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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Literature, mystery, Tibet and Buddhism...

As things unfold around the current crisis in Tibet, I realize that my most in-depth knowledge of the situation there comes not from news or research, but from reading one of my favourite fiction series - the Inspector Shan series by Elliot Pattison. This series of mysteries takes place in modern Tibet. In addition to being great page-turners, they are set against a brilliant backdrop of the Tibetan landscape, Buddhism, and the Chinese occupation. (Oh yes, and I believe the first Pattison book I read was a gift from Susan!)

The Books

Here's a brief overview of The Skull Mantra, the first in the series:

When a headless corpse is found on a remote Tibetan mountainside, veteran inspector Shan Tao Yun is the perfect candidate to solve the crime--except he's been stripped of rank and imprisoned in the gulag for offending the Party in Beijing. Desperate to close the case before the arrival of high-profile American tourists, the district commander grants Shan a temporary release. The embittered but brilliant Shan soon discovers the victim was notorious for persecuting Tibetan priests.

When Party officials try to thwart Shan's investigation by arresting an innocent monk, Shan is thrown into a maelstrom of political and religious intrigue. His search for justice takes him from an American mining project in Tibet to a secret, illegal monastary. Gradually, Shan exposes a massive crime machine that can only be stopped with the help of an unlikely alliance of Americans, aged monks, and even a sorcerer. This is a novel of great hope and great tragedy, of incredible greed and stalwart selflessness, and of the tremendous gulf between those who live for enlightenment and those who live for power.

The Author

Elliot Pattison is one cool guy. He's been to Tibet many times and done his research too. More importantly, here is some of his response to "Why Tibet?"

"Conveying the realities of modern Tibet and the drama of Tibetan resistance in all its many aspects is as important to me as creating a spellbinding mystery. Of all the labels that are applied to me, I wear none more proudly than that of being part of the Tibetan resistance. My sentiments run deep:

-I write about Tibet not because I am a Buddhist but because I am not a Buddhist, because the ultimate treasures of Tibet are ones that transcend religion or philosophy, lessons that the rest of the world needs desperately to learn. Converting to the cause of Tibet does not mean a conversion to Buddhism, it means a conversion to compassion, self-awareness, human rights and political equality.

-I write about Tibet to give those who do not have the opportunity to travel there to understand what it feels like to witness an armed policeman assault a praying monk.

-I write about Tibet because in a war between an army of monks bearing prayer beads and an army of soldiers bearing machine guns I will side with the monks every time.

-I write about Tibet because of the despair and shame I feel over what prior generations did to the American Indians and many other original peoples. I know that though the same thing is happening in Tibet, this is our generation, it is happening on our watch, and I don’t want my descendants shamed by what you and I allowed to happen there.

-I write about Tibet because there is no purer symbol on earth of the struggle of soulless bureaucracy and sterile global economic forces versus tradition, spirituality, and ethnic identity.

-I write about Tibet because the world below is starved for heroes and saints and there are so many unsung ones living on the roof of the world.

-I write about Tibet because I can hear more in one hour beside a silent monk than in a hundred hours listening to Western media.

-I write about Tibet because in it lies the seeds of the antidote for the troubled world we have created.

-I write about Tibet because Tibet is a monk sitting in front of a steamroller, and if enough people around the world sit with him we can stop the steamroller.

The ultimate credo of the ideologue who commanded the invasion of Tibet was that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. In this as in so many other aspects Tibet has shown us a new truth -- for Tibetan resistance has proven the opposite."

Eliot Pattison

Just Ask

I have four of his books and am happy to put one in the mail if you ask.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Barack Obama - a speech that will be remembered...

As you probably know, Barack Obama spoke in Philadelphia on March 18, in response to the furor over clips of Reverend Wright, his pastor, speaking in extreme terms. If you have about half an hour to spare, here is the speech, which ranges far beyond that specific issue.

Whether Barack Obama wins the Democratic race and the Presidency is yet to be seen (I hope he does), but whatever happens, his is a voice of unity that is sorely needed... and not just in America.

According to Gary, of Withinsight,"This is perhaps the most honest, articulate and insightful speech by a leader on race in America in this modern era."

(You can find shorter clips on youtube if you want to.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A little relief from New Zealand...

The Flight of the Conchords are Bret and Jamaine, a New Zealand mock folk duo who perform shows (in real life, if you can call it that), and have an HBO TV series, about the hapless band's life in New York, with the support of their always-positive manager Murray, who sneaks this work into his job at the NZ Embassy. I watch it on DVD - it's different!

Every episode includes one or two spontaneous musical number. Here's one:

And in case you need more, here are the guys performing their very sexy Businesstime live.

Crazy? Funny? Stupid?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A personal boycott of the Olympics?

Protesters demonstrate against the Olympic Games in Beijing in front of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, March 18, 2008.

In recent days, China cracked down on protesters in Tibet with its well-oiled vicious machine of military might, coercion and double talk.

The Lhasa protests, led by Buddhist monks, began peacefully March 10, the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. Tibet had been effectively independent for decades before Chinese communist troops imposed Beijing's control in 1950.

The demonstrations took a violent turn Friday, leaving 16 people dead and dozens injured, according to the Chinese government. The Dalai Lama's government-in-exile in India contends 80 Tibetans died.

Anyone who looks into the history of Tibet and China will know that thousands have died over the years as China works to cultural genocide - a watered down, state run version of Tibetan Buddhism and culture ... at best.

The slightest rumor of an Olympic boycott is enough to drive the Chinese crazy these days. I don't know if any nation will choose to boycott this summer, as most are rushing to quell the 'boycott waters'. But I am going to. I won't be watching any Olympic games in 2008.

Here is a link to an Amnesty International (Canada) action you can take if interested.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Of governors and escorts...

This poem was in the Globe and Mail, our national paper, on Saturday. What do you think? (For foreign visitors, the governor of New York resigned last week after he was 'busted' for having an ongoing relationship with a high-priced escort. He was a law and order Mr. Integrity kind of wonk.)

The Politician's Wife
- by John Allemang

Why do you stand there at his side

And mutely stare past one who lied

His life away so he could screw

A girl, the world, but mostly you?

I'd like to think you've made some deal

So none of this would seem too real -

"The rich are not like you and me" -

A rule like that, which sets you free

From all those painful moral qualms

The mess up ordinary moms

Who don't know virtue's just a pose,

And what men crave are high-priced ho's.

Which isn't true: A life of trust

Means more than some implanted bust,

And pleasure that's procured in stealth.
But then I lack your husband's wealth,

And much prefer to moralize

Than look into your vacant eyes,

And try to figure what to say

When you're content to stare, and stay.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Flowers and dreadlocks...

I'm still working too much, including this weekend. I'll reward myself by taking a month off this summer (at least). So I'm not as bloggy as usual. Consulting work is a little like farming and this is my harvest season. I like to think of my flipcharts, markers and laptop as the tractor, plow and barn. (Okay that's pretty corny - just made it up.)

Winter is slipping away outside my room, as the ground softens, and little things begin to sprout, bud and emerge, like these snowdrops. (click to enlarge)

I love my son's hair - what do you think? I warn him that he should enjoy it while he can, as genetics will likely lead to my look. Last night, he and his current band performed at a local show. He's cool (so was the music).

Monday, March 10, 2008

President (Lame Duck) Bush vetoes anti-torture law

Don't let him do this. He's a smug, mean, ignorant, superstitious person and it would be great to send him packing this year by respecting human rights. Turn America around. Not that I have an opinion.

Go here to find out what you can do, especially if you're a US citizen.
I'm still on the road, but needed to purge this to contine...
I'll feel better after a double espresso and a (careful) mountain drive home later today.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Keeping Sarah happy...

This post is dedicated to silver shoes everywhere.

I haven't been blogging much because I've been working hard - too hard I might even say. On the road for 1800 kilometres last week and off again this week in a couple of days. I'm helping the health system figure out the best way to work within the school system and have been meeting with Superintendents, Principals, teachers, counsellors, parents and others to hear what they think. They have a lot to say.

On an unrelated note totally, here are two paintings my daughter did - one very different from the other. Both are fairly large, both in my living room with frames now. (Click to see larger.)

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