Gaza when you cut off aid?  How can you push Russia on Syria when you need to be stern about the plane shot down?  How can you buttress the Shias in Iraq without the help of the help of the Iranian’s who you are trying to impose sanctions on?  I think he is being tested sorely and I’m still glad he’s in there rather than a hothead showman.  Take your time and be judicious, Barak.  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/world/crises-cascade-and-converge-testing-obama.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A7%22%7D

And amidst all this China has, fortunately been comparatively quiet.  The manufacturing sector is picking up.  Food safety and energy plans’ potential to pollute are being discussed but otherwise the only news fit-to-print is an uplifting story about a giant yellow toad.  Chinese netizens did a mock up photo of the grinning toad with a pair of specs to suggest he looked just like Jiang Zemin.  Now Xinhua, China’s news agency has deleted all references to the giant toad.  I hope Obama has a chance to read the article and steal a laugh amidst so much noise.


 





[1] píngshìjiézhé to drive non-stop as fast as one can (idiom)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

White Blues White




The only French Horn player I could identify by name, was The Who’s bass player, John Entwistle.  Think of his triumphant blowing in Tommy’s “Underture.”  My searchings of people who played with people has lead me to a jazz French Horn player, who’s brand-spankin-new to me, Mr. Julius Watkins.  Born in Detroit in 1921, he won the Downbeat critics poll in 1960 and 1961 for the category “miscellaneous instrument.”  Two of the albums they have available on Rdio are lovely but often interrupted by an extremely high falsetto; operatic singing that reminds me unfavorably of the original Star Trek TV show theme song’s conclusion.

There is a third album profiled there, that sounds beautiful and must have been recorded in the late fifties in Sweden, or Denmark, as the title is written as “I Sastanak u studiju.”  Intriguingly, I am wrong.  Google translate has “detected” Croatian and translated it as “a meeting in a studio.”  Was Marshall Tito promoting jazz in Zagreb in 56’, following the Hungarian Uprising?

Sitting here now overlooking idyllic ochre cliffs of the Praia da Rocha from a lovely restaurant perch.  We, my older daughter and I are sitting under a make shift, bamboo ceiling that largely protects us from ferocious sun. Before me is an unobstructed view all the way to Brazil.  The Caetano Veloso and Jorge Ben soundtrack this place is playing help to pull the mind in that direction.  If I turn my head to the right I can see what must be Sagres Point, not far from where Bartolomeu Dias and his set pushed out to stare down the boundaries of the known world heading ever further south to confront Africa and the Indian Ocean.



To the right and the left are the obligatory giant Aloe Vera plants that feel Mexican and probably are.  They almost certainly are not native to Portugal and had to be imported during the days of exploration.  The surface below me is a sickly blue spackled concrete that is supposed to evoke the islands of Greece, I suppose.  The table cloths are blue and white, the chairs and umbrellas, white, the trim on the house and the entire floor, are a strong, navy blue.  It’s starting to get to me.  My daughter’s towel is blue. The man across from us is wearing blue sandals with white stripes to match the blue and white stripes of his swimsuit.  Hi tee shirt is white.  His cap is blue.  The sea is very blue and the sky, at the horizon point behind the green hills, is also white.  Santorini on the Atlantic.



A few black ant scouts are parading around beneath me on the blue concrete, searching for scraps or something useful for their queen.  Swifts dive bravely down the cliffs and seagulls call and call with a sound that is forever synonymous with the sea.  Other than seashells and our waiter, these are the only detectable life forms. The waiter is a dick. He wasn’t keen to serve us.  But we’re warming to each other.  The ants are keeping their distance, and the wind is whipping through, blowing the tablecloths up and almost off their mooring, again and again here at the edge of Eurasia.

My daughter is so happy, just now.  The postcard view isn’t particularly relevant. The bottle of water she is drinking isn’t complementing the view perfectly.  She isn’t utterly content to see the lonesome sailboat drive its way across the headwinds before us, on this perfect day in July.  Rather, she is online.  Her chums back in Beijing ought to be in bed at what is for them 12:33PM but fortunately for her, they aren’t.  She can WE CHAT with them, where she hasn’t for 48 hours or so.   Her generation will have war stories about the days before ubiquity. 

I tune out at beaches.  That’s the idea, I suppose.  There’s the sand.  There’s the sun.  The kids are happy.  Oops, they got sunburned.  I got sunburned.  But I, for one am so much happier to be exploring something new.  Something human.  After a day or two of this and I get restless.   I'm already starting to look over the medieval city of Evora to the north.  It appears to have a remarkable medieval cathedral, a highly recommended restaurant.  Perhaps it will be the medieval building that connects with my girls . . .   

For now, they’re happy to be on line.  Let them relax.   Let them relax 与日俱[1]







[1] yǔrìjùhuī:  for as long as the sun continues to shine (idiom)