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Podcast 2019
Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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Shanghai Interrogation

The boy soldier was silent. 

“What’s that for,” the female Public Security Bureau official said pointing to the typewriter on the table.  

“It is for writing letters.” 

They have reservations about letters. Letters, they wonder, looking at each other with jaundiced eyes. Black eyes streaked with exploding blood vessels full of fear and suspicion. 

Letters indicate political insurrection, dissent, forced labor, mandatory abortions, propaganda, civil unrest, turmoil, revolutions, tanks in the street, torture, solitary confinement and executions. 

They see party leaders wringing their pale hands, nervously pacing forbidden cities past stone lions, conducting top-secret meetings trying to figure out what to do, how to put a face on all this. How to manage and manipulate disinformation rivers, how to control floods.

The boy soldier and his comrade save face by maintaining blank, stoic expressions.

They suspect I have connections. Maybe I am a plant, a party member sent to check their unit. Assigned to monitor their methods, their questioning tactics, their subtle use of intimidation, their implications to control and influence peoples' lives for the good of the state.

For all they know I am a subversive. A word terrorist.

“Letters. We will keep an eye on this one,” she said to the soldier.

A writer in Shuangliu, Sichuan, China. 


mr. lucky foot

One of his secret names is Mr. Lucky Foot.

What does that mean you may ask, well let him tell you in simple, plain, clear and concise English, the language of barbarians. Just get to the verb.

It means wherever he travels because he's addicted to new adventures like meeting shopkeepers, merchants in Venice, rest-a-rant owners and nondescript sad, lonely, neurotic and well adjusted humans struggling to find their personal way inside life’s labyrinth, when he shows up, because 90% of life is showing up, their day, life, fate and glittering fortune changes. Karmic destiny. For the better. 

It happened in the Middle Kingdom or China per se, in Asia Minor, on the is-land of Amnesia in Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal and Laos. A small journey inside life’s weaving.

Hand him down his walking stick.


after my tongue

I sat up straight, inhaled three deep breaths and exhaled far out into emptiness.

I centered my unconscious on the paper filled with nothing.

The entire world has been reduced to a sheet of white paper.

My wisdom mind of intent became water. It was quiet, calm and still with concentration and focus.

I listened to brush, ink and paper. I am a conduit. 

Be the brush, be the ink, be the water, be the paper.

Each essence is pure, free, clear and luminous.

My useless tongue flapped in the cold December Himalayan wind.

Stories and songs are birds. I heard children laughing and singing. They greet each other in the babble of nothing, playing with strings of word pearls. They dream with their eyes open. 

When we are asleep we are awake.

Is handwriting alive?






Bali Aga ikat

Katut knew kamben gringsing.

It took five years to weave the muted colors of reddish brown tones, eggshell and dark blue or black colors into a piece of magic cloth. In the beginning his mother gathered sunti roots and mixed them with indigo to make dyes. His father made narrow back strap looms from trees.

The women spun cotton cloth by hand. According to tradition the yarns were soaked in candle nut oil and wood ash water. They were stored for 42 days in an earthenware jar covered with a checked black and white cloth. The strands were dried for 42 days and covered with open hibiscus flowers to protect them from witches. 

Warp threads were woven up and down. Weft threads woven left and right on different frames for dyeing. Geometric stars, small crosses and flowers were woven into the threads and a very careful matching process tied or bound the different threads together to form intricate designs and patterns. 

Kamben gringsing patterns contained combinations of 14, 24, 37 or 40 fields to make healing garments for men and women in Tenganan. Katut knew there were over 20 basic designs of the cloth. His mother’s main concern was how the cloth was used in the village.   

She told him a story as they walked toward the mountain.

“The word gring means 'illness' and sing means 'not' she explained. “It is the most important social and sacred cultural symbol for the people in our village.”

Katut listened and understood kamben gringsing was their way of life. Kamben gringsing created a social identity, a relationship for their people. Ikat protected them from impurities and danger.

It allowed them to make transitions across boundaries in life’s journey. The villagers used kamben gringsing when they participated in rituals and rites of passage from birth to death.