Chinese Dramas

Here are three I recommend:


Go Go Squid: this is a cute funny, silly romance with lots of delightful side characters and friendships. The lead male is the owner of an e-sports  team and that’s where a lot of the drama comes from.  Not an e-sports fan or antifan, but I still enjoyed this.

The Story of Ming Lan- historical drama, romance, some comedy and some martial arts- with a lot of the drama from the scene of the inner courtyards and rivalries and warfare between wives and concubines and their kids.


Ming Lane is the youngest child in a family with six children, two concubines, one wife. Her mother is a concubine who dies in childbirth when Minglan is young. Circumstances are sus. Her grandmother raises her. Her legal parents (dad & the main wife) care more about appearances than about anything else, especially Ming Lane. She meets Hi TingYe, second son and heir to his father’s dukedom when they are kids and he comes to First Sister’s wedding.bhe is already known for being wild, careless, flouring convention, unfilial (a huge sin).

They meet again later when he is part of a small school she and her siblings attend along with a couple other family connections.

There is the warfare in the women’s courtyard, and also warfare in the land as there is a rebellion against the Emperor and Gu  has gone for a soldier.

This sounds more soap opera like than it is. There was some very good social commentary, explanations of how things worked, or didn’t, plenty of interesting, well written characters and good dialogue. There is also some fighting, martial arts, various discussions of poetry and literature. The main love story is fabulous. Delightful. He does step in in the nick of time just too too often and too too perfectly but I did not care. She is smart as a whip and holds her own much like a young Daniel come to judgement.

This is one of the best subtitling teams ever- you can learn a lot about Chinese history, customs, and poetry. You will have to pause to read the subtitles, though.

Really loved this.

Rebel Princess- currently airing, only a third through.  So I may hate the ending, but right now I am blown away by the lavish costumes, the gorgeous music, the incredible acting. So addictive I watched without subtitles while waiting impatiently for subtitles to come, and the acting is good that I usually could guess the gist of what they were saying.

Awu is a doted on young Princess- she is everybody’s favourite. Her uncle is the Emperor, her mother is his little sister, her dad is prime minister. She is in love with one of the princes and he lives her, but neither of them care about palace politics at all, or are even aware of them. Everything is perfect.

Except in reality, palace politics are ugly and messy and she is an unwitting pawn. Her world begins collapsing and for political reasons she must endure the disgrace of being married off to a military general who was born a commoner and made a prince so he could legally marry her.  He wants no part of it either, but cannot disobey. Everybody wants his army for their side and he just wants to protect his country’s borders and stability.

Naturally, they fall in love and foil the political schemers. So far.

The acting here is phenomenal. He rescues her repeatedly in most unlikely scenarios and I don’t care. That is a lie. I cared so much I rewatched two of those rescues half a dozen times.

But also, out of the palace, breathing fresh air and enduring some hardships, Awu stretches and grows and it turns out she is a pretty smart cookie herself, with a decent instinctive understanding of strategy and policy. She cares about common people and has a social conscience. She is also unafraid to do hard things, like have bad people beheaded or whatever.


I think all of these are available on YouTube, and also on Viki.


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Orange mango ginger smoothie


1/2-1/3 cup of frozen or thawed oj concentrate
1 can coconut milk
1 cup frozen mango chunks
Roughly 8 ice cubes
A cup of water- amount depends on how thick you like your smoothie.
Secret ingredient of delicious-ness: about two tablespoons of pickled ginger, the pink stuff.
Blend til smooth.
Curl up under covers with heating pad Inder feet, a warm shawl, summer reading and imagine you are on a tropical island.

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C. S. Lewis on Democratic Education

Democratic Education

“Democratic Education” is Lewis’s title for his “Notes on the Way” from Time and Tide, vol. XXV (29 April 1944), pp. 369-70

(I have it on an audible book, free if you are a member, ‘Education and History’, a collection of Lewis essays read by Ralph Cosham)

“Democratic education, says Aristotle, ought to mean, not the education which democrats like, but the education which will preserve democracy. Until we have realized that the two things do not necessarily go together we cannot think clearly about education.”

I think today we mainly mean a third thing, an admirable thing in basic intent, education for all, that is, education is available to all. Unfortunately, we can approach this in two ways, as making education as financially free and available to every child as we can do, or by making it equally *attainable* to every child, and the second is where we’ve been heading, and it’s a problem. Lewis saw it coming but didn’t seem quite able to believe western civilization would really be this blindly stupid:

“For example, an education which gave the able and diligent boys no advantage over the stupid and idle ones, would be in one sense democratic. It would be egalitarian and democrats like equality. The caucus race in Alice in Wonderland, where all the competitors won and all got prizes, was a “democratic” race: like the Garter it tolerated no nonsense about merit (1). Such total egalitarianism in education has not yet been openly recommended, but a movement in that direction begins to appear. It can be seen in the growing demand that subjects which some boys do very much better than others should not be compulsory. Yesterday it was Latin — today, as I see from a letter in one of the papers, it is Mathematics. Both these subjects give an “unfair advantage” to boys of a certain type. To abolish that advantage is therefore in one sense democratic.”

Latin is long gone from all public school curricula in America, and if I am wrong, I am fairly certain it will be in schools in upper class neighbourhoods untroubled by the lower classes.  Science and math are under fire. An emphasis on proper English or an unbecoming insistence that two plus two is five is racist.

“But of course there is no reason for stopping with the abolition of these two compulsions. To be consistent we must go further. We must also abolish all compulsory subjects, and we must make the curriculum so wide that “every boy will get a chance at something”. Even the boy who can’t or won’t learn his alphabet can be praised and petted for something — handicrafts or gymnastics, moral leadership or deportment, citizenship or the care of guinea-pigs, “hobbies” or musical appreciation — anything he likes.. Then no boy, and no boy’s parents, need feel inferior.”

And thus, participation trophies.

:An education on those lines will be pleasing to democratic feelings. It will have repaired the inequalities of nature. But it is quite another question whether it will breed a democratic nation which can survive, or even one whose survival is desirable.”

And here we are.

“The improbability that a nation thus educated could survive need not be labored. Obviously it can escape destruction only if its rivals and enemies are so obliging as to adopt the same system. A nation of dunces can be safe only in a world of dunces. But the question of desirability is more interesting.”

We salute our Chinese overlords.  Or Russian. Doesn’t much matter, really, tyranny is tyranny.

“The demand for equality has two sources — one of them is among the noblest, the other is the basest of human emotions. The noble source is the desire for fair play. But the other source is the hatred of superiority. At the present moment it would be very unrealistic to overlook the importance of the latter. There is in all men a tendency (only corrigible by good training from without and persistent moral effort from within) to resent the existence of what is stronger, subtler or better than themselves. In uncorrected and brutal men this hardens into an implacable and disinterested hatred for every kind of excellence. The vocabulary of a period tells tales. There is reason to be alarmed at the immense vogue today of such words as “highbrow”, “upstage”, “old school tie”, “academic”, “smug”, and “complacent”. These words, as used today, are sores — one feels the poison throbbing in them.”

And snob.  People are called snob not for any attitude within themselves, but simply because they read poetry, or read Shakespeare, or know the fork goes to the left of the plate, or spell properly, or listen to classical music, or go to an art museum for pleasure.

And here I will cease editorialising because I am not clever and I am not as good as C. S. Lewis:

“The kind of “democratic” education which is already looming ahead is bad because it endeavors to propitiate evil passions — to appease envy. There are two reasons for not attempting this. In the first place, you will not succeed. Envy is insatiable. The more you concede to it the more it will demand. No attitude of humility which you can possibly adopt will propitiate a man with an inferiority complex. In the second place, you are trying to introduce equality where equality is fatal.

Equality (outside mathematics) is a purely social conception. It applies to man as a political and economic animal. It has no place in the world of the mind. Beauty is not democratic — she reveals herself more to the few than to the many, more to the persistent and disciplined seekers than to the careless. Virtue is not democratic — she is achieved by those who pursue her more hotly than most men. Truth is not democratic — she demands special talents and special industry in those to whom she gives her favors. Political democracy is doomed if it tries to extend its demand for equality into these higher spheres. Ethical, intellectual, or aesthetic democracy is death.

A truly democratic education — one which will preserve democracy — must be, in its own field, ruthlessly aristocratic, shamelessly “highbrow”. In drawing up its curriculum it should always have chiefly in view the interests of the boy who wants to know and who can know (with very few exceptions they are the same boy). The stupid boy, nearly always, is the boy who does not want to know. It must, in a certain sense, subordinate the interests of the many to those of the few, and it must subordinate the school to the university. Only thus can it be a nursery of those first-class intellects without which neither a democracy nor any other State can thrive.

“And what”, you ask, “about the dull boy? What about our Tommy, who is so highly strung and doesn’t like doing ‘sums and grammar’? Is he to be brutally sacrificed to other people’s sons?” I answer — dear Madam, you quite misunderstand Tommy’s real wishes and real interests. It is the “aristocratic” system which will really give Tommy what he wants. If you let me have my way, Tommy will gravitate very comfortably to the bottom of the form; and there he will sit at the back of the room chewing caramels and conversing sotto voce with his peers, occasionally ragging and occasionally getting punished, and all the time imbibing that playfully intransigent attitude to authority which is our chief protection against England’s becoming a servile State. When he grows up he will not be a Porson (2); but the world will still have room for a great many more Tommies than Porsons. There are dozens of jobs (much better paid than the intellectual ones) in which he can be very useful and very happy. In addition, there will be one priceless benefit that he will enjoy — he will know he’s not clever. The distinction between him and the great brains will have been clear to him ever since, in the playground, he punched the heads containing those great brains. He will have a certain half amused respect for them. He will cheerfully admit that, though he could knock spots off them on the golf links, they know and do what he cannot. He will be a pillar of democracy. He will allow just the right amount of rope to those clever ones.

But what you want to do is to take away from Tommy that whole free, private life as part of the everlasting opposition which is his whole desire. You have already robbed him of all real play by making games compulsory. Must you meddle further? When (during a Latin lesson really intended for his betters) he is contentedly whittling a piece of wood into a boat under the desk, must you come in to discover a “talent” and pack him off to the woodcarving class, so that what hitherto was fun must become one more lesson? Do you think he will thank you? Half the charm of carving the boat lay in the fact that it involved a resistance to authority. Must you take that pleasure – a pleasure without which no true democracy can exist – away from him? Give him marks for his hobby, officialize it, finally fool the poor boy into the belief that what he is doing is just as clever “in its own way” as real work? What do you think will come of it? When he gets out into the real world he is bound to discover the truth. He may be disappointed. Because you have turned this simple, wholesome creature into a coxcomb, he will resent those inferiorities which (but for you) would not have irked him at all. A mild pleasure in ragging, a determination not to be much interfered with, is a valuable brake on reckless planning and a valuable curb on the meddlesomeness of minor officials. Envy bleating “I’m as good as you”, is, on the other hand, the hotbed of Fascism. You are going about to take away the one and foment the other. Democracy demands that little men should not take big ones too seriously — it dies when it is full of little men who think they are big themselves !!

(1) The Order of the Garter, instituted by King Edward III in 1344, is the highest order of knighthood. Lewis had in mind the comment made by Lord Melbourne (1779-1848) about the Order: “I like the Garter; there is no damned merit in it.”
(2) Richard Porson (1759-1808), son of the parish clerk at East Ruston, near North Walsham, showed extraordinary memory when a boy, and by the help of various protectors he was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1792 he became Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge.

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Hirelings and Slaves

From the national anthem:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Because we jettisoned any nuanced understanding of the English language or history,  the only meaning of the word slavery is race based chattel slavery, although ‘hireling and slave’ had been paired for centuries in poetry and prose to refer to anybody who served a cause for mercenary reasons.  Parallel pairing of synonyms is also a standard of poetry.

Examples of historic usage of the terms paired together when referring to mercenaries who serve a cause for purely monetary reasons:
1796,”Essays and Poems read in Theatres at Oxford:  “…they thus became the ready agents of the highest paymaster ; content to substitute for the disinterested enthusiasm of the patriot and the hero , the rapacity of the hireling and the devotion of the slave…”

1787, Robert Southey’s poem Elinor: ” sink the slave Of Vice and Infamy ! the hireling prey Of brutal appetite !”

1793, Hannah More: No , not an hireling slave Shall hail Great HEZEKIAH in the grave : Where’s he , who falsely claim’d the name of Great ? Whose eye was terror , and whose frown was fate ? Who aw’d an hundred nations from the throne…”

1794, Pig’s Meat… In England it is generally understood to mean pay given to a State-hireling for treason to his Country…. A Slave of State , hired by a stipend

An accurate new spelling dictionary, and expositor of the English language … The sixth edition, much improved, 1798, uses hireling and slave to define the word mercenary.

Politics for the People, Daniel Eaton, 1794-” Excite a sense of shame in the breasts of those numerous hireling slaves , who are always ready at the command of their masters to destroy their fellow citizens . Rouse all the powers of human nature to oppose this subversion of social laws….”

J. Ridgway, late 1700s, in a pamphlet or book called Criticism of the Rolliad writes scathingly of a dinner composed of members of the aristocracy opposed to liberty, describing the gathering as a “”a dull and miserly association of ducal toad-eaters and dependants, …slaves, government runners, pimps, and hirelings of all descriptions.””

1779, G. Cawthorn,The Historical, Biographical, Literary, and Scientific Magazine, vol 1: “not till the enemies of his country , the slaves of power , and the hirelings of injustice , were compelled to abandon their schemes , and acknowledge America as terrible in arms as she had been humble in remonstrance .

Thomas Underwood in the late 1700s wrote a poem on Liberty.  There’s a line calling for ‘curses on the mem’ry of every hireling slave.’  In fact, he calls down curses several times on political mercenaries, those political hacks who oppose freedom for what they can get out of it.  He refers to them as hireling slaves, elves, lurkers in the dark, bravoes of the night (a bravo at the time was a brigand, a mugger, a thug), and my favourite, not just elves, but “venal, mercenary elves.” and more.  He asks of the hireling slaves who write in opposition to liberty, ‘shall such slaves, detested be the thought, who work for pay, and therefore sold and bought, usurp dominion? Must we then obey, submit our thoughts to their despotic slavery?: He’s not talking about chattel, race-based slavery here.” (1768)

1767, The Political Register… refers to the practice of buying votes and seats of officers in a standing army resulting in hirelings and slaves.  “… they now in fact purchase great part of the votes which support their opposition…  corrupt means as the ministry retain and procure seats for their hirelings….. The opposition well know that these slaves care not what master they serve for they are paid for it…”

A New and Impartial History of England, from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Signing of the Preliminaries of Peace in the Year 1762, Volume 7 John II Barrow, refers to a debate in the time of William III over the merits of a standing army (termed mercenaries and hirelings, as they serve for pay and a job and not for love of country) vs an all volunteer force.   In the same paragraph he refers to the army as hirelings he says that those mercenaries were the only slaves in the kingdom.

The Poet: A Poem by Percival Stockdale.  He was staunchly and publicly opposed to the slave trade, but he uses the terms slaves and hirelings in a different fashion here in a deliciously brutal take-down of what he views as current mercenary and Philistine trends in poetry resulting in the disappearance of poetry as art:

No longer now the nine Aonian maids

Find hospitable haunts in royal shades

Poets are left to penury a prey

The slaves of trade, the hirelings of the day

Some pert prim Cadell or some rougher Turk

Prescribes the theme the measure of the work

Checks the free thought, lops off the ardent word…”

It seems far more likely to me that the verse in the National Anthem refers disparagingly to mercenary soldiers and subjects of the Crown than to Chattel Slavery.

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Christ’s Christmas Tree

Christmas is a time of stories, isn’t it? I never kept a stash of books to read on Independence Day, or Easter, or New Year’s, or for birthdays. But I had a lovely stash of Christmas books until this year. It disappeared, nobody knows where. I have decided that this means I can spend the next few years slowly buying Christmas books for my adult children and their families, and more carefully selecting mine. If the following has ever been published as a Christmas book, I think I would buy it.

Start here, or switch the order if you prefer, which is what I did.  But still, I suggest you start there  I post the tidbit below in hopes of stopping you in the act of doing something other than reading the full short story at the link:

“I am a novelist, and I suppose I have made up this story. I write “I suppose,” though I know for a fact that I have made it up, but yet I keep fancying that it must have happened on Christmas Eve in some great town in a time of terrible frost.

I have a vision of a boy, a little boy, six years old or even younger. This boy woke up that morning in a cold damp cellar. He was dressed in a sort of little dressing-gown and was shivering with cold. There was a cloud of white steam from his breath, and sitting on a box in the corner, he blew the steam out of his mouth and amused himself in his dullness watching it float away….”

When you have finished this story, you must read this short essay. You simply must.

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