I am under a fairly heavey assault of comment spam, so I am limiting comments for a while. For those interested in commenting, please keep an eye at the end of any particular comment stream on a post to see if the comment box is up. I have to be a bit evasive, because this attack has been rather large and time-consuming.
I'm trying out a new blog design... not too original, though the banner is from a photo I took this March in Beijing, inside the Imperial Palace, gu gong....It's the first change of design I have tried since the blog began, in 2005!
I'll be testing out few things - like trying to get youtube embeds to fit within the center column. So, bear with me.
It seems that this blog is once more accessible in the PRC. The recent disruptions in the Great Firewall appear to have resulted in a new opening. I assume this is true for all Typepad blogs. But it would be helpful to know a bit more. So, if you are in the PRC could you leave a comment regarding how you linked to this blog. And are you able to link to other Typepad or other blogs that were previously blocked.
I've been noticing the last couple of days that this site was not getting any hits from the PRC. I can now confirm that Typepad blogs are again blocked in China. Oh well. Maybe the powers that be are nervous that the recent solar eclipse suggests that the Mandate of Heaven is slipping away....
I have been remiss of late; haven't posted anything in almost a week. No real excuse...except that I have gotten into a better writing groove on my book. The endless chapter 5 is just about done. And that's good. But I do need to get some posts up here....
Perhaps my drop off in bloggy productivity is due to the longevity of this humble site. Yesterday was the four year anniversary of The Useless Tree! The second post of that first day explained that blog title, useless tree.. And the very first post, "Beginning a Beginning," was a veiled reference to a passage in Zhuangzi. Since I do not have any deep and profound things to say on this blog birthday, let me simply give you the whole quote from Zhuangzi. It is, I believe, meant to be a parody of the logicians he so loved to bait:
Now, I have something to say about these things. I don't know if it's similar to "this," or if it's dissimilar. But similar and dissimilar are quite similar in the end, so it can't be much different than "that." But be that as it may, let me try to say it:
Being a beginning. Being not yet beginning to be a beginning. Being not yet beginning to be a not yet beginning to be a beginning. Being being. Being nonbeing. Being not yet beginning to be nonbeing. Being not yet beginning to be a not yet beginning to be nonbeing. Then suddenly, being nonbeing. And when it comes to nonbeing, I don't know yet what's being and what's nonbeing. (26)
There now: I've spoken. But I still don't know whether it was being spoken or nonbeing spoken.
It looks like the Net Nanny has decided to unblock connections in China to Typepad blogs. I say this because in the past few days I have noticed the return of un-proxied hits from China. Welcome! I very much enjoy interacting with people in China about the modern uses and expressions of ancient Chinese thought. Let's just hope that Jingjing and Chacha don't change their minds and cut off access again....
I have been a bit remiss on posting for the past week. Work has a way of obstructing blogging at times....
In any event, July 1st marked the third anniversary of The Useless Tree. Let's take a minute to look back at the past year.
My posting fell off a bit. In 2006-2007, I averaged a post a day, as was my intention. In fact, the annual average was 1.02 posts a day. That average fell to .912 for 2007-2008; 1012 posts in 1096 days, not a precipitous drop but a down tick nonetheless. One reason for the decline is international travel: trips to India and Taiwan and Hong Kong, which produced some good posts but reduced the number of posts. But travel (with an especially bad day at the Delhi airport) is not the only reason. It was a bit harder to remain focused every day and find inspiration in the press and on the web. There was some good stuff, at least to my mind. But it took a bit more effort.
I am, nonetheless, undeterred. The blog continues to be a source of enjoyment for me and it does serve a useful purpose as a place to try out some ideas before they find their way into my book (I am still working on chapter five!). Readership, though modest as always, continues to drift upwards. For five of the the past six months (my statistics are not very good) unique visitors were higher than the year before. On a weekly basis, 1200-1300 unique visits are usually made, with the expected decline in the summer. Again, that is a rather small blog audience but a consistent and engaged audience. We have had some spirited exchanges in the comments section during this past year.
I don't like to take too much time blogging about blogging (too meta for me). But here are a couple of highlights from last year, from my perspective at least.
I do not do much bloggy self-reflection on the presence or meaning of this site, not much beyond my anniversary posts. But today a milestone has been reached and should be mentioned. The last post below was the 1000th on this blog. As regular readers know, I have fallen behind in the past few months on my daily posting. Yet even with a bit of slacking off, 1000 seems like something to claim. It has not yet been three years (that will be marked on July 1st), and getting to 1000 today feels like some sort of accomplishment.
For fun, I just went back to the very first post, which briefly describes my interest in starting this blog. Here is one graf that summarizes things:
That interest is linked to my personal
experience. When my son, Aidan, was born profoundly disabled, my world
was turned upside down. I wrote a book about it: Aidan's Way,
in which I call upon Taoist philosophy (the Tao Te Ching and Chuang
Tzu) to understand the meaning of his life. I am very much aware of
the danger of descending into vacuous, new age-y, orientalist cant -
and I try to keep it straight. My purpose is not to reveal the
"mysteries of the East" to confused Western moderns. Rather, I think
that the classic texts can be taken seriously and, with obvious
recognition of vastly different historical circumstances, applied to questions of our day. That is what I will try to do here, for the most
I will let you determine the extent to which I have succeeded in avoiding "vacuous, new-agey ,orientalist cant..." But it is right and proper that I remember Aidan, who inspires me in so many ways. The various posts I have written about him over the years can be found here.
This morning I noticed a number of hits from the PRC. Since this site was blocked a couple of months ago, only one intrepid soul has gotten through regularly from China without using an anonymous proxy (I love Guangzhou! Indomitable.) Today, by contrast, in the past hour or so, there have been six different identifiable visitors from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Dongguan. It looks from here that the Typepad block may have been lifted. Is this the case for anyone else out there?
UPDATE: Just noticed that Danwei confirms the unblocking of Typepad blogs in China, The Useless Tree included.
As you might have noticed, posting has fallen off a bit. That is because I am now sitting in the library in Edgartown, Massachusetts, a marvelous little place on Martha's Vineyard. We have come down here for a few days for sun and beach and fish. In anticipation of the trip, I pre-posted the few poems you see below. And thanks to Nick Wong for posting the original of the Li Po in the comments.
Not much to report, except that the surf at South Beach was quite strong yesterday. Today is rainy - thus the trek to the library. Oh, and I am happy to see that the I Ching seems to be correct once again! As I sit here, the Yankees are now only five games out of the AL East race. Got to love that I Ching!