The Pornographic Gaze, Smartphones, and Virtual Experience

[UPDATE 8/10/2017] This post has drawn a great deal of attention. It seems that recording things with our cellphones is not only something we all do but also something we all feel ambivalent about at times. I almost didn’t upload this post because I was afraid it would be read in black and white. I was concerned that I hadn’t succeeded in presenting a sufficiently nuanced view. Reading the responses I received–even though they were all positive–I felt sure I had failed 🙂. Continue reading

Slowly, slowly …

Twenty or so years ago, during my first stay in Chengdu, I and three friends sat in on a Chinese landscape painting (shanshuihua 山水画) class at the university where we taught English. The teacher’s method was to paint a scene at the front of the class, discussing what he was doing as he did it, while we all attempted to copy it. When he had finished, he would walk around the room looking at everyone’s work and making suggestions for its improvement. Until he reached me. Then he would look at my painting, chuckle deep in his throat, pat me on the shoulder, and, saying “Slowly, slowly …,” walk on to the next student. Continue reading

Kurt Vonnegut on just about Everything

I am writing a post today on Kurt Vonnegut for no particular reason. There are other posts I could work on that would be far more in keeping with the overall theme of this blog, but this is what I feel like writing today. One of the nice things about a blog is that you can write anything you want and publish it. There’s no guarantee anyone will ever read it, but that holds true for books as well. Continue reading

Spring, the Limits of Expression, and the Men who Won’t Fit In

IMG_1745How’s that for a title? Spring has been steadily growing here, and as I sat outside one warm evening, it occurred to me that there are definite limits to how much of my experience I can communicate in this blog. I add audio recordings to this blog to help fill in some of the details that photos can’t capture (and I’m going to post a video soon!), but there’s no way I can capture the soft, moist touch of a warm spring breeze blowing through the trees of a park at night. I suppose I could record the sound it makes, but even that would be difficult–it’s too quiet, too subtle–and without the accompanying feelings of the gentle night-warmth and the soothing way the wind brushes across your skin, it just wouldn’t be the same. Continue reading