Day By Day

Friday, July 29, 2011

Return to China -- Part 38, Big Banyan -- Bigger Bamboo

Our first destination the next morning was a lovely park on the bank of the Jinbao river about five miles out from Yangshuo. The featured attraction there was the Big Banyan tree, rumored to be 1,400 years old. It's quite impressive, but I was more taken by the beauty of the surroundings.

Lovely young girls modeling traditional Naxi dress.

Bamboo stands along the river. That's some big bamboo.

You could hire a raft to ride along the placid waterways.

The big banyan itself. It has been featured in romantic stories and legends and in a major motion picture, "Sanjie Liu".  

A performing monkey who seemed to have an unusual attraction to one of the female members of our group.

Saying goodbye to the lovely Jinbao river.

The "moon hill" a popular destination for rock climbers. The entire region around Yangshuo and Guilin is world famous for its climbing and hiking opportunities.

A final shot of the Li river as we departed.

As our bus passed through a local village I shot this rooftop for its interesting textures, and only later noticed the child's toy that was lost there.

What Recovery?

Megan McArdle: "We haven't had a jobless recovery.  We've had a recoveryless recovery."

Read it here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lies of the Left (continued) -- The Vanishing Polar Bears

One of the most potent propaganda memes thrown up by the environmentalist Left has been the image of polar bears forced to seek sustenance from ever-shrinking resources. Soon, the warmists claimed, this magnificent species would become extinct because of the effects of global warming. This claim ran counter to abundant testimony from arctic residents to the effect that polar bear populations were growing to the point that they were becoming a real nuisance, Nevertheless the public was inundated by pictures of adult polar bears with cute cubs trapped on shrinking ice floes.

Well, the scientific work upon which the warminsts' claims were based is now looking a bit shakey. AP reports:
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A federal wildlife biologist whose observation in 2004 of presumably drowned polar bears in the Arctic helped to galvanize the global warming movement has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated for scientific misconduct, possibly over the veracity of that article.
Read the whole thing here.


Scientific authority has never been all that useful as a guide to forging public policy, but the politicization of the scientific community in recent years, partly by corporate interests but mostly by left-wing activists, has thoroughly corrupted the enterprise, especially in the areas of medical, nutritional, and climate science. But what can you expect? Science, no less than religion, is a human activity undertaken by mere humans and as such susceptible to all the manifold foibles of humanity. Corruption is inevitable.

As I keep telling you -- there is no such thing as a disinterested authority.


And then there's this, from Forbes:
NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.

Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA's Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA's Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.

"The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show," Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. "There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans."
In addition to finding that far less heat is being trapped than alarmist computer models have predicted, the NASA satellite data show the atmosphere begins shedding heat into space long before United Nations computer models predicted.
Read the whole thing here.

Once again the evidence upon which recent climate change hysteria has been based turns out not to be what "scientific authority" claimed it to have been and the Church of Climate Change has taken yet another major hit.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Return to China -- Part 37, Impressions

After a long drive we arrived at an outdoor stadium not far from Yangshuo where we watched another production by Zhang Yimou. "She" and I have now seen three of these ethnic spectacles. Impression Liu Sanjie was Zhang's first such effort; it opened in 2002. It was interesting to see how his stagecraft has evolved over time. this first "Impression" has no narrative theme, consisting simply of a demonstration of dances, costumes, and folklore associated with local minority cultures. Like all of Zhang's stagework, and many of his films, it features a lot of massed drills and dances and elaborate costuming, lighting and set design. Here are some pictures I took at the performance. You'll see what I mean.

The presentation featured several local people who were featured prominently in the finale.

Browsing around the intertubes I ran across this YouTube recording of the program. Check it out and enjoy the work of a master director.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What are Intellectuals Good For?

That's the question posed by Geoffrey Kurtz in his review of George Scialabba's latest collection of essays in Logos.

It's a pertinent question these days for two major reasons:

The explosion of information available to people at all levels of society is an immense problem for generalists. It is impossible for them to master more than a tiny bit of the information overload. Much that is important will simply pass them by.

Moreover, today's world is dominated by specialists who deal in esoteric language and concepts particular to their disciplines. A generalist, in order to comment competently on any subject, must spend months and years mastering just the linguistic and conceptual frameworks in which practitioners of the discipline operate. 

Scialabba writes:
[T]he very ideal of cosmopolitanism, of the intellectual as “anti-specialist,” uniting political and aesthetic interests and able to speak with some authority about both, is obsolescent…Perhaps the demise of the “public intellectual,” of the “dilettante-connoisseur,” is a symptom of inevitable crisis, a sign that intellectual wholeness is no longer attainable and that the classical ideals of wisdom as catholicity of understanding, and of citizenship as the capacity to discuss all public affairs, must be abandoned.
He suggests that although the day of the generalist intellectual has passed there is still room for specialized intellectuals who have mastered specific subject areas and bring to their understandings a critical humanist perspective.

What it means is that being an "intellectual" is no longer the province of the dilettante. Instead intellectuals will have to get to work and actually learn something about economics, or law, or climate science, or whatever so that they can comment with some degree of authority on that subject.

I suspect that few of the self-described "intellectuals" I have encountered are willing to make that effort.

Return to China -- Part 36, Yangshuo and the Dragon River

Upon our arrival in Yangshuo we were immediately presented with another shopping opportunity, the city's famous "West Street" which presented a wide variety of goods for sale, from the products of local craftsmen and farmers to Kentucky Fried Chicken.

One of the nicest things about Yangshuo is its setting, surrounded by the exotic karst peaks which attract rock climbers from all over the world. 

A young woman balances precariously on the back of her boyfriend's bike. As she passed us she removed her jacket and got out her makeup kit. Apparently you can do anything on the back of a motorcycle, if your balance is good enough that is.

Then we hired a group of minibuses to take us out into the countryside and along the Yu Long [Dragon] River.

Yeah, we are out in the country. This bull was not happy to see us. We were interrupting his advances toward one of the cows in the herd. 

We stopped at a farmer's home to experience a taste of local culture. Here we see the family's history represented on a wall of the home. One of the China experts in our group told me that some of the pictures on exhibit were not exactly politically correct.

Cyclists were a common sight on the roads. Many of them were Europeans. The area because of its beauty and outdoor activities attracts a lot of Western visitors.  

Water buffalo.

A recipe for success -- learn English.

Bamboo rafts. You can purchase a ride on them along the Dragon River.

Rafters on the river.

These guys seem to be enjoying themselves.


This woman was amazing. She is following a rope stretched across the paddy and with every step she would toss a rice shoot, like a dart, with unerring accuracy into the mud. The alignment and spacing of the shoots was, to my eye, perfect. 

The end of the journey for the rafters. We paused for a while to take pictures, then it was off to our next destination.