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A journal on China, travel, and the inner life by Tony Brasunas, author of Double Happiness

A Vote for the World: Bernie Sanders for President

It is a rare, historic moment right now in the United States. There is a political movement to take our democracy back from the giant corporations that have been running things, a movement aligned with the great progressive movements of history, a movement to tackle society’s most pressing problems, a movement to spread wealth and power more broadly among the American people.

In this rare moment, Double Happiness is proud to make its first-ever political endorsement: Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.

Here are four reasons Bernie Sanders and this movement are uniquely positioned to do great things for this country and our planet.

  1. Bernie Sanders doesn’t accept corporate contributions or run a “Super PAC” to bundle corporate money. In our corrupted political landscape, this is amazingly rare if not outright unique. Because of this, Bernie Sanders will be able to be his own president and not be beholden to the giant banks and corporations that normally fund candidates’ campaigns for office. This will enable him to take action nimbly and powerfully — and for the right things. If President Bernie Sanders is sitting in the Oval Office wondering whether to enforce a particular law, nominate a judge, or sign a piece of legislation, he will think not whether a giant bank would approve of his actions but whether the funders of his campaign — ordinary people — would approve.
  2. Bernie Sanders sees war as a last option in foreign affairs. He voted against both Iraq Wars, (more…)

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 6:44 pm on May 12, 2016

Something New: Calligraphy

Trying something new is a humbling experience. It’s also one of the ways we feel alive. The “beginner mind” we experience when we do something for the first time is a combination of the pleasure we get as our brain wires new neural pathways and the awkwardness our body feels doing something new.

I recently tried Chinese calligraphy, and it was an intimidating and sublime experience.Chinese calligraphy name posters

I’ve been writing Chinese characters — at least occasionally — ever since my first Mandarin class at Amherst in 1994. But calligraphy is a different animal entirely.

In China, calligraphy is truly a revered art form, a practice of creating beauty that is as highly regarded as painting or music. Great calligraphers throughout Chinese history have become famous throwing themselves into painting poetry with strokes that evoke the full range of human emotion.

I was after a more modest goal. I wanted to create name posters for some of the early supporters of Double Happiness.

First, I devised a name for each person I wanted to honor. I chose common (more…)

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 1:55 pm on January 30, 2016

There is Good News Too

Amid all the news about terrorism and war — there seems to be bad news all over the world these days — Double Happiness recounts and celebrates the possibility of cross-cultural understanding and self-discovery.

And my journey isn’t unique. International comprehension and amity is growing all over the world, in places and at events not covered in the media. Let’s remember: There is good news too, and a great deal of it.

The journey of exploring a culture and a people who are different (say, Chinese, Peruvian, or Iranian, etc.) is a powerful thing, and coming to understand oneself better through this exploration is an inspiring idea. When did you last take a journey into the unknown, and didn’t you come back wiser and kinder?

Holiday Discount

To Holidays 2015 Discountshare my story — and to inspire you to create more like it — I’m delighted to offer a Double Happy discount on the book this season. The journey of Double Happiness can be a gift for yourself or for a traveler on your list for half off the normal price.

Here’s the Holiday Discount >

And remember: Bad news is given more space in the media than good news, but that doesn’t mean there’s more bad than good going on today.

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 10:44 pm on December 16, 2015

Advance Praise From Writer’s Digest Awards

The winners aren’t announced until next year, but getting fives in all the judges’ categories should be a good sign.

Here are the judges’ review and remarks.

A fully experiential read, this book takes us on quite an adventure, immersing us into Chinese culture with the author’s extremely well-written details, made all the richer through exemplary use of sensory elements. We experience Chinese culture with him via tastes, smells, sounds, and textures. This author has a mastery of making his book an experience, not just a story to observe. Very well done.

Especially good are the moments of tension. When he is confronted by the ticket taker with a terse statement about Americans thinking their voice is the only one, the author diffuses the situation brilliantly, and provides smart diplomacy in the moment. Well done. We’re also worried in a scene where he suspects that someone will get into his bag. The author’s sense of exhale/relief, when he suspected for nothing, holds great resonance.

Beautiful phrasing throughout. The author has a majestic sense of description. Very well done.

We’re hopeful for him and Michiko, and when it doesn’t develop into a fulfilling relationship for him, we are disappointed for him. Yet he explains this not with any bitterness. Just a mature explanation and a glance forward. Well done.

Gorgeous ending with a look at nature, at how all grows, at how you must have a little death in the moment to open a path for growth. Excellent. This is a very talented writer, and his journey is filled with rich insight.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot and Story Appeal: 5

Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 5

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 9:38 pm on December 7, 2015

Double Happiness named Award-Winning Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards

It is an honor to report that Double Happiness has been recognized by another book awards program. The 2015 International Book Awards, sponsored by USA Book News, have selected Double Happiness as an award-winning finalist in the Memoir category.

Counting these book awards and prizes which have recognized Double Happiness, as well as these others, this award brings the total number of awards in which my book has either won or been recognized to eleven.

I’m proud of this book, and proud of all the work that so many people put into it on its way to publication. Every once in a while it’s nice to know that all that work is recognized.

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 12:34 pm on November 29, 2015

Want to learn Mandarin? Channel your inner baby.

Learning to speak Chinese can be challenging for native English speakers. The grammar and vocabulary pose obstacles, to say nothing of the unusual sounds and the semantic tones.

The problems posed by the new grammar and vocabulary are more or less the same as those posed by learning any foreign language, so I’ll leave them aside for this post. But if you want to learn to speak Chinese, the unfamiliar sounds that exist in Chinese that don’t exist in spoken English, and the semantic tones that distinguish one word from another will be the most critical and difficult challenges.lu_green-transparent

One way to learn the new sounds is to practice assiduously, to enunciate them over and over, and to listen to them repeatedly until you can differentiate them. You can practice, for instance, the essential tight ü sound, over and over, with words like (green). And you can repeatedly practice speaking and hearing the differences between (mother) and (horse).

Practice is crucial to climbing the mountain towards competency and, eventually, fluency. But with only practice, you won’t get there. (more…)

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 9:20 am on November 27, 2015