“Art and China after 1989”

Today, the Guggenheim exhibit “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World” closes here in New York City.

I did not go expecting to see any works of great beauty. To be sure, there were none. But so, too, did I not expect to see a view of China’s artists straining so mightily—and exclusively—under the weight of the CCP regime. That is the singular narrative. Portrait after portrait, list after list, needle after needle, video after video: oppression. I wondered: could there not be even just one alternate voice, one perspective from a slightly different angle that had turned its head not to the sun but, instead, toward the sky?
Continue reading

At the Summer Palace, May 2000

Beijing_summer-palaceSeventeen years ago I published this poem in the British magazine TANK. I still recognize the lost and wandering soldier who wrote it, who poked around Beijing’s Summer Palace at the height of the season. Today I feel compelled to give China a leave of absence of indeterminate length, repelled as I am by its murder of human rights giants like Liu Xiaobo (say his name). But still in my head I hear the lowing of Beijing Wanbao! and I recall my friends and students, my landlord Yang, my neighbors. They remain and work, I believe, to make the country better even as I disappeared into an aisle seat on a long-ago United flight. Here’s to those twin poles: courage and cowardice.

Papa Bungard Has Invited You To Join Twitter!

Papa BungardI am a Luddite–a fine-boned little hermit in love with rosemary-infused oils and walk-up apartments that boast thick, sturdy walls. I was born 70-100 years after the time I should have arrived and thus quite naturally hold a mounting suspicion of modem (why doesn’t it make this sound anymore? This holy, plinking sound of things starting up?) my “phone” (it is good, I have found, to periodically erase everything on it and start over. Mourning nothing, I relish the clean slate) and I believe in the life-affirming qualities of salt. Continue reading

Eater’s Dilemma: Am I a Jerk? I am a Jerk!

travelI recently joined an old friend for a birthday celebration at one of New York’s most exciting Filipino restaurants. My friend is from Manila and, together with the other Filipinos in our group, provided a guided tour of the greatest culinary hits of their Southeast Asian nation. We basically ordered everything on the menu and a few things that weren’t.

Continue reading

Protect the Freshness is Over

Protect the Freshness studentsA Henan jaunt to investigate a Chinese Communist Party campaign sheds little light on how the world’s largest political party maneuvers at the local level. Or it shed a lot of light. Or it cast shadows. Or it threw spotlights. I think everyone just felt better when I left Jiguan. Via The Farmer General, read more