Monthly Archives: November 2013

Shiwu Mulls Things Over, Wang Wei Goes on a Hike

After yesterday’s holiday excesses, some Classical Chinese poetry seems like just what the doctor ordered. Granted, these verses may not cure your hangover, but a dose of Chan (Zen) sensibility is about as good a counterpoint to the unfolding insanity of Black Friday as anything else I can think of. First, here’s an untitled poem by Shiwu (石屋), a Yuan-dynasty poet and hermit.

Somebody asks me when I first came to live here –
I sit in meditation until the answer comes:
the peachtree my hands planted outside my door
has come to blossom some twenty springs.

Here’s another one, by Wang Wei (王維), hands down my favorite poet in the canon. It’s an example of the classic eight-line, five-character-per-line lushi  (律詩) form and is, I think, the most beautiful piece to appear in the seminal Three Hundred Tang Poems (唐詩三百首) collection. The title, “Passing Xiangji Temple” (過香積寺) refers to a Pure Land sanctuary some fifteen miles from old Chang’an, and the motif of passing-by, of peripheral encounter, suggestively recurs and builds throughout the piece. In fact, it’s unclear from the very first line if Wang Wei actually physically gets to the temple – whether he ‘knew’ or ever got to ‘know’ it remains one of those undecidable things that makes Classical Chinese such evergreen fun to render into English.

I did not know Xiangji Temple.
I moved beneath many li of low clouds
old trees and deer runs
from deep in the mountain, somewhere, the sound of a bell
the muffled call of a swallow from beyond the rocks
the sun’s cold white on the blue pines.
In the evening, at the bend of a mountain stream,
I sit in meditation and tame the poison dragons of mind.

In addition to my own halting versions, you can find these poems and many more like them in various places; I recommend this volume and this one, both put into English by Bill Porter (“Red Pine”), who in addition to being a superlative translator is also just a lovely person and great poet in his own right.

Riding Shotgun with George Zimmerman

So as you doubtless already know George Zimmerman was arrested again on Monday; he just bailed out today. He faces domestic violence charges for, among other things, allegedly threatening his pregnant girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, with a shotgun. In case you’re keeping score and counting arrest records, that’s George Zimmerman, 4, Trayvon Martin, 0, with all of George’s arrests involving charges of violence.

Our understanding of what happened between Scheibe and Zimmerman is still unfolding, but the yesterday’s 911 tapes are deeply suggestive. You can hear them along with great analysis by Joy Reid and others as the first item on the archive of last night’s Last Word. A lot jumps out – not least of which being Zimmerman’s chilling sangfroid and the legal/PR savvy he demonstrates in his own call to a 911 operator. You may also notice that Zimmerman appears to be very, very well armed – his girlfriend claims he has at least two handguns, an AR, and the shotgun with which he allegedly smashed some of her possessions and furniture.

It’s that last weapon that I want to call your attention to. Scheibe identifies it as made by KelTec. KelTec is based in Florida, and it only produces one shotgun – the KSG. The KSG is a new, futuristic-looking 12 gauge intend for tactical use – the tightly compact ‘bullpup’ configuration is designed to help the user move it efficiently through close quarters, around doors, etcetera, and this feature plus the 15-round capacity is I suppose helpful if you’re part of a SWAT team clearing a room or a civilian who fears, however implausibly, having to defending your home in an all-out firefight.

At which point it’s worth nothing that since Zimmerman wasn’t able to actually hack it as a police officer and thus has never been nor ever will be in the former category, he apparently belongs in the latter, which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone at this point.

Anyway, folks love them their KSGs – here’s video of someone going to town with one. You can wield a virtual KSG while playing Call of Duty. They’re so popular that they frequently sell out, and when they do sell, go for well over the initially pitched MSRP of circa $800.  It’s perhaps because they can be hard to come by in this crowded market that just this past August George Zimmerman visited the KelTec plant to inquire about acquiring one – and apparently received a guided tour of the grounds from the owner’s son. He also mugged for photos with KelTec employees.

This brings me to some questions.

First, did Zimmerman acquire this shotgun during that visit – was it perhaps even given to him as a gift by KelTec? Did a KelTec employee – perhaps even the same bigwigs who feted him while there – sell it to him? You can transfer guns to people with incredible ease in Florida – did some kind of transaction of that order happen here?

Second, even if Zimmerman didn’t receive the gun with which he allegedly threatened his partner directly from anyone affiliated with KelTec, what, combined with the visit in August, does this latest development say about KelTec – what might it mean in PR terms? What kind of endorsement was KelTec looking for when they let Zimmerman gladhand for photos in their plant – and what did they endorse when they let him in?

And here’s my third and last question. What does it mean when an alleged domestic abuser and indisputable child killer becomes the poster child for a company that elsewhere tries to pitch ads like this one?