In case you missed ‘em:
Brilliant new post, “Scorecard”, from Steve Ludlum at Economic Undertow.
Also a very good recent podcast with Steve, in which he lays in, but good, to the folly of the “Waste-Based Economy”.
News From Bangkok
News From Chiang Mai
Boy, am I glad my name ain’t “Ron”! (Hold your applause ‘til the very end, please.)
The Lychee Mongers down at the park are almost in full swing. It’s a whole line of vendors selling only Lychees, of varying grades. As of a few days ago, the metal frame for their awning/tent structure had been erected. Soon after, the tarps went up. Then the stall infrastructure. By yesterday, lots of ‘em were ready to go, waiting for their product. One vendor had even begun selling. Lychee season about to go into mothafuckin’ overdrive!
It’s easy enough to be disdainful of Kathmandu’s temples – especially having witnessed first-hand e.g. the jaw-dropping beauty of those here in Chiang Mai, the bombast of those in Bangkok, the surreal weirdness of those in George Town, and of course the overwhelming scale and artistry of the Temples Of Angkor.
Kathmandu’s almost seem like an afterthought: dilapidated, defaced, nothing-special architecture, just jammed into the middle of the block (or even buried back in courtyard behind a street’s shoppes). They’re easy to miss altogether, as many are just quite small.
I mean, how would you like it if you were a goddam religious sculpture, and your face was all bashed in and covered in birdshit?
Or you were a goddam stupa, and somebody had written graffiti on the wall right behind you?
Or you were a beautiful little carving, and people’d rubbed red dye all over your face, and jammed a bunch of crap into your mouth?
You might think you’d gotten the pointy end of the shaft.
But the truth (or at least, one blogger’s estimation) is, the red/orange colourings make the carving and sculptures much more interesting and more aesthetically pleasing…
…While the general lack of respect makes the spaces feel more terrestrial, less hallowed. For those of us who consider Religion the more dangerous the more seriously it’s taken, this last is a welcome sight indeed.
This piece, for instance, was located off in a forgotten corner of a nothing temple far away from the hubbub of Thamel or the busy market areas or the famous World Heritage sites. Maybe, if it were all polished up and sitting in a museum, it would seem slight. But here, in its specific environs, it seems like practically the neatest thing ever.
Besides, having bird shit on you means having birds themselves on you. And that makes you look way the more awesome.
Anyway, the craftsmanship is undeniably gorgeous, no matter how battered and bruised, weathered and worn, downtrodden and demoralised it may be.
Anyway, it’s just cool: The architecture…
…the freaky/strange imagery…
…the juxtaposition with everyday surroundings…
…the trees invading the shrines’ spaces, and then being incorporated into the designs…
…All so frickin’ badass!
One neighbourhood temple worth seeking out is Bhatbateni. Just a small little nothing at the corner of a busy intersection. Walking around the outside are a bunch of great little mural pieces. I had read that some of the artwork in Kathmandu temples is pretty lewd, but hadn’t seen much evidence before this.
Both naughty and violent – somebody notify Tipper Gore!
And then, peering inside – the inside is almost too small to even enter – I had the breath knocked clean out of me. It’s these two big marionette things.
Don’t know what it is about them. So beautiful and terrible, and so unlike anything I’d previously seen or expected to see. My reaction was similar to that upon seeing, two years ago, the “Big Buddha” at Bangkok’s Wat Kalanyamit: just completely overwhelmed with…something kind of amazement.
You’ll look at the photos and think, “Well, that’s stupid.” Partly, that’s ‘cause I was still trying to manoeuvre to get some good shots when a man told me photos weren’t allowed there; and partly it’s ‘cause of the old photos-can’t-do-it-justice thang.
But, damn, it’s moments like those…
So, Kathmandu’s Durbar Square is one of a handful of World Heritage sites scattered about the Kathmandu Valley. It’s basically where the various kings commissioned Big Impressive palaces and temples to be built. And they are big, and impressive, and cool. The really Big Huge temple, though, is only open to the public one day per year – looks good from the outside, at any rate.
And there’s one palace where the “goddess” lives. They select an eight-year-old girl, and she lives in this place. And sometimes, she sits in the second-floor window and brushes her hair or whatever. Then, at age twelve, she’s not a goddess anymore, and has to go live with the hoi polloi again. And they pick another eight-year-old to be a goddess now. Well, anyhow, she wasn’t brushing her hair when I was there.
Located on the grounds is the most amazing carving – possibly the most amazing I’ve ever seen. It’s Khairav (Shiva all duded up in his Destroyer mode), and it’s a crackerjack.
And the architecture, and the artwork, and the scene is very cool in the same way that Kathmandu’s temples generally are very cool. But apart from the Khairav there, the best thing about the Square is the pigeons. No shit!
Why are there so fucking many of them? ‘cause people feed them like there ain’t no tomorrow. And then, inevitably, some little kid runs in and puts the scare to them, sending them all flying madly off hither and yon. And if you’re standing close by, the verisimilitude is pretty astounding. It looks like they’re going to fly right smack into you; but then, at the last second, they don’t — but they’re still close enough to feel a surprisingly large force of wind generated by their flapping wings as they all rush by.
This-here footage kind of gives an idea…but not really. Still, it’s fun to watch.