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Mar 19, 2019, Tuesday 4:42:13am PDT

Beauty is but a flower, which wrinkles will devour

A poem by 16th century English playwright Thomas Nashe

I collated a few passages from a longer poem by Thomas Nashe's, "Adieu, farewell, earth's bliss." The poem originally appeared in Nashe's 1592 play, "Summer's Last Will and Testament." The lyrics are spoken by a jester in the court of Henry the VIII named William Sommers who felt himself dying and very depressed as a result, no doubt.

This world uncertain is;
Fond are life's lustful joys;
Death proves them all but toys;
None from his darts can fly.

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade.
All things to end are made.

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen's eye.

Earth but a player’s stage.

Despite the somber tone, there is an underlying beauty in the words. Life is sorrowful in that everything fades and dies, but even in that there is something tragically wonderful in the temporal nature of things.

I heard there is a Japanese word that means, beauty in the ephemeral things. They call it "awa-re." A related word, "shi-bu-hi", means beauty in aging.

To be sure, there is a kind of beauty in everything if only we have the hearts to see.
Feb 25, 2019, Monday 6:13:24pm PST

The Long Train Ride

DPRK/US Hanoi Summit 2019

In chapter thirteen and final chapter of my book, "The Swines: Anecdotes Of A Piggly Family", I use North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un as humorous props to illustrate Sam's struggle with bad hair. But the chapter is really more than a story about a twelve-year-old's battle with ugly locks. At a deeper level, it's about self-identity and the role of the other in shaping it. And still deeper, whether any identity, fixed in time and place, can be achieved at all.

North Korea has long struggled with its own personal identity. For the past century, Korea's geopolitics were shaped largely by everyone except itself. Colonized against its will in 1910 and divided against its will in 1945, the Koreas are perhaps the last remaining vestiges of the Cold War today. Like belly buttons and woolly backs, a divided Korea is an artifact of the past that made little sense then and makes even less sense today.

Both leaders of Korea seem determined to wrest back control of their nations' tied destinies. At a recent meeting with top aids South Korea's President Moon reminded people that Koreans are "masters of their own fate."

"Standing at the center of history, not the periphery, we will take the lead in preparing for a new Korean Peninsula regime," President Moon said. "One that is moving from war and confrontation toward peace and harmony and from factionalism and ideology toward economic prosperity."

A spokesperson for South Korea's Blue House also stated that North Korea and the US could declare an end to the Korean War this week. Although that would fall short of a formal peace treaty (something most establishment politicians and insiders remain against), it would represent a monumental breakthrough and something North Korea has long sought: a formal end to the Korean War and normalization of relations with Washington. While the US loudly demands unilateral disarmament from North Korea, it has remained stingy about reciprocating good-will and trust with Pyongyang.

leaving for hanoi

train map

North Korea's leader's two day plus train ride (approximately 66 hours, according to estimates) from Pyongyang to Hanoi is both a throwback and nod to Kim's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who last visited Vietnam by train in 1958. The armored train departed Saturday and it arrived in Dong Dang, Vietnam, early Tuesday. From there Kim traveled by car to Hanoi (an additional 100 miles) where he was welcomed by top Vietnamese officials with red carpet and official honors.

Little doubt, the train ride was a long and grueling journey. But in the context of Korea's turbulent history, maybe it was closer to a joy ride promising peace and the final chapter to a nation's dark past. If things go as hoped, it could be the ride that begins a new page for North Korea and the Korean people, viz, the end to conflict, war, colonialism and foreign meddling. And the beginning of genuine sovereignty and self-determination for the Korean people, North and South. And eventually, unification.

But cynics and obstructionists abound. Democrats and the usual (pro war) "establishment" suspects in both parties dismiss detente with North Korea. Flanked by hawks (Bolton in particular), Trump appears, however, almost single-handedly determined to forge ahead. He wants to disregard the naysayers, even from US intelligence, and sees good things in store for North Korea if only they disarm.

trump tweet 1

trump tweet 2

hanoi tees peace

Unfortunately, what most Americans and Western media continue to get wrong time and again is that North Korea's primary incentive is not economic but permanent peace inasmuch as the former is impossible without the latter.

North Korea has long sought peace with Washington going back decades but that was routinely ignored because North Korea never had much of a card to play -- until now. For North Korea, its nukes are its "trump cards." Only for assured permanent peace will it ever give it up. So the question remains, is Washington willing to exchange nukes for genuine peace in Korea? That seems to be what both Kim and Trump are hoping for. But Trump is just one man in Washington, not a dictator.
Feb 4, 2019, Monday 8:08:00am PST

Gone with the dogs, in with the swines

Lunar/Chinese New Year 2019, Year of the Pig

As the dog days of 2018 come to a close, the pig makes its official entrance for 2019. The Year of the Pig was last seen twelve years ago in 2008 when the world almost fell apart (again) in the midst of (another) banking crisis. Ironically, 2008 was supposed to be the auspicious year of the Golden Pig. Hospitals across E. Asia prepared for record births in a region plagued with low birth rates.

Maybe 2019 will turn out to be luckier than the last. Every Zodiac year is also accompanied by one of the traditional "five elements" (metal, wood, water, fire and earth). The "earth pig" could prove to be more grounded, humble and equanimous, though some are also calling 2019 the year of the Golden (Yin) Pig as well. The last "earth pig" was 60 years ago in 1959 when Barbie made its debut and Alaska and Hawaii became 49th and 50th states, respectively.

As a matter of symbol, pigs are generally viewed as happy, lucky and a sign of wealth. To be sure, if you're that fat and jolly in the animal kingdom, things must be going really well.

Widely known as Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year (based on a lunisolar calendar) is celebrated across wider E. Asia, including Vietnam (Tết), Singapore, Korea (Seollal), Japan, Mongolia (Tsagaan Sar), Tibet (Losar), China (Spring Festival) and everywhere there's a large Chinese diaspora. With the passing of the first month on the Gregorian calendar and the start of another new year, we're reminded that time is fleeting and beginnings are relative.

The Swine family should be especially thankful this year. Sam is doing well in school with straight A's. And Mom and Dad are both in good health and eating better. To kick off Chinese New Year 2019, the Swines will be guests of honor at a new year event in Bacon County. Dad is happy because there will be plenty of food. And Mom will be beaming in her new beautiful dress as the belle of the ball.

Happy 2019 and Year of the Pig.

The Year of the Pig, 2019, begins February 5th.