me in the piazza

I'm a writer, publishing both as SJ Rozan and, with Carlos Dews, as Sam Cabot. (I'm Sam, he's Cabot.) Here you can find links to my almost-daily blog posts, including the Saturday haiku I've been doing for years. BUT the blog itself has moved to my website. If you go on over there you can subscribe and you'll never miss a post. (Miss a post! A scary thought!) Also, I'll be teaching a writing workshop in Italy this summer -- come join us!
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Stop the music!

China is spiffing up like crazy. The Olympics will bring the world to China and everything has to be ready. We're in Beijing now, the last leg of our trip (though I'll continue to post for some time after I get back, because I have lots of things yet to say... and lots of pix to direct you to, once they're uploaded) and the spiffing is most obvious here. Besides new paint, new sidewalks, and, most impressively, new trees all over the city, they've added a seriously diabolical element: broadcast music in the public parks. I started to notice this many cities ago, but it was intermittent. And sometimes funny, like the mushroom-shaped loudspeakers poking out of the ground in Turpan.

But now they're playing martial music in the Forbidden City. Stirring symphonies at the Temple of Heaven. Serene strains on the Long Walk at the Ming Tombs. I HATE THIS! What about birdsong, what about the murmur of the breeze? But these are also the people who've strung all the ancient monuments with an outline of neon lights so they'll be beautiful at night. Within the Chinese aesthetic, it does make a certain cockeyed sense. They've never suffered from the piece-of-the-true-cross worship of historical objects that we feel in the west, especially in the US. Recorded history just goes back too far here -- there are too many monuments, too many buildings, books and paintings, fabrics, statues. The Cultural Revolution was an attempt to break the hold of history, to lift its weight, but even with all the violence, malevolence and bitterness of that time, it can't be done. Five thousand years of history can't be shrugged off. But it also can't be worshipped if you want to move comfortably into the modern world.

So the Chinese have found a way. They have a long tradition of self-consciously admiring beauty, of building a Pavilion for Viewing the Moon and so on. It was a short morph into neon on the Hall of Literary Virtue and musical rocks in the park.

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