Monday, October 12, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Land of Little Rain

Stok Kangri, the highest peak in the Ladakh Range, framed by prayer flags

When I was 15, Galen Rowell came to town to give a slideshow on his most recent book, My Tibet, which he co-authored with the Dalai Lama. From that night onward I was transfixed with that distant land's mountains, artwork, and political situation. It's problematic to visit Tibet as travel is heavily curtailed by the Chinese government and places a traveler in the situation of supporting a repressive regime with no regard for Tibet's cultural, historical, and spiritual autonomy. My visit to Ladakh, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and Dharamsala, in Himachal Paradesh, however, has given me a beautiful glimpse into Tibetan Buddhism and the experience of refugees living in exile.

Below are a selection of images from the past few weeks. More images and thoughts can be found at my wife and I's travel blog, Other-Climes. Enjoy.

Mani stones found along a trail in the Snow Leopard Conservation Park

Some of the landscape between Kashmir and Ladakh

An ancient Buddhist sculpture near Leh

A monk preparing candles for a puja below a fresco that illustrates the principle of samsara

A gruesome, if anatomically correct, image from the Thiksey Gompa south of Leh

A Maitreya, 'Future Buddha', at Thiksey

Where animism and humor meet

Another beautiful Buddha statue at Thiksey

Dancers at the annual Leh Festival

Wall painting of Rinchen Zangpo, the Buddhist scholar responsible for countless gompas throughout Ladakh

At the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus rivers

A copper smith in the tiny village of Chiling

Adorable baby new best friend?

Someday, I hope to visit a free Tibet. Many organizations work tirelessly to bring about awareness of China's illegal occupation of Tibet and its deplorable human rights record. Here are just a few:

I hear a shadow...

Writing on a sticky keyboard in a 40 rupee per hour internet cafe in Northern India is just one of the many ways that life has changed for me in the last ten years. In '99 I'd left the Bay Area and returned to the Eastern Sierra where I lived out of my car, climbed as much as my tendons would take, and began the path toward becoming a teacher. I largely left behind the hardcore punk community that I'd known for the previous ten years and with it, the ins and outs of a scene that is at once intensely earnest and woefully unstable. It was a necessary move and one that, in the end, marked a major turning point in my life.

Last month, both Rorschach and C.R. played reunion shows in New York, and while I'm thousands of miles removed from that time in my life, I could not help but reflect on the impact both of those bands made on me.

When Protestant came out it made Rorscach the baddest band in the land, excluding no one. It was the Raw Power or Damaged for my generation. The vocals were at the very edge of unintelligible, moving into the realm of noise, but unlike legions of others that would ape that style their lyrics had substance and intelligence. Rorschach's anger--and I think pain--seemed genuine and that came through in their sound. As Sam McPheeter's has written, they took the banal genre of New Jersey grind and created something beautiful. When they played with Honeywell and Not For the Lack of Trying it marked one of the best nights of punk in Southern California.

For a whole year I woke up each morning and put on side two, as a way to deal with a decaying relationship and the uncertainty of my academic studies. When it came time to write my senior thesis I chose to delve deeply into the reproduction of images of violence in a piece that became "A Traffic in Suffering." I was able to speak at length with Charles Maggio about the genesis of the Remain Sedate, "Lightning Strikes Twice," and the use of Jan Saudek's troubling images. It was with his help and patience that the project was able to take shape and I was able to graduate with honors in Anthropology from UCSC.

C.R. was a band I came to love and follow entirely through an interview in Rumpshaker. That interview was one of the best pieces of writing I'd come across in years and though I never got to see them live I've maintained a pen-pal correspondence with Bricks Avalon for over a decade now. His energy, lust for life, and commitment to easing the suffering of others is a true inspiration.

I hope that the energy that energy that was invested in these bands can be channeled in directions beyond the basements and bedrooms that make up the world of hardcore punk and into real change in people's lives.

"If I had the power..."