On Pianos for Ukrainian Kids

On New Years Day 2023 our first Piano+1 Program in Europe began with a piano donated to Ukrainian refugee kids in Krakow, Poland. This is the story behind this project. Being kind takes work The day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I knew I had to help the Ukrainians. Little did I know it…… Continue reading On Pianos for Ukrainian Kids

Art and Aesthetics · music

Writing About The Pengyang Memorial Inscription With Emotion (or ‘Triumph’)

Between 1821 and 1823, Beethoven wrote his last major work for the piano, the Diabelli Variations.  He took a simple theme furnished by his publisher, and added 33 variations. A few months ago, in the middle of my life, and perhaps overly sensitive to my mortality, I challenged myself to learn this piece. I set…… Continue reading Writing About The Pengyang Memorial Inscription With Emotion (or ‘Triumph’)

Family and Friends · music

Westwards From Jingmen (or When Beethoven Met The Migrant Kids)

About the time Li Shangyin and I were meeting in Shenzhen, the drug wars in Central America had intensified. The United States was still a country that drew the oppressed, huddled masses. However, there was a growing sentiment in the country that change was coming too rapidly. America was turning brown and many were afraid.…… Continue reading Westwards From Jingmen (or When Beethoven Met The Migrant Kids)

Family and Friends

A Reply Sent From The Southwest Expedition

A Reply Sent From The Southwest Expedition (or How Did Time Begin, And Why Does It End  When One Dreams?)   When I was a child time vanished, or perhaps nothing ever changed. When I made my first deep breath, the baobabs and acacia trees of the savannah and the tea and coffee bushes of the…… Continue reading A Reply Sent From The Southwest Expedition

Family and Friends

Again to Official Pei Ming’s Abode (or On what did Atlas stand?)

We writers are the greatest of narcissists – we make a profession of consuming ourselves and then try to sell what we spit out. Books themselves, the paper kind, give me much pleasure. All my life, I haven’t cared if they were soggy and wet, dry, burnt, or new as long as I could hold…… Continue reading Again to Official Pei Ming’s Abode (or On what did Atlas stand?)

Family and Friends

Jasper Lake (or After The Formlessness, Who Gave Things Shape?)

My mother was the first of her generation to be born in America. Her father and mother escaped Russian pogroms when they were children. She was born under Sagittarius, in Brookline, Massachusetts. She didn’t know (or care) she was white and Jewish until her parents and friends learned of her Kenyan fiancé, and her mother…… Continue reading Jasper Lake (or After The Formlessness, Who Gave Things Shape?)

Art and Aesthetics · nature

Swallow Terrace Poems

As I was biking along the Shenzhen boardwalk, I looked up. The sky was a cool plastic slate that stretched from the west, where the sun blushed behind pearly screens. Around me the sounds of hip hop mixed with the tinkle of bicycle bells, the scent of jasmine and barbecued meat. Along the shore of…… Continue reading Swallow Terrace Poems

Art and Aesthetics · nature · Politics

40 Verses Of The Muddy Well

At sunrise, on a day trip to Reno, Shangyin drove past the orange groves that cover southern California. On a whim, he stopped his car and got out. Except for an old man pruning some trees by the roadside, there was no-one in sight. The man’s face was wrinkled and dark, and he had a…… Continue reading 40 Verses Of The Muddy Well

Art and Aesthetics · Politics

Given to Official Liu

One morning I woke in a sweat. Instinctively, I picked up my smartphone. Banner ads for insurance products and shampoo competed with news feeds about imminent wars and man-made disasters. Everywhere I looked it seemed the world was going up in flames.  I wanted to write something about it, but recoiled at the thought of…… Continue reading Given to Official Liu

Art and Aesthetics

Song of the Inner Palace

The Qing dynasty scholar Wang Guowei wrote of poems falling into two categories: close by or remaining at a distance. The Chinese character he uses for distance is ge(隔), whose ancient pictogram consists of three mounds, and a three legged urn. Shangyin’s poems often evoke a distance between the reader and the word, by referring…… Continue reading Song of the Inner Palace


Regards to Official Cui

Happy To Hear That Official Cui At Tai Yuan Served The Imperial Censor, And Also Sends Regards To The 3rd And 2nd Year Fellow Exam Candidates  One day, Shangyin told me, “I was summoned to the Emperor. Terrified and amazed, I kowtowed before him. He looked at me sternly and said “Shangyin, why do you…… Continue reading Regards to Official Cui