Saturday, January 19, 2008
A few months ago - after a lecture I gave at the Young Buddhist Center on the sacred "Four Noble Truths" - a Zen teacher struck up a conversation with me.
"Your teachings reminded me of Lao Tzu," he noted excitedly.
Not surprisingly, since the Master greatly influenced my spiritual outlook on life.
Lao Tzu was born September 14th (604 B.C.) in the village of Ch'u Jen.
He was the author of many great teachings on TAO, the most widely read scriptures in the Eastern World.
His concepts like - "each being part of the whole" - appealed to my sensibilities right away. But, the idea of "non-action" resonated so distinctly that I became a convert immediately.
In addition, I was drawn to Tzu's teachings on the "void".
The Master believed that it was only through an "empty heart" that one could comprehend the great truths. So - the experience of "the void" he spoke of - was essential in order to be "filled by the mysteries and wisdom of existence".
According to the wise sage, if an individual followed "the way" he could naturally become empty - and subsequently - be "lived by existence".
In sum, he propounded that there must be a total receptiveness to that which arises in the "heart of hearts".
In view of this, a basic foundation of the teachings includes the practical application of "non-action" (Wu Wei).
"Wu Wei is a useful attitude," he conjectured.
The Master taught that human relationships often force defeat; after all, every action causes a reaction, every challenge a response. Likewise, if an individual interfered with a natural state - it naturally resisted - according to Lao Tzu.
If everything is allowed to go its own way, the harmony of the universe will be established. After all, every process is only capable of "doing its thing", in relation to all others.
In his opinion, there was "no achievement" in action.
"To yield is to be preserved whole," he taught.
His teachings sprang from the TAO principle of the "observing individual" that lords over all existence.
The observer (or navigator) is guided by the stars in the heavens, while the sailor is mindful of the currents and winds that may throw him off course.
With unity of eye and heart there is an intelligent perception about the nature of the path.
Tao is an all-encompassing law - a "way of living" - that honors (and does not interfere with) the elements. In particular, the teaching applies to the actions of individuals and the politics of life.
The wise old Master put forth the notion that each sentient being must take their own steps to realize truth; then, apply the wisdom they've acquired to ultimately harmonize with nature and man.
In essence, he conjectured, inner nature is an extension of the universe.
The teachings of Lao Tzu were eventually structured into a full-fledged religion and developed to their full potential by a dedicated follower, Chang Tao Ling.
A seeker who pursues the truth through the teachings of TAO becomes known as a "man of calling" or a "heavenly teacher".
In his elder years, legend says that Lao Tzu tired of the Chou Dynasty and the onslaught of decadence and decay in the society. So, he rode off on a black ox one fine morning to pursue truth elsewhere.
As he was departing from the Kingdom through the Ku Pass, a gatekeeper there - Yin Hsi - intuited that the Master's arrival was an omen.
"You are about to draw yourself from sight. Please compose a book for me of your teachings."
So, Lao Tzu wrote the sacred book TAO TE CHING.
TAO means "the way"; TE translates to "virtue and power"; Ching means book.
Hence, the translation, "Book of the Way and Virtues".
Then, Lao Tzu disappeared without a trace.
Today, some scholars allege he never existed at all, that the teachings of Lao Tzu were simply a collection of scriptures gathered from sages over the years.
A compilation of the teachings in one - "Holy Sacred Scripture" - was attributed to the Father of TAO, Lao Tzu.
According to legend, Lao Tzu has appeared in spirit "to man" unexpectedly throughout the ages.
I've felt his presence on occasion and his spirit has guided me.
Lao Tzu quote,
"He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still."
After Romney's altercation with a reporter in recent days, a newspaper reported on the brawl of words, and captioned the article, "Romney loses his cool".
On the heels of the momentous event, Jay Leno proceeded to invite the presidential candidate on the late-night forum, to lick his wounds and tell his side of things.
Jay is always on top of these International incidents!
In a nutshell, a heckler in the press corp took umbrage over Mitt Romney's assertions that there wasn't any lobbyist "running his campaign". After all, the writer was under the distinct impression that a lobbyist was, in fact, working in the Republican camp.
It was all a question of semantics, really.
"He advises me, he doesn't run my campaign," Romney retorted, as politely as possible under the circumstances; at which point, the two bantered back and forth like two spoiled brats sparring in the school yard at recess.
Someone was splitting hairs!
Here is the smell test: the adviser didn't inhale, did he?
Exasperated by the reluctance of the rude reporter to back-down, the presidential candidate reiterated the facts. When the reporter refused to let up, Romney finally hit his boiling point and lamented, "Listen to my lips".
Mitt, the correct presidential phrase is, "read my lips"...
Charles De Gaulle once said,
"Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word."
Well, the old **it hit the fan for Tom Cruise this week.
Yesterday morning, a news outlet featured a videotape of the megastar, engaging in secret ceremonies behind closed doors at Scientology headquarters.
If the disgruntled former member of the cult, who released it, intended to "embarrass" Mr. Cruise, they accomplished that feat hands down!
In one shot, Tom enters an "S" meeting, stops to salute a fuzzy blow-up photo of the creator of the organization - Ron L. Hubbard - then proceeds onstage to acknowledge one of the upper echelon of the odd-ball group that raises eyebrows daily.
I surmise the curious elbow-lift infers that all Scientology enthusiasts are "foot soldiers" in the war against, what? Ignorance? Prejudice against the Church's "personality tests"? Overzealous critics harping about the fact that Scientology is not a religion?
Heh, in the inner recesses of my mind, I do seem to recall that Mr. Hubbard was a former Science Fiction writer. Isn't Scientology just a surreal fantasy, conjured up by a very active, demented imagination?
Worse yet, Tom was caught in the flesh, talking Scientologese!
Yup, he babbled with gushing enthusiasm about SP, and KSG, and all manner of things, hidden in a secret code. SP? "Suppress the people", is what it stands for, according to insiders.
And KSG? "Keep Scientology Going" apparently.
Well, if you have a deranged mind, to.
Do you suppose they have a secret handshake too?
I must say, I was a bit envious of that Gold Medallion swinging lavishly around Tom's squeaky-clean neck a few months ago...an award, you say, for his worthwhile contributions to the sect - um - Church?
To be fair to the star, and in a bold-faced effort to gain a different perspective on 'em, I inputted the word Scientology into the online dictionary at Webster's web site. The word isn't even listed, let alone mentioned in a possible list of suspects.
As I was preparing this post, a 20/20 promo for a segment on the "cruiser", sprang across the screen...so, I was inclined to tune in.
Clips catching Tom demonizing psychiatry were downright scary - especially in view of the fact - he alleges that scientologists have the “the authority".
If this revelation (no connection to the scriptures) wasn't enough to hurl Cruise fanatics over the brink, they hit bullion when Andrew Morton - who released an unauthorized biography this week on the diminutive actor - was on hand to toss in his two cents worth.
"Tom thinks they are super beings," he actually opined with a straight face.
Ironically, the interviewer, added,
"After observing Mr. Cruise the past few months, it appears to me that he needs some psychiatric therapy."
If asked, maybe Dr. Phil will step in and lend a hand.
On a morning show, the reporter noted that word from Cruise's camp is that any individuals posting the video on their web site, will face litigation.
Why don't you just zap 'em with your super powers, Tom?
Andrew Morton's timely tome apparently focuses on the childhood years, as well. The insightful writer uncovered gems like...the fact that Tom collected model airplanes (Top Gun, right?) and played the "sun" in a 5th grade pageant.
As to the quirky, early stint on stage, a former teacher noted that,
"Even 30 years later, it still gives me goose bumps (thinking about it)."
When it was also revealed that Tom Cruise once impersonated Woody Woodpecker, a Bay Area Reporter quipped,
"We'd bet his Woody is memorable."
My money says Cruise suffers from a Napoleon (small man's) complex.
Tom, psychiatrists usually prefer a horizontal position on the couch...
Michael Douglas (once a blazing star in the glittering firmament) appeared on Dave Letterman the other evening for a bit of chit-chat - and used the occasion to promote the DVD for his latest project - "King of California".
Gee, was the film that bad? Obviously, 'cause "King" almost went straight to a DVD, small-screen release.
"I wasn't happy with the distributors," Douglas complained to the toothy talk-show host, who was all ears.
Michael, is it possible that the comic-adventure was just a silly stinker, with little box office appeal?
Friday, January 18, 2008
When Britney Spears was spotted by a gaggle of paparazzi the other night, her pricey luxury vehicle careened down the street in a quick get-a-way attempt, with the desperados in hot pursuit.
It was described by curious onlookers as a spirited "high-speed" chase on the gritty, mean streets of the city.
The local Boys-in-Blue caught sight of the spectacle, and ceremoniously pulled the crazed photogs over, and cited 'em for reckless driving.
A few exasperating hours later, the grinning rat pack were soon released, on $5,000.00 bond each.
Meanwhile, Britney sped off and wangled her way into a local retailer at 2 a.m. for an - oh-so-privileged - twilight spending spree.
In an effort to smooth over the waters, the owner gushed without batting an eye,
"She just needed some retail therapy."
In the Castro district, at 18th street, City Officials have allotted a picturesque little park where dogs are allowed to run free off-leash and play with abandon.
Yeah, you don't want to plunk down on the grass here - or else you'll end up with poopy pants - that's for sure.
As I perched on a quaint wooden park bench - and marvelled at a unique perspective on the San Francisco skyline - I occasionally petted a rambunctious canine that trotted by, now and then.
As I was about to continue on a leisurely tour of the city - a woman strolled by with an adorable pup in tow - who proceeded to dash up and slobber all over me.
The outgoing woman and I chatted for a moment or two - and during the interim - her trusty pouch was inclined to race off...sniffing here and there among the other, resplendent dogs.
"So many dogs to lick," she sighed quietly.
And, so little time!
I guess Matthew McConaughey won't be playing the bongos in the nude with his buddies, anymore.
Matt just fessed up to "Daddy-hood".
Well, he's on his way to it, anyhoo!
A "bundle of joy" is three months in the "oven". The proud, expectant mother? Brazilian Model Camila Alves - who, no doubt - will be stylishly modelling maternity fashions in the note-too-distant future.
"Mum" must have been the word, since the very secret news of the clandestine conception, failed to leak out.
Remember Matt, a babe in the arms, will age 'ya! I guess that means, no more late-night carousing, eh?
Seems like he's ready for the fathering experience - emotionally, mentally, and spiritually - if the amusing comments on his web site are any indication of his state of mind.
Matt excitedly penned,
"We are stoked (?) and wowed (?) by this miracle of creation and this gift from God, and so excited for the adventure that will come in raising this child, being mother and a father, and shepherding him or her through his life...God Bless evolution."
To some, God and evolution are generally viewed as an incongruity of terms; in view of this, the talented actor obviously has the right perspective on things.
Who else would guide the hand of intelligent design, but the Lord?
Allegedly, a burglar was in the midst of a robbery at a local convenience store, when a gun packed in his pants went off unexpectedly.
I guess that conjures up a whole new meaning to the phrase - "Shooting your load" - doesn't it?
Thursday, January 17, 2008
"March of Dimes" took a novel approach to inform the public about potential health hazards for wee tots in the home.
The charity purchased a big old bus, decorated it with captivating photos of children, flowers, and toys - and headed out onto the highways and byways of the great United States to spread the word.
The "March for Babies" is an initiative focused on helping the public recognize that March of Dimes helps babies - those born healthy - and those who need help to survive and thrive in this troubling world.
At each stop the locals are urged to "come on down", step lively into the bus, and videotape a "story". After all, "every baby has a story".
On my way to the opening of the newly-renovated San Francisco Library yesterday at the Civic Center, I stumbled on a presentation organizers had thoughtfully set up.
On strategically-placed tables around the "Baby Coach" a wide array of pamphlets on nutrition, calcium requirements, and warnings about childhood disease to watch out for were nicely arranged.
After all, January is "Birth Defects Month". So, parents are reminded that a diet rich in folic acid and other important nutrients can help protect a baby from complications.
When I was invited into the bus to take a gander (in spite of the fact I am childless) I was charmed by the pretty well-decorated interior.
And, Oh-my-God, there was a videotape of "Captain Kangaroo" entertaining the young ones on his popular morning show of yesteryear.
Ah, the whole experience brought back so many fond memories!
A number of parents, relatives, and guardians have taken the opportunity to videotape their stories already. Why not you?
As George Bush was touring the Middle East this past week the issue of supplying arms to Saudi Arabia popped up.
Mixed in with the talks, the topic of oil prices reared its ugly head, too.
Bush took the occasion to enlighten his "this-close" good friends in Saudi Arabia, that if the U.S. economy was "hurt" by oil shortages, common sense dictated there would not be much money available to purchase their precious product.
In sum, the President urged the Saudis to consider reducing the cost of the black gold, "...for one of their best customers".
Meanwhile, leaders in Saudi Arabia issued a release noting that oil-producing nations should take measures to ensure the oil market stays "healthy" and "competitive".
This evidently signaled the road that the Saudis and Bush will venture down next...
Negotiations no doubt focused on arms for oil?
Let the games begin!
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Amid the normally quite environs of the Main Library where staff members are prone to quip "shush" to noisy patrons, a Mariachi band broke into song one fine Wednesday morning.
After all, there was much to celebrate about!
The renovations at the downtown library - "The Great Main" (as newspaper columnist Herb Caen has been inclined to label it) - were now complete.
Now, book-lovers from around the city - flanked by a well-heeled gaggle of local politicians who were on hand to join in on the celebrations - were allowed to tour San Francisco's dazzling new showcase.
But not before the city librarian - noted at the unveiling - that initially the main library on Larkin Street opened to mixed reviews.
So, a team of architects and library staff sought to resolve - what many claimed - were oversights or outright design flaws.
Although the "Main" has been literally transformed, utmost care was taken to ensure the unique original architectural context in which it was built, was preserved.
The creative team in charge of the major renovations succeeded!
But, there were other issues to address, according to the architects from Pei Cobb Freed & Partners who oversaw the project.
"There were two main elements uppermost in our minds. Natural light and books."
For example, some criticized the fact bookshelves in plain view housed voluminous tomes, which negatively impacted the aesthetics.
But, one official was quick to point out the reason for the obvious display.
"The innovative architectural idea bootstrapped the entrance to the Library - and thus - defrayed the cost of replacing books that were stolen in the past at the old library due to poor design."
In honor of the occasion, the Mayor turned up to cut the red ribbon, but waved off the key speaker when first asked to approach the podium.
"I'm not ready yet," he uttered almost under his breath as he reviewed some papers in his hand.
It was one of those awkward pregnant moments that hung thick in the air.
Undoubtedly, Gavin Newsom is not referred to as the - "Green Mayor" - without good reason.
Wise old sage "Master Julian" once opined:
"It is not polite to insult host while a guest in his house."
In spite of the Mayor's rude behaviour - a handful of city workers, library staff, and local officials strode proudly up to the microphone in his stead first - to contribute a few insightful comments about the renovaton process, the fundraising support efforts, and a myriad of complex issues that had to be met "head on" to meet the challenges of the renovation process.
Thanks to the new first-floor renovations - 76,000 books (normally held in storage on the third floor) - will now be available to the public and easily accessed.
A new automated sorting system will also speed up the process of locating, ordering, and checking out books.
A spanking new Audiovisual Center also boasts an impressive array of CDs, DVDs, and other non-print materials.
Steve Coulter - a former member of the Library Commission - was proud to note that in spite of the fact the construction was a multi-year project, "there were no closures or any inconveniences to the public".
When Mayor Newsom finally stood before the excited (and at times giddy) book-lovers kibitzing in the elegant foyer, he was brief and to the point.
"We are the envy of cities across the Nation. Although there have been closures in other cities due to a lack of funding, San Franciscans came through with the money."
Librarian Luis Herrera's associate added poignantly:
"We're keeping the dream alive."
Part of that lofty aspiration was achieved because of generous donors.
For example, Bill and Melinda Gates provided funding for all the computers in the first floor Internet-access section of the Main Library.
"The goal," one staff member added, "was to enhance service to the public and enlarge upon the user experience."
It is estimated that there are two million visitors to San Francisco's main library each year; so, the additional facilities are a God-send, obviously.
With little more fanfare, the whole kit 'n kaboodle - guests, politicians, and members of the press who jockeyed about for key photo ops - rushed forward to the cordoned-off area where the Mayor (with a broad smile on his face and a wave of his elegant hand) cut the red ribbon and beckoned the anxious lookie-loo's inside.
"Very spiffy", "Well-organized", "Wow, this is great" - were some of the comments I overheard as I embarked on a little tour through the newly-opened library wing.
Meanwhile, the Mayor was engaged in carefree open dialogue with the citizenry, a-hop-and-a-skip away with no apparent political agenda in mind.
The Library was built twelve years ago and is a stunning piece of architecture designed by the design firm Pei Cobb Freed and Partners.
James Ingo Freed was the main designer.
Originally, the public library was built to complete San Francisco's Civic Center.
The Library's modernist design echoes the materials and massing of the neighboring sym
metrical facades at the Beaux-Arts institutions fronting on the Civic Center, while the two other facades opposite, make a contemporary response to the adjacent commercial district.
Because the Main Library allows for passage into and through the building and out to the opposite side of the full-block site - it is both a destination and a link - connecting the modern city with its cultural core.
"It's a bridge between the people of San Francisco and the institutions that serve and enrich them," explained the architects.
A stunning open staircase and a five-story atrium - 60 feet in diameter - provide a luminous hub of orientation. In addition, a stunning glass-enclosed periodicals reading room - suspended above - further helps to draw light into the core of the 300' x 200' building.
Novel bridges link precincts that provide access to advanced online information systems and three million books on open/closed stacks.
Other features include a public atrium, reading room, a special rare book collection, an auditorium with 620 seats, public meeting rooms, exhibition spaces, a roof garden, café, bookstore, and art commissioned by Alice Aycock Stair, Nayland Blake, Ann Hamilton, Ann Chamberlain, and Charley Brown.
An outstanding ceiling mural, by Mark Evans, gazes down from the main ceiling.
wars in history."
At Bush and Grant a decorative arch marks the entrance to Chinatown and the intriguing mysteries that lay beyond.
The community has a fascinating history.
It was the port of entry for early Taishanese and Zhongshanese Chinese immigrants from the southern Guangdong province of China from the 1850's to the 1900's.
Many early Chinese immigrants to San Francisco and beyond were processed at Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay; in some instances, Chinese immigrants were detained for months until their papers were granted.
Chinatown was deeded by the City government and private property owners with the specific aim of allowing Chinese immigrants to inherit and inhabit dwellings within that geographical region.
The majority of the Chinese shopkeepers, restaurant owners, and hired workers in Chinatown were predominantly Taishanese and male.
Massive National unemployment in the wake of the financial panic of 1873 caused racial tensions; consequently, full blown riots broke out.
In response to the racial violence, the Consolidated Chinese Benevolent Association (which evolved out of the labor recruiting organizations for different areas of Guangdong) was created as a means of providing the community with a unified voice.
The heads of these companies were the leaders of the Chinese Merchants Association chosen to represent the Chinese community as a "whole" to the city government.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882, which was the first immigration restriction law aimed at a single ethnic group.
This law - along with other immigration restriction laws such as the Geary Act - reduced the number of single Chinese males permitted to settle in the city. Exceptions were granted to the families of wealthy merchants, but the law was still effective enough to reduce the population of the neighborhood in the 1920's.
Not unlike much of San Francisco, a period of criminality ensued, including rampant smuggling, gambling and prostitution.
By the early 1880's, the ruling class adopted the term "Tong Wars" to describe periods of unrest in Chinatown. During this time frame, the San Francisco Police Department set up a Chinatown Squad to deal with the specific issues pertaining to the district.
The neighborhood was completely destroyed in the 1906 earthquake that leveled most of the city.
During the city's rebuilding process, city planners with racist leanings joined forces with real-estate developers in a bold-faced effort to move Chinatown to the Hunters Point neighborhood at the southern edge of the city and farther south to Daly City.
However, their dubious efforts did not pan out.
The community managed to rebuild the neighborhood with the help of six powerful Chinese companies and in time realized their dream to provide a friendly tourist attraction with a focus on Chinese culture.
Although new immigrants continued to flow in to Chinatown over the years, there has been a noticeable surge to the outskirts of the downtown core where a select Chinese few have been in search of a more affluent lifestyle.
As a result, parts of the community have become run-down and in disrepair.
Consequently, many of the decrepit housing units are populated by low-income residents and the elderly.
Today, the lively thriving community is somewhat insulated - in motion, but out-of-sync with the outside world - and locked in a sort-of timeless romantic era that invites, captivates, and piques the curiosity of not only tourists but the locals, as well.
Just inside the gate, shopkeepers' wares spill out into the street from the inner confines of the tiny cramped shops and openly tempt passers-by.
At the offset, it's readily apparent there are a number of eye-catching offerings tourists are inclined to splurge on - picturesque postcards of breathtaking city views, toy versions of the novel Cable Car, mugs with San Francisco-based themes etched on 'em, that sort-of-thing.
Step closer - and the trappings of a mysterious world that reaches back centuries - draw you in - and not surprisingly - strike a chord within.
I am particularly drawn to the quaint shops stocked with a wide range of exotic and expensive imported teas exquisitely wrapped in eye-catching royal colors packaged to perfection.
The origins of ceremonial tea-drinking are quite fascinating, too.
Lao Tzu (Chinese philosopher) described tea as "the froth of the liquid jade" and named it an indispensable ingredient to the elixir of life.
In one popular Chinese legend, historians allege that Shennon (Emperor of China and the inventor of agriculture and Chinese medicine) was drinking a bowl of boiling water in the year 2737 BC.
According to the folk lore, the wind unexpectedly blew a few leaves from a nearby tree into his water - at which point - the liquid changed its color.
The inquisitive Monarch took a sip of the brew and was pleasantly surprised to encounter a distinctive pleasing flavor melting against his taste buds.
In turn, the emperor proceeded to test the medicinal properties of various teas on himself and found many proved to be effective as antidotes.
In Northern China, they were originally a meeting place for gentlemen of leisure.
Inside the sumptuous confines of the tea house, discerning males savored their favorite teas as they discussed the important news of the day.
In time, tea houses also became favored by businessmen.
On the soothing premises, deals were often discussed and sealed in the neutral relaxed surroundings of a tea house rather than in stale stuffy business offices.
In tea houses in Chinatown in San Francisco today, the curious can slip into a seat at the counter and test a myriad of exciting blends; from a daily brew, to the expensive rarefied ones used for special ceremonial occasions.
One of my favorite stops on a trek through Chinatown is the Eastern Bakery at Grant and Commercial Streets.
Once inside, I usually gobble down a custard tart, the best in town. Then, I snap up a chocolate-covered fortune cookie to determine the auspicious signs ahead.
Although I thought the fortune cookie was an age-honored tradition from the old Chinese mainland, I recently learned that San Francisco and Los Angeles both lay claim to the humble cookie's origins.
Makoto Hagiwara - at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco - is said to have invented the cookie in 1909 to complement the tasty Japanese desserts of the day.
As the myth goes, Hagiwara was fired by a mayor with anti-Japanese sentiments, but later was fortunate to have a second mayor reinstate him.
Grateful to those who had stood by him during his period of financial hardship, Hagiwara created a fortune cookie in 1914, that included a "thank you" note inside which was subsequently passed out thereafter at the Japanese Tea Garden.
In 1915, they were displayed at the Panama-Pacific Exhibition, better known as the San Francisco's World Fair.
But, David Jung (founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company in Los Angeles) claimed to have been behind the creation of the fortune cookie, too.
According to his account, he created the yummy treat in 1918 for altruistic reasons when he became concerned about poor street-walkers wandering near his shop.
To lift their spirits - Jung passed little treats out on the street for free - replete with a strip of paper inside bearing an inspirational Bible scripture on it.
In view of the ongoing dispute between the two over the issue, San Francisco's mock Court of Historical Review took the case in 1983.
During the proceedings, a fortune cookie was introduced as a key piece of evidence with a message that read,
"S.F. Judge who rules for L.A. Not Very Smart Cookie".
A Federal Judge of the Court of Historical Review thereafter ruled that the cookie originated with Hagiwara.
And, for obvious reasons, the city of Los Angeles condemned the decision.
However, a third origin appeals to me best.
A legend says that in the 13th and 14th century - when the Mongols ruled China - a revolutionary named Chu Yuan Chang planned an uprising.
He used moon cakes to pass along important secrets pertaining to the conflilcts by replacing the yolk in the center of the moon cake with the message written on rice paper.
Since the Mongols did not care for the yolks, the plan managed to succeed without interruption, and the Ming Dynasty prevailed.
Each year, the Moon Festival celebrates the tradition, by passing out similar moon cakes with messages inside.
It is a widely-held belief that immigrant Chinese railroad workers - without the ingredients to make moon cakes one year - baked biscuits instead, which resulted in the creation of the fortune cookies familiar to us today.
Enough about cookies!
If you're a bargain hunter - out for dinner - you may want to saunter down the side streets and back alleys where small establishments offer up genuine Chinese dishes at affordable prices in the $9.00 to $20.00 range.
A few months ago, I was casually strolling through bustling Chinatown when I spied several black SUV's parked haphazardly in the quaint narrow streets.
In addition, - about a half-a-dozen or so well-built men in dark suits with walkie-talkies in their hands - appeared to be standing on guard nearby.
A local whispered in my ear, "Governor Schwarzenegger is at the Empress."
Ah, visitors to Chinatown never know who they will encounter on any given occasion, such is the widespread appeal of this fascinating tourist attraction.
In fact, if you are a traveler with a small fridge in your hotel room, a visit to Chinatown would be a great opportunity to pass on "fast foods" stuffed with vulgar Trans fats and fat-building calories.
In the alternative, just snap up a handful of succulent fruits (rich in minerals, proteins, and nourishing nutrients) at one of the local street markets.
At Stockton and Jackson, for instance, there is a glut of groceries where the discerning shopper can pluck up fresh produce for a few pennies on the dollar - kiwi, melon, tangerines, mango, watermelon, and pomegranates - for example.
But, I must issue a stern warning.
If the smell of fresh fish turns your stomach, take a clothes peg along to pinch your nose or a handkerchief to cover it.
Whew, fresh fish from the sea is strong-smelling stuff!
But, there are other reasons to take a trek through Chinatown.
For those into "gizmos" there are a number of outlets for electronic equipment, cameras, and digital products.
A foot massage palour caught my attention, too.
Massage therapy can be traced back to ancient China where the practice was developed to treat any number of ailments.
In fact, on a diagram provided by "Foot Massage" at 662 Jackson, the owners have mapped out various pressure points on the bottom of the foot that - once massaged skillfully - may result in the relief of troubling health problems - headaches, stomach disorders, arthritis - you name it.
According to Mr. Chen Bi-Hsiung, a qualified therapist should be able to professionally judge the level of strength needed in order to achieve the best results without causing any harm.
Health problems - funnily enough - are often caused by a lack of exercise.
In contrast, Foot reflexology therapy not only stimulates reflex areas, but improves blood circulation, expels toxins that have accumulated in the body, and stimulates the metabolism in order to achieve the effects of good health.
There is an old saying that goes,
"When trees age, their roots age first; when people age, their feet age first."
I am particularly intrigued by the specialty shops - especially those where curious gnarled root-like herbs ($100.00 a pop in some cases) beckon - and likewise - hint at secret ingredients lurking beneath their ominous skins waiting to cure all ills.
In fact, Asians have relied on the medicinal properties of these exotic "weeds" to ensure a life of longevity and good health for centuries.
As I was jotting down notes in the street, a sweet woman stepped out of her shop - at E & M Jewelry - to quiz me on what I was up to.
In seconds, I was inside oohing and aahing over the eye-catching pieces which sparkled with fine gems - diamonds, rubies, and emeralds - for instance.
Indeed, many shops along the main street offer up quality pieces at rock-bottom prices.
If you're into Eastern Art and Artifacts, Chinatown is an excellent place to locate unique authentic pieces not located anywhere else in the city.
At the Canton Bazaar or the Old Shanghai, you'll find unique collectables, for example.
If it's just a snack you're looking for at the end of your exciting day of shopping, stop in to the "Floating Sushi Boat" restaurant on Grant for tasty morsels fit for a King.
Or, saunter over to Jackson Street or Washington, for Dim Sum.
Me, I'm going to buy some chimes and hang 'em outside my window.
I may go fly a colorful kite I purchased, too, the first big wind that blows through.
Knowing San Francisco, that may be tomorrow!
When Matt Lauer asked a pundit - Tim Russert - appearing on the Today show as a guest, how the field was shaping up for both the Republicans and the Democrats after underdog Mitt Romney's big "Win Tuesday", he opined,
"The Republicans have about 3 or 4 potential candidates. And, the Democrats have about 2 1/2 or 3."
A half? - Lauer quizzically responded...
So, who was the pint-sized candidate Russert was referring to, when he "misspoke"?
John Edwards losing muscle?
Last night, a newsman interviewing George Bush one-on-one, noted that the President's popularity was at an all-time low in the United States.
In response to the reporter's query about how he felt about that, Mr. Bush responded,
"Well, I'm not going to bend over into the fetal position because of it," he laughed somewhat maniacally.
No, George, it's a little too late to abort.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
On a pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon a handful of members of "In Defense of Animals" were plunked out in front of Neiman Marcus corralling passers-by and lecturing them on the ongoing atrocities which are occurring every day in China in the "fur industry".
"In Defense of Animals" is an animal activist group and they are urging a Boycott of the Olympics in Beijing (China) because of the continued cruelty to animals in that Asian country overseas.
According to "Defense", from November through March each year, animals are crushed into barbed wire cages and forced to lay upon each other for days without food or water. Then, the animals are removed with tongs, stabbed in the groin, and bludgeoned or bled to death. They squeal out in pain as they're skinned alive and others are forced to watch and listen to their fate.
The animal activists allege that they have actual videotape footage which reveals in disturbing detail that some animals continue to live after their skin has been stripped and their bodies thrown into a heap with the dead and dying. In fact, the animal activists allege the animals continue to breath and live for as long as thirty minutes after the initial skinning.
Part of the problem of cruelty to dogs and cats stems from the fact here are no laws enacted in China to protect animals from this horrific treatment.
Because of loopholes in the labeling laws the Chinese are able to sneak fur trim into coats and garments without any mention of origins of the fur on the label.
To frustrate matters the fur industry often disguises its product through dyeing and other methods so that the buyer is unaware that they are actually purchasing a retail item which uses dog and cat fur.
Did you know that budget fur on collars, toys, and other accessories usually originates from China where the atrocities against animals are occurring?
It is calculated that over 5400 dogs and cats are skinned alive in China each day.
Because U.S. Laws only require labeling of fur garments over $150.00 in value, illegal dog and cat fur is exported into the U.S. without the consumer being the wiser about what they are purchasing.
Now, there is now a call to action to end this cruelty to animals.
First, and foremost, consumers are urged to Boycott the Olympics in Beijing until the heinous acts stop.
Secondly, Americans are asked to Boycott all pet products made in China.
In addition, fashionistas are asked to resist the inclination to buy fur or items crafted with fur trim.
To get involved personally, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for copies of brochures and cards to distribute in the community to get the word out and further the cause.
Finally, concerned animal-lovers are invited to get "vocal" by protesting to Chinese officials, directly.
Complaints may be forwarded to:
His Excellency Zhou Wenzhong
Ambassador of the People's Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
As Rue McClanahan noted,
"Cruelty is one fashion statement we can all do without"
Monday, January 14, 2008
One of the jewels in Tinseltown's crown was packed away until further notice, as the Writers Guild of America continued with its contentious strike action against Hollywood Producers.
The Golden Globes, one of the most glamorous award shows in the calendar year, was cancelled in favor of a low-key press conference, which came and went without fanfare.
The broadcast, which aired on NBC, lasted about sixty minutes - and stuffed in it - were the names of the winners...a task which normally takes about 3 1/2 hours to unveil to start-struck viewers at home.
There were no mad dashes to the podium, awkward moments on stage, or impromptu political speeches about Zionist hoodlums; indeed - not one actor excitedly gushed, as they peed their pants - "You like me. You really like me."
Instead of endless footage of red carpet (ho hum), fleets of luxurious stretch limos purring at the curb, and voluminous shots of stars scanning the landscape - picking their noses - and jockeying for best face-time on-camera...the nominees were read out in rapid-fire procession with the award-winners announced before the dust had the opportunity to settle.
Ah, but didn't we miss the suspense - the adrenalin rush - of it all?
But, the format did have its plusses.
Producers were able to offer up clips of the nominees, toss in some background color - and ultimately - tantalize us with teasers just before commercial break...without those pesky, scene-stealing celebrities, getting in harm's way.
Of course, we were forced to put up with bothersome Television Hosts - like Billy Bush of "Access Hollywood" - who was having a bad hair day. And, struggle through fluffy commentary by self-described "insider experts" in the show biz arena. Most of the time, their predictions were off the mark, go figure!
NBC cleverly used the occasion to herd viewers to their web site, NBC.COM. Fans, and armchair critics alike, were offered the opportunity to vote on their favs before the vote-counts were broadcast later in the program.
The idea was a novel, fun one; obviously meant to sooth and entertain an audience that must have been a bit testy about the awards-show cancellation, and subsequent, non-glitzy turn-of-events.
You know what they say; necessity is the motherhood of invention.
When it came to the prize-getters, there were a number of upsets, and welcome surprises.
I, for one, was rooting for Marion Cotillard, who starred in the feature film "La Vie En Rose". Her best actress win in the Musical film category is a good sign for the upcoming Oscar run. For those unfamiliar with the film, or Ms. Cotillard's performance, check out my review. (Post, La Vie En Rose, 9/5/07)
Johnny Depp broke a curse that has been swirling around him for the past decade; after losing a bid six times, "Sweeney Todd" proved to be a lucky charm which nabbed him the pretty little Golden Statuette.
Many were overwhelmed by Tina Fey's win. The writer and creator of 30 Rock was not expecting a nomination (or a Golden Globe) in the category of Best Actress in a comedy, but that's the way it turned out for the talented young woman.
Some speculated that David Duchovney's win for "Californication" was a carry-over from the "X-Files" days, when the Foreign Correspondents previously gave an approving nod.
Julie Christie - who gave a remarkable performance in a drama shot in Canada (Away From Her) - won, after a drought of thirty years. The last time she was nominated was for "Shampoo", when she was being squired around by the film's star, Warren Beatty.
Julian Schnabel - an illustrious artist of note - won for Best Director for "The Diving Bell & the Butterfly"...his first time out at directing.
Though some thought "No country for Old Men" (quite overrated, and a flawed film, in my estimation) might rustle up an award, "Attonement" ended up scooping the prize to the surprise of many.
Cate Blanchett - who played the role of "Bob Dylan" in the intriguing biographical film - "I'm not There" - received the award for Best Actress.
Once again, the Foreign Correspondents confirmed, they have little prejudice against those who cross gender lines.
In fact, judging by the outcome of the Golden Globes this year, it is quite evident that the Foreign Correspondents no longer go for the favorites, but on occasion, champion the long shot.
Not surprising, since the honor should be based on talent, not popularity.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Over the weekend, Hillary Clinton spun a couple of tales, obviously designed to touch the middle class, with the ultimate aim of bringing some new blood into the Democratic fold.
In one instance, she harkened back to the oil crisis of the early 70's.
"Do you remember those days?" she cried out angrily to the throngs in her midst.
She proceeded to note that she recalled sitting in a gas line at 5 a.m. in the morning, in her crummy old car, waiting to fill 'er up.
Frankly, I can't imagine Hillary ever owning a "clunker", can you? Was this just a tale concocted to give the impression that she's just like you and me - "suffering the same hardships that the common Joe does, daily?"
Another yarn was more troubling...
In support of her arguments on financial issues, she proceeded to accuse mortgage lenders of engaging in business conduct that was not only deceitful but downright dishonest. A case in point...she alleged that documents were often drafted so they were difficult for the common person to comprehend...and rife with "ifs, ands, and buts" - which made it tough for Joe Public to determine the extent of their obligations(s).
In what appeared to be a calculated moment, Hillary posed the question to the packed house, which was all ears, "Do you read the fine print?"
In response to her own query, she alleged, "I don't."
Ooops, maybe it was just a case of diarrhea of the mouth, do you think?
I mean, it stretches one's credulity to think that a woman with a background in law would not go over an important legal document with a fine tooth comb.
Or, was that pronouncement just a fib - offered up to humanize herself - in the eyes of the voter, with the ultimate aim of landing votes?
If not, then as a Presidential hopeful, Mrs. Clinton is a scary proposition.
Who knows, in view of her candid disclosure, she just might sell America down the river - with a mere stroke of the pen - none-the-wiser!
Once again the battle rages over the right of Federal Power to supersede State authority.
Recently, George W. Bush signed an energy bill approving emissions controls at a level deemed appropriate to the administration, thereby opening up the door for the EPA to deny a waiver Governor Schwarzenegger sought for the State of California in order to pursue a stepped-up plan for tighter restrictions in the Golden State.
Insisting he takes the issue of global warming very seriously, President Bush backed the EPA'S rejection of the Governor's bid to enact his own set of standards here on the West Coast.
In fact, Bush argued that the energy bill he signed into law was a more effective National strategy and reduced the need for individual state regulations.
I understand the necessity of a Uniform Federal Standard - after all - willy-nilly controls here and there across the Nation are likely to cause confusion. Ultimately, a patchwork of regulations around the United States appears to be impractical at first glance.
But, what is wrong with a heightened pursuit of emission-control action in an overly populated State like California, where factors dictate higher standards may be required - let's say - than in Montana?
None, in my estimation.
So, why was the waiver denied, in all reality?
Schwarzenegger alleges that the State of California met all the criteria for the waiver to be granted and insists that the EPA stalled and delayed deliberately until Bush signed the Energy Bill into Law so they would have grounds to reject his waiver.
For the aforementioned reasons, California has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government (EPA) for relief.
On January 10th, a panel of outraged State and environmental leaders met to thoroughly examine why the Federal Government was hell-bent on denying California and sixteen other states the right to regulate their own emissions from cars, trucks, and SUV's.
In my view, the answer is painfully obvious.
The automakers are not ready to take responsibility yet or implement the emission control changes people are crying out for; essentially, Detroit has been stalling because they need more time.
If the truth be known, lobbyists for the auto industry are pulling the strings behind the scenes and are capable of doing so because they have a handful of powerful politicians in their pockets and at their beck and call.
It's no mystery to me as to what transpires in the corridors of power in Washington, D.C.