Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bucky Lasek pro skater supports a free Tibet

It's cool to see pro skaters with an understanding of the plight of the Tibetan people. His site offers links for a free Tibet. Good Karma indeed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

yet more links from Sunset magazine article

Thanks for the link Glenn Rice

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Yahoo article about Tibet.

I wanted to post this Yahoo article. It was just too good.

China Struggles With Tibetan Buddhism
By STEPHANIE HOO, Associated Press Writer Wed Aug 10, 2:10 PM ET
LHASA, China - There's a new type of pilgrim spinning the prayer wheels at Tibet's holiest sites. Along with the Tibetans who prostrate themselves before the vacant throne of their exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, swarms of Chinese tourists rub crisp Chinese money on their foreheads and then cram the bills into collection boxes.
In matching tour group hats, the Chinese visitors bow at Tibetan shrines, light candles and ring temple bells. Style-conscious young women try the Tibetan look, weaving bright strips of cloth into their black hair.
"This is a mystical place, a bit of heaven on earth," said Tang Wei, a manager at a government-owned software company in Beijing. "Even though it's undeveloped, life here is good. People have their own peace in life and contentment in work."
As for the Dalai Lama, condemned by Beijing as a traitor, "he doesn't sound so bad to me," Tang said.
More than four decades after the Dalai Lama fled Tibet during an unsuccessful revolt against Chinese rule, Beijing's efforts to diminish and discredit him have failed.
Living across the border in India, he is widely known in China and abroad.
"He is far better known than any figure in the Chinese government," said Alison Reynolds, director of the London-based Free Tibet Campaign.
In Tibet itself, where his picture is banned, tourists from Beijing and Shanghai hike the pilgrim routes and turn the metal prayer wheels imprinted with Buddhist scripture and set in rows outside temples. With each spin, they are said to send a prayer to heaven.
It reveals "a spiritual hunger that Chinese have to know more about Buddhism," said Kate Saunders of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet. "I think that's a sign of hope for the future."
The Chinese government deeply distrusts religion as pulling allegiance away from the ruling Communist Party.
It limits the numbers of monks and forces them to attend lessons in communist theory. As many as 200 people are believed to be in prison on charges of undermining China's rule over Tibet, according to the Free Tibet Campaign.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry routinely denounces what it says is a separatist campaign by the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama has said repeatedly he wants not independence for Tibet but more autonomy to protect its unique Buddhist culture.
China has held four rounds of talks with his envoys since 2002, the most recent on June 30 and July 1 in Switzerland, according to officials of his government in exile.
"It's very difficult to say what the top Chinese leadership is thinking," Saunders said.
She suggests that difficulties in stifling Tibetan Buddhism could lead Beijing to bring back the Dalai Lama, since only he would have the moral authority to get Tibetans to adhere to China's formula of limited autonomy.
After all, "Why haven't the Tibetan people resorted to violence?" Saunders said. "The sole factor is the Dalai Lama's leadership."
As long as the 70-year-old leader is alive, Beijing can negotiate with a known quantity. But China's communists also might see the Dalai Lama's popularity as a threat to their monopoly on power.
At the stunning red-and-white Potala Palace that looms over the Tibetan capital, pilgrims fall to their knees and lie flat on their stomachs before the Dalai Lama's empty throne.
They get up, then slide back down, again and again. Sweat forms on their brows. Government security cameras record every move.
A Chinese tour guide explains that these Tibetans are praying to the previous Dalai Lamas and not the current one who lives in India.
It's a clever fiction that doesn't fool anyone.
"We hope he comes back soon," said monk Nyima Tsering, vice chairman of the government-appointment management committee at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.
The Dalai Lama's authority, he said, is "something from history that will never change."
Tibet's god-king, he added, could help forge better relations with Beijing.
"For thousands of years, the Chinese emperors were involved with religion," he said. "What's important is harmony. If there's only economic growth, that's not good."
Even in booming China, it's a message that resonates.
"I'm not a Buddhist, but like most Chinese I understand Buddhist traditions," said Tang, the software company manager.
"Mankind should be imbued with fraternal love," he said. "No matter your nationality, we all want to live happily together under the same blue sky."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

American Brugmansia and Datura Society

I wanted to post this link for the American Brugmansia and Datura Society which is a great resource for plant enthusiasts.
I encourage everyone to visit and for anyone who likes these plants to join to gain access to information but also get access to hard to find varieties that will make your neighbors green with envy.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Tibetan story getting bounced around.

I'm still trying to get this story published. It's amazing to me the Unocal story with all it's political implications gets top billing and Chinese propaganda in a U.S. Museum get's bored looks. It's amazing to me how so many Americans are indifferent to the plight of the Tibetan people.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

More gardening stories... Brugmansia/Angels trumpets

The first time I saw an angels trumpet flower was in the early 1990’s. It was growing over a fence in Berkeley. I stopped my bike and just looked at it for a few minutes because I couldn’t identify it. I pride myself at being pretty good at identifying flowering plants but this creature had me stumped. The way the trumpet shaped flowers hung straight down kept me guessing. I gently held one in my hands and tilted it toward me. There was a mild sweet fragrance. It was the color of orange sherbet. As I looked up the throat I realized it was a nightshade plant. It was in the Solanaceae family of plants. This is the family of plants, which contain tomatoes, potatoes, hot peppers, tobacco, the ornamental flower petunias and roadside weed datura. The Angels trumpet flower itself looks most like a huge datura flower. Anyone who’s ever seen the Georgia O’Keefe painting of the datura blossom associates it with the desert. It stands upright and can be seen easily during a full moon. Angels trumpets, or as they are correctly called Brugmansia, hang straight downwards or at angles and are found in the tropics.
I slowly pedaled away making mental notes to return with the hopes of gathering seeds from these flowers. A few weeks later I returned and the plant was no longer flowering and there were no seedpods to be had. I snipped a cutting and rushed home to put it water with the hopes of it growing roots. I placed it in a vase and figured it would take a week or two to begin rooting. Twenty-four hours later the cutting had begun to swell where the water met the stem and little white bumps had formed where the roots would next grow. I immediately removed the plant from the water, put it a one-gallon pot with soil, watered it well and put it in a shady spot in the garden. Incredibly, less than 72 hours after cutting it from the mother plant, it was becoming erect again. While it did drop a few leaves, it appeared to be adjusting well.
I didn’t find the name of these plants for a while. Back then I couldn’t google common names of plants to find its Latin name as I do now. I heard that The San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing arboretum had some and after searching the grounds, I found a number of huge specimens in the very back of the gardens. I was shocked to see the variety of colors they came in. red, orange, yellow, white, and peach too. There was something else. There were truly large flowers and some, which were quite small. Some were large single flowers and some were double flowers, one inside of another. I also discovered seedpods so I knew they could be grown from seed. I asked about the next plant sale and was told it was a way off so after repeated questioning I was encouraged to volunteer time and perhaps this could be a shortcut to obtaining seeds. I met a worker named Don Mahoney. He ended up answering many of my questions about these plants. The first question I had was why do they hang down when a related plant, datura stood straight up? He explained Brugmansia are tropical plants from areas of heavy rainfall. Any flowers pointing straight up would quickly be flooded. This behavior can also be seen in Abutilons or as they are commonly called, Chinese lanterns. They hang down but other plants in the mallow family, which they are from, stand upright.
I began to spend a few hours each weekend at the botanical garden and I was able to buy cuttings of each of the varieties. Most grew well but I discovered that the smaller flowered ones, Brugmansia sanguinea and Brugmansia vulcanicola were quite temperamental. I learned the hard way not to place them in full sun. Unlike most members of the Solanaceae, they are not necessarily sun lovers. Brugmansia like rich well composted soil. I use tomato fertilizer occasionally to give them a kick-start and I try to make sure they have ample organic matter around their roots.
I have had some success cross pollinating different Brugmansia and until I purchased the book,” Angels trumpets” by Ulrike and Hans-Georg Preissel at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens bookstore, it was hit or miss. When a cross is successful seedpods of different shapes appear. Some are quite round and others are elongated. The seeds have a cork like texture and are shaped like little puzzle pieces inside the seedpod. The seeds readily germinate in warm moist locations. It seems that because the plants are so easy to propagate by cuttings, the majority of varieties in the bay area are the same. After searching online, I discovered Germany has quite a few new hybrids available in a dizzying array of colors and shapes.
One thing I discovered is these plants especially the single flowered ones look stunning with lights pointing upward at their base. The flowers glow in the evening. My favorite is Charles Grimaldi. I set some lights at the base and pointed them upwards and the flowers catch the light and look like paper lanterns with candles inside. I remember how impressed the neighborhood was by this display as everyone stopped by to look at this spectacle.
People who grow Brugmansia should know all parts of the plants are poisonous and people with small children should be cautious. Pets seem to know better than to eat the plants and snails too take a few bites and then move on. Spider mites are the one creature which like Brugmansia, and I use a brass nozzle hose sprayer to knock them off.
If plants get heavily infested they can be cut back aggressively and will sprout back soon after. Brugmansia can get quite large. A cafe in the lower Haight had one in their back area, which was at least twenty-five feet tall.
I contacted the Arboretum for more info about Brugmansia and I am directed to Illie Gaceu, a construction worker who volunteers at Strybing on the weekends. Latin names roll off his tongue without missing a beat. He walks me through a quiet area in the back of the gardens and can identify plants out of bloom at a distance by leaf alone. He tells me that there is seven recognized species of Brugmansia. B. arborea, B. aurea, B. insignis B. sanguinea, B. suavolens, B. versicolor and B. vulcanicola. The last one was loved by the famous Harvard botanist R.E. Schultes who was hiking on the Purace’ volcano in Colombia and he stopped to observe the plant. Instead of hiking further, he spent time observing the plant. Before he began to move up the volcano, it erupted. Schultes credited the plant with saving his life by attracting him with its flowers.
Different things pollinate Brugmansia. Hummingbirds pollinate some blooms during the day. Others are white and fragrant and reflect the moonlight and are pollinated by moths or bats. It was noticed that some brugmansia flower during lunar cycles perhaps to be illuminated for pollinators.
Germany is the hotbed today for new hybrids. Soon the rest of the world will have many new colors and flower types available. Illie invites me to his house to see his personal collection. His garden is astonishing. He built all foundations and arbors. Every plant both hanging and those on the ground are labeled with Latin names. He has more plants than any collector I have met. His Clivia collection is about 1,500 at last count. Walking is a chore, as each step must be planned in advance. There is no way to view the entire garden at once as it overlaps and twists and turns with all the strange and wonderful plants in his collection. Many plants grown here are unique in the world. They are Illie’s creations alone. Two large and quite different Brugmansia are planted near each other and between them is a perfect mix of the two. Its flower though is a mystery until next year.

Tibetan art show

Geshe Tashi Gyaltsen

Gaden Jangtse Dratsan
P.O.Tibetan Colony
Mundgod, N.K. 581411
Karnataka State, India
Tel.: 8301-45748

The Tibetan people have always fascinated me. The one thing I have always noticed is so many of them have beautiful smiles. Their graceful and gentle ways make me feel like I have much catching up to do in my own personality. I heard about the show at the Asian Art Museum, “Treasures from the roof of the world” and I knew I would have to bring a Tibetan monk some of my friends introduced me to. I wanted to understand the deeper meaning of the statues and ritual objects. One thing, which took me awhile to understand, is that a statue of Buddha to a westerner is just that, a statue. If it was dusty or had cracks it might be considered more “authentic”. These statues are allowed to gather dust or moss if they are in a garden to give it an ancient look. An antiques dealer would tell one not to repair an old statue less it lessens its value. To a practicing Buddhist, a statue of Buddha is a living embodiment of the Buddha. Any dust would be scrupulously cleaned off. Cracks or peeling paint would be repaired regardless of age or an antiques dealer appraisal. I wondered what my Tibetan friend would say when he saw statues under Plexiglas beneath track lighting.
I met Geshe Tashi Gyaltsen at a friend’s house and drove him to the BART station. I watched him fumble with the BART ticket and felt like I was witnessing an ancient culture clash with the modern world. He surprised me moments later when he pulled out a cell phone with more bells and whistles than mine. So much for my point of view.
We approached the Museum and I pulled my camera out only to have a security guard tell me no photos allowed. I asked if it was true for the whole show and he said no just the Tibetan collection. This was my first feeling that something was amiss. I knew then that it would be a struggle to write this story with the photos being so strictly controlled.
The first room had many different pieces from headdresses to wall hangings. Stone carvings, small statues. and robes had small descriptions beneath. Geshe Tashi Gyaltsen didn’t need to look at the descriptions before starting in his gentle way with his soft voice that drew other visitors closer.
He described in detail how Buddhism spread along through the countries near the Himalayas. I noticed the tour guides listening to him. A small crowd shuffled respectfully behind him clearly hungry for the ancient knowledge, which flowed, effortlessly from his tongue. A display of conch shell horns, which predated the founding of America, was on display. The horn sounds offerings to the deities. The shell is one of the eight auspicious symbols of enlightenment. Thighbone horns were cloaked in metalwork with incredible detail. We stood in front of a robe of one of the Dalai Lamas. Geshe Tashi Gyaltsen stood quietly for the first time and looked at it intently. Something told me not to bother him. I wondered what he was feeling but I bit my tongue. He asked me if I could take a picture of it for him. I told him I didn’t want to get kicked out. He said,” Of course” and walked away. I felt awful. I could see how badly he wanted a photo. Here he is a Monk in his fifties who fled Tibet as a child and who knows how many miles he has traveled outside his homeland. Before him is a robe which symbolizes so much for him and his people and all that separates him is a half inch of Plexiglas and museum regulations.
Solid gold butter lamps shone brightly under the track lighting. A bell used in ceremonies caught his eyes. He motioned for me to come over. He pointed to its description. It said it was Ming dynasty. I knew immediately what he meant. Tibet wasn’t part of China in the Ming dynasty. China invaded in 1949. It felt odd to stand in the U.S. and witness Chine propaganda at work. I laughed and a security guard asked me to be quiet. I knew this story had taken on a life of it’s own. I wanted to run home and begin typing.
I asked Geshe Tashi Gyaltsen why the use of bones in so much of the art. He said that they are reminders of the impermanence of life. Skeletons appear everywhere in Tibetan imagery. Yogis would meditate in cemeteries to focus on impermanence. Skull cups were gilded with gold.
Geshe Tashi Gyaltsen began translating words painted on some tablets and people strained to hear. A tour guide began to ask questions. When she was done, a security guard approached and asked which incarnation the current Dalai Lama was. He replied that he was the fourteenth. The guard thanked him and smiled brightly.
Geshe Tashi Gyaltsen commented on the communist’s favorite things to attack was the use of gold. It was said to show the unfairness of the Tibetan practices. Geshe said Buddhists use it because it doesn’t rust and lasts a long time in harsh climates. Also, poor people offer small pieces of gold and when a Buddha statue is cast, every person who contributed can share in its completion. The art itself embodies the community, which forged it.
As we prepared to leave, a painter was working on a Buddhist painting which had an under painting of strictly prescribed geometric structures. His technique was flawless. Geshe Tashi Gyaltsen talked at length with him while we waited respectfully. We said goodbye and the painter rushed over and shook our hand with both of his. It was genuinely compassionate. He had a wonderful smile. I felt for him to be so close to his treasures, which had been taken by an invading army, and he continued to paint images of Buddha with no complaints. I quickly walked back to the robe of the Dalai Lama and snapped a blurry image and left quickly.
Outside a few protestors stood with signs which said,” Warning, stolen art inside” and,” China stole my country”. Geshe Tashi Gyaltsen walked up respectfully and the protestors walked toward him bowing slightly, both hands outstretched. They shook hands for a long time. I waited for them to talk as they had a lot to say. Both of them shook hands with both hands. They radiated goodwill. I gathered up their literature and decided to return with more friends.