May 30, 2008

Discovering Ming philosophy: Vegetable Roots Discourse

Posted in Books tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:04 pm by myrlinn

I came across Vegetable Roots Discourse: Wisdom from Ming China on Life and Living (CAIGENTAN) by Hong Zicheng (translated by Robert Aitken and Daniel W.Y. Kwok) at a book fair recently. Vegetable Roots Discourse… that sold the book to me, one of the few times I got a book on the basis of the title.

According to the blurb, this book was written 400 years ago, by a scholar in the Ming Dynasty named Hong Zicheng (also known as Hong Ying Ming); and draws on Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian thought.

The Asiawind Art Gallery site explains the title of the book thus: Vegetable roots (Cai-Gen in Chinese) are the basis for nutrition for the plant, yet the texture and taste of vegetable roots are usually unpalatable. So are the quotations in the book. They are the fundamental principles of life, quite tough to live by.”

[Note: The Asiawind Art Gallery site has some other interesting material on the Caigentan, including pictures of the newer Chinese and Japanese editions, and even selected pages of the book. Definitely worth exploring.]

What I find lacking in the version of the book I have is that it doesn’t include the original illustrations. Still, I do appreciate having a good English translation, and I like it that they included the Chinese text for those who can read the language.

I haven’t read it all, of course, but some of the homilies are rather quaint, like this one:

Offer rustic elders fat chicken and plain wine, and they beam with happiness. Tell them about sumptuous feasts, and they show no comprehension. Offer such people short jackets and hand-me-downs, and they grin with pleasure. Ask them whether they want embroidered robes, and they seem befuddled. Their nature is full, therefore their desires are minimal. This is how life ought to be. (Book II, 102: p108 of Vegetable Roots Discourse)

I say quaint because the writer has a rather pastoral/idealistic view of those living in rural areas. I really don’t think the “desires are minimal”. It’s just that they haven’t conceived yet of what there is out there for them to desire.

May 29, 2008

Clay Aiken: Article in Today (Singapore) newspaper, May 29, 2008

Posted in Music tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:51 pm by myrlinn

Anyone see the article on Clay in today’s TODAY (Singapore)?

Clay Interview in Today, May 29, 2008

What a really good surprise to see this article! Made my day.

When a friend, a Clay fan, told me about it, I had to ask, “Is it a good article?” And when I in turn told another friend (so that she too could go find her own copy), she asked the exact same question.

How sad is it that we have to ask this question of one of the most clean-living celebrities around today!

And Clay addresses that in the interview, joking that: “That’s what’s so great about America,” he said, laughing. “One of our valuable amendments to the Constitution — freedom of the press — is also one of the crappiest. You can write anything you want. You don’t need to have any proof or any truth to what you write.”

Check out the rest of the article at the site:



May 28, 2008

Sharon Stone, and belief in divine justice

Posted in Musings tagged , , , , , at 8:00 pm by myrlinn

This is all over the news today:

Actress Sharon Stone has sparked criticism in China after claiming the recent earthquake could have been the result of bad “karma”. The US star, speaking at the Cannes Film Festival, linked the recent disaster to Beijing’s policy on Tibet. She said: “I thought, ‘Is that karma?’ When you are not nice, bad things happen to you.” (BBC News, 28 May 2008, Anger over star’s quake remarks).

I see lots of commentary already about the inappropriateness and insensitivity of her remarks. And I’m not going to add to those (although I personally believe such a remark is very insensitive, and I wonder if she’s applying the concept of “karma” correctly).

What’s interesting to me is the fact that this is not the first time that someone has attributed a disaster or tragedy to some kind of divine judgment, a punishment as it were.

Is there a divine force which rewards our good deeds and punishes our bad? It’s something that’s definitely comforting to believe in, when we see injustice happening every day around us, and we want to “know” that the people who are hurting others will get their come-uppance somehow.

But I’ve never been able to convince myself of the idea of divine justice or retribution. It seems to me that bad stuff is just part and parcel of the mystery of life, where good doesn’t seem to be able to exist without bad. Disasters involve loss, but it also provides the potential to manifest the positive; for isn’t it in times of tragedy that people are jolted to think beyond themselves to reach out to their fellow human beings; that courage, perseverance, love, compassion, all the better sides of human nature, are seen in sharp relief?

I’m especially wary of the concept of divine justice when applied in the opposite direction, when certain religious organisations try to say that God rewards the faithful in material wealth. I can’t get beyond this: shouldn’t your “reward” be something in the order of inner balance and peace?

Well, as you can see, all I have are questions, and I’m still searching…

Another fantastic live performer — Jason Mraz

Posted in Music tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:38 am by myrlinn

It popped back into my mind yesterday that Jason Mraz has a new CD out:  We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things. In all the excitement over Clay’s CD, I’d quite put that on the backburner.

So, last night, I listened again to my Tonight Not Again: Jason Mraz Live At the Eagle’s Ballroom CD again.

And was reminded again of how absolutely amazing he was when I went to see him what, two, maybe three years ago (haha, very precise, right?) when he performed an acoustic set here in Singapore — at the Mosaic Music Festival.  Before the concert, I already liked his quirky way with lyrics and rhythm, but watching him live underscores that he can really sing as well.

He just stood there with his guitar and sang, and had the entire audience hanging onto every note. I think what it was was that he seemed in thrall with his music, and thus we were enthralled too.

I wonder when he’ll be coming by this way again…


Music Video – “I’m Yours” (Track 2 on We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things)

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