Adventures in China: A Photographic Essay, Part I

During the last nine days of July, 2015, my girlfriend Nina and I went on our first “an adventure of lifetime” trip to China. Now that her kids are grown up and out of the house, and we both near fifty years of age, it’s time for both of us to truly enjoy our lives.

Last year, we set out to go on as many “adventures of a lifetime” as possible. Since we both have previously traveled to parts of Europe and throughout the Americas, we decided to go somewhere exotic, somewhere completely foreign to us.

After watching a PBS Nova program on the Terracotta Warriors a few years back, I knew I would have to go see them for myself one day. And so, China seemed like an obvious first choice my big adventure. Nina easily agreed. And so our adventure began.

The following is a photographic essay of our travels.  In Part I, I will cover a couple major attractions in the nation’s capital, Beijing. I’ll also share some of the wonders of Beijing evening street life. In Part II, I will take you with me to see the Terracotta Warriors and visit a few temples and parks.  I hope this collection of pictures will help readers appreciate the great beauty offered by a nation that often seems so foreign to most Americans…like myself.

(Nina and I on the Great Wall)

Ever wonder what it would be like to wander the streets of the Forbidden City? Built in 1420 by the Ming dynasty, this place in nearly unimaginable. Within the walls there are 980 buildings covering 180 acres. Construction of the city took 14 years and more than one million workers. An entire day can easily sweep by without seeing all the buildings, let alone what is inside them.

(Just inside the main Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City)
One of the first things a visitor will notice about the Forbidden City are the seemingly endless large courtyards throughout the city. There are actually three main courts and at least six smaller flanking courts.
For nearly 500 years, the Forbidden City served as the emperor’s home and was the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government.
Touching the dragon is believed to bring good fortunes in the coming year.
One interesting and curious feature of the imperial garden within the Forbidden City is the large and small rock formations and statues. Caves are carved into some. Accessible by stairs carved into the rock, a small temple sits atop one such rock formation.

Tall walls divide parts of the city to keep visitors, government officials, family, eunuchs, and concubines apart.
The Northwest corner tower with moat.

One thing universal, no matter where you travel, parents want pictures of their children.

Just outside the walls of the Forbidden City are the buildings representing the new center of political power. Tiananmen Square. The towering walls of the Forbidden City on the north side of the square, the Great Hall of People, the National Museum of China, and the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall tower around the massive square (the fourth largest public square in the world). Huge monuments to the “heroes of the (1949) revolution” are located near Mao’s mausoleum.

Across from the square, the Chinese army stand guard and raise the flag in front of the out wall of the Forbidden City.

The Great Hall of People is primarily used legislative and ceremonial activities by the Communist Party of China. The Chinese parliament, or the National People’s Congress, uses this building when in full session.  The Great Hall is also used for special political events, anniversaries, and memorial services.


The Monument of the People’s Heroes located nearly in the center of the square.

The National Museum of China. The museum is said to house a collection of art, “covering Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty), has a permanent collection of 1,050,000 items,[5] with many precious and rare artifacts not to be found in museums anywhere else in China or the rest of the world.” I missed touring the museum this time, however, next time I’m in Beijing, I plan on going inside.
Sporting an Expats Post t-shirt, I pose in front of Mao’s Mausoleum. Undoubtedly the main event at Tiananmen Square.  Extremely long lines formed in front of the building over an hour before it opened and continued throughout the day. Inside, two lines four people wide moved quickly past the crystal coffin contained their beloved Chairman Mao Zedong’s embalmed corpse. Nina and I decided to skip that tour.

Perhaps our visit to China was not during the most apropos time of the year.  Spring and fall are commonly considered the best times of the year. While we were there, we learned the months of July and August are commonly called “The Great Heat”.

In the evening, the Chinese people come out in mass. As the temperatures cool, street vendors open up their carts and kiosks for business as pedestrians, rickshaws, and electric motorbikes crowd up the streets and narrow alley ways.

One evening, Nina and I explored an alleyway off Dongdan Dong street. The Dongdan district is very affluent and would feel very familiar to most western tourists. However, one peak into the an alleyway and a whole new world opens up.
Common street food included deep fried snakes, grasshoppers, rats, and scorpions served on wooden skewers.


One evening, we stumbled on a bit of street theater.

Along with her floating moves, this performer entertained us with mesmerizing and somewhat haunting vocals


Sweetened bean curd on Chinese bread.


Muslim food vendors offering meat skewers and pounding out taffy.

Lakeside strolls in the Xicheng district in Beijing.

Rickshaw rides around the lakes.

Commercial shops in the Quinman district.

Qianman district, across from the Front Gate of Tiananman Square.

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Switchbacks and Bitch

We climbed on down to the beach,

With backpacks full of facts.

We realized we were mortals,

Having combat with our friends.

We slogged up lofty mountains.

Taking photos of the flowers and roads.

Persisting thought switchbacks and bitch,

With very little water.

And all along the way we talked.

We let each other know about,

The basic facts of our own lives,

And what made each other whole.

And at this point there is no disagreement,

”So, what the hell, let’s go”.

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There is Nothing Wrong with Falling in Love

There is nothing wrong with falling in love.

Especially if you have failed before.

I can tell you this with experience.

I have failed and failed yet came back.

I have seen my house flooded and ruined.

Have seen the boards warp and rot.

I have seen the doors fall off,

And I can tell you this, There is nothing like,

Having the earth fall out from under you,

And know that it will all be right.

I have seen my teeth fall out,

And have slept in a van, I kid you not…

And the only thing I have learned in life,

Is that there is nothing wrong with falling in love.

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Sonoma’s Homeless

Last winter the river rose,

so high it took out homes.

Now this dying river is so low,

it’s literally as dry as a bone.

We have nowhere to go.

We have seen highs and lows,

and found ourselves in,

a place of continuous nos.

We have watched the sunset,

and sunrise too.

Yet we still find ourselves sick,

lonely, and sad in flooded homes,

with Christmas ruined. Wondering,

who cares if the sun rises or sets?

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I Have Failed in Love

I have failed in love.

I have been the rain pouring,

on a sunny day.

I have failed at writing haikus, senryus, and sonnets.

I have fallen on my face a thousand times before sunrise,

knocked out my teeth, broke my nose, and blackened my eyes.

I can no longer see. I am blind,

and have only myself to blame.

I have learned nothing and continue to fail in love.

And yet I still try.

I still find a way to love,

this dying flower.

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Can You Walk With Me?

Can you walk with me along the trail?

I just need a moment of your time.

We have withered and waned like reeds,

And yet somehow found each other again.

I know what it is like to go it alone,

I’ve listen to all the D.J’s, evangelists, and hipsters,

That tell me it’s transcendental to be me,

And alone in me and alone and alone.

I’ve heard this song before and I can tell you,

Sometimes the river forms a woman’s contour,

And vertical cliffs become horizontal.

When you decide to sit down and listen,

To the swishing of the ocean or your heart,

You will find there is nothing new in love but you.

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It’s As If

It’s as if I never asked for

but never not asked for

at the same time and then realized

I was only rethinking

the same thing I thought

before I was able to think

and verbalize the thinking

and confusing thoughts that

made me ask about the

thought about if I were to

love the person I hold hands with?

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I Saw You

I saw you text messaging,

while applying eyeliner,

and nipping off a split of wine,

while hot rodding,

down River Road,

to find your destiny.

Don’t look back girl!

There’s nothing there for you.

Everything we leave behind,

is worth leaving.

I spent a few drunk years,

hold up in Atlanta, Georgia.

I hated every minute of it.

Except for fucking the drunk,

girls that applied eyeliner,

while driving down Peachtree Street,

at midnight while lip syncing punk music.

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News Flash: Opposing Israeli Policies is Not the Same as Opposing God

shrinking_map_palestine_two_state_solution1

This week, Republican extremist Dr. Laurie Roth wrote on the right-wing blog site Barbwire.com, “Anyone or anything connected with the God of the Holy Bible will be attacked and bypassed by Obama and his progressive robots…Obama is most certainly against Netanyahu because he represents the Jews and Israel and won’t be intimidated into giving away more land…”

News Flash: Opposing Netanyahu and Israeli policies is not the same as opposing Jews, Israel, the Holy Bible, or God. Since when did unquestioning loyalty to a foreign government become patriotic or righteous?  And what land has Israel given away? Above is a map that shows how Israel’s illegal settlements have been systematically stealing land from the Palestinians.

Pro-Israeli propagandist have long pushed these myths in a few different variations. The most common attack by the right-wingers is just to claim that those that opposed to Israeli policies are opposing the God and Jews and therefore anti-Semitic.

Jewish Israeli scholar Norman Finkelstein’s book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, documents the pro-Israeli right-wing extremist campaign to redefine the word “anti-Semitism” in a way that would label anyone that disagreed with them as an unholy bigot. Finkelstein writes, “Practically, this meant pinning the epithet “anti-semitic” on domestic challenges to Jewish class privilege and political power as well as on global challenges to Israeli hegemony.”

From a humanitarian and human rights perspective, there is plenty of reasons to oppose the Israeli governments settlement policies. First, there is the obvious and well known fact that the Israeli settlements are illegal Israeli settlements are illegal and in violation of international law. Second, accord to U.N. reports on settler violence that monitor the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Israeli settlers have indiscriminately attack Palestinians and their property on a daily bases.  And the situation is only getting worse.

The United Nations Human Rights Office of High Commission writes, “Comparing figures recorded during the same period (January to August) in previous years, since 2009, the number of settler-related incidents resulting in casualties has more than doubled, and the number of casualties caused by settlers has increased by 30%; whilst the number of settler-related incidents resulting in property damage has more than tripled, and the number of trees destroyed or damaged has increased almost four-fold.”

Other reasons to oppose Israel’s settlement policies would be you oppose ethnic cleansing, collective punishment, and a long list of other  crimes against humanity. Why would God want you to support such horrific acts?

Palestinian+Sunset

In reality, it is simply flat out lie to suggest opposing Israel’s right-wing extremist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s human rights violations is in any way anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, or anti-God. Just ask your American Jewish friends if they unconditionally support Israel and Netanyahu. If you think they all love Netanyahu and support Israel’s illegal settlements you might be surprised at the polling data.

According to prominent Israeli newspaper  Haaretz, “American Jews overwhelmingly reject settlements; Netanyahu’s government aggressively promotes settlement expansion. Even during the last round of talks with the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu refused to halt or curtail settlement expansion, consistently humiliating American mediators…American Jews are serious about giving diplomacy with Iran a chance; Netanyahu has consistently denigrated the Iran talks and seems determined to prevent and undermine any deal that Iran might accept…Most crucially, American Jews overwhelmingly favor a two-state solution; Netanyahu has made it clear that he is unwilling to make the necessary compromises to bring it about…”

New Flash: You can oppose Israel’s illegal and immoral settlement policies and still support Israel’s right to exist within it’s legal borders. You can love God, advocate for human rights, support the rule of law, and still oppose Netanyahu’s war mongering and creeping campaign to wipe the Palestinians off the map.

To learn more and to take action consider joining the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

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News Flash: They are Still Calling it Global Warming

Temperature_Composite_500

I often enjoy sparring with my political adversaries on social media sites. It can be a fun way to pass the time while developing story ideas. I like reading and listening to the opinions of people I disagree with. I want to know their talking points.

Most folks might think I’m crazy to debate right-wingers who seem to have a complete disconnect from reality. But, I think it is important to try to understand, or at least know, what Teabaggers, Libertarians, and religious ideologues believe.

Today I start a new series I’m calling “News Flash”. The idea behind this series is to explain, in a brief article, why a right-wing (and sometimes left-wing) talking points are wrong and provide my readers with links that will help them counter the extremist propaganda or their friends and family.

Today’s talking point is one I have read and heard recently a lot.  In fact, a  couple days ago, I heard Senator Ted Cruz spew out this easily debunked myth. In an interview on the Seth Meyers show, Cruz asks, “you remember how it used to be called global warming, and then magically the theory changed to climate change?

I’ve read and heard this falsehood no less than a dozen times list year on different social media and right-wing media sites and the fact they are all wrong. Scientists, environmentalists, and science writers are not “no longer using the words global warming”, as one friend of mine put it. That is simply not true.

Here is a link to a site called Skepticalscience.com. This site is managed by a large team of scientists from around the world. They have put together a list of 178 (and growing) global warming denier myths. Scroll down to number 88 and you will find climate myth labeled “They changed the name from ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change”.

Here is a link to climate myth number 88. Now here is a quote that gets down to the basic facts:

“The argument “they changed the name” suggests that the term ‘global warming’ was previously the norm, and the widespread use of the term ‘climate change’ is now.  However, this is simply untrue.  For example, a seminal climate science work is Gilbert Plass’ 1956 study ‘The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change (which coincidentally estimated the climate sensitivity to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide at 3.6°C, not far off from today’s widely accepted most likely value of 3°C).  Barrett and Gast published a letter in Science in 1971 entitled simply ‘Climate Change’.  The journal ‘Climatic Change’was created in 1977 (and is still published today).  The IPCC was formed in 1988, and of course the ‘CC’ is ‘climate change’, not ‘global warming’.  There are many, many other examples of the use of the term ‘climate change’ many decades ago.  There is nothing new whatsoever about the usage of the term.

In fact, according to Google Books, the usage of both terms in books published in the United States has increased at similar rates over the past 40 years. And a Google Scholar search reveals that the term ‘climate change’ was in use before the term ‘global warming’, and has always been the more commonly-used term in scientific literature.”

CCvGW.bmp

But if, like Senator Cruz, your friends believe there is not enough science or not an agreement that global warming is man made you may consider directing them to this article at Weather.com.

The article reports on a study by James Powell, a retired geology professor who served on the National Science Board, appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Powell searched the internet using Web of Science virtually every peer-reviewed scientific literature using the terms “global warming” and “climate change”.

Powell conducted the search using the Web of Science, an online database of the peer-reviewed scientific literature on virtually any topic. Plugging in terms like “global warming” and “global climate change,” he first searched all the way back to 1991.

According to the article, “The tally for that search: Nearly 14,000 papers that supported human causes behind global warming (chiefly from burning fossil fuels over the past century), and just 24 that rejected human causes.”

Powell stated in a weather.com interview, “If scientists allegedly disagree about it … then we should find the evidence for it in the peer-reviewed literature,” he explained. “It’s a little bit like what people say in a courtroom: You can say anything that you can get away with, but when it comes right down to it what really counts is the evidence.”

News Flash to Global Warming Deniers:  “They” are still calling it “global warming” and “climate change”. In fact, the term “climate change” came first. Additionally, an overwhelming science and peer-reviewed scientific literature agree the planet is still warming and collectively we are all at fault.

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