Digital Chinese Take Out for the Expat's SoulPosts RSS Comments RSS

Lazy Panda: Lessons in Cultural Localization

Around March 21st I ventured out of the house to a popular Muslim eatery not far from me and only a minute’s walk from the Yellow River. This particular noodle restaurant has an impressive view of one of the prettier Mosques in Lanzhou. Despite my unease in crowded areas and the fact that virtually everyone pauses to look at me or listen to the words spoken by this “foreign ghost” I am relatively comfortable along the Silk Road. The people here are well grounded, happy and generously patient with me–I am one of the few white faces that they see venture into the back alleys of their wholly ethnic neighborhoods. I usually find laughter, song, and endless questions. But, this night seemed different.

The looks from Uyghers and Hans alike were disquieting: Either I was struck suddenly paranoid, unknowingly wearing some tribal gang tattoo or people had taken a sudden dislike to my ethnicity. On the short elevator ride to the reception area I was roughly bumped by two large and unapologetic men. As I have spent the last five years in Guangzhou, where etiquette means you don’t stare at the victim if a truck runs over your competition for a cab, I was only slightly ruffled until one of them asked, without looking at me and in terse local dialect if I understood Chinese. I answered in the affirmative and they pushed ahead heads down and mutering in discontented low tones about someone or something they did not like.

And I was still wonderfully ignorant and emotionally fine as I flagged down a taxi. But, once my cabbie looked in the rear view mirror he began sternly advising me against scuffing his seats, not once, but three times on my way home. I am not sure how I could have damaged them any more than they already were: I was guessing he had the transport contract for the local vet who did the lion’s share of cat declawing.

I am not sure I have ever been happier to arrive home and turn on the news. Surely even CCTV would tell me that the Japanese earthquake had spun the world off its axis and people were more disoriented than usual.

In fact, the Libyan assault had started that day. The French had swung first, but the Americans were clearly to blame on social networks. Uygher separatists were using the event to rally for dissent and revolution and CCTV, despite minimizing U.S. involvement in the conflict, was having little impact on the volume of less than rosy twittered epithets being propagated online. I had an Alexander Wallace-like epiphany: “Start telling people you’re Canadian, aye.”

Yesterday, with some trepidation, I returned to the restaurant. I was greeted like a prodigal son and ushered to a comfortable table where several waiters and waitresses dropped by to practice their English. And I wasn’t body checked into the elevator’s walls on my way out where I quickly was able to catch a ride with an ebullient Chinese Gabby Hayes.

The only negative event of the evening came when a young woman disturbed my deeply reverent communion with a bowl of white river lilies in peach sauce. She was hitting her husband with surprising force and making him literally and figuratively lose patriarchal face among the 60-70 patrons aggressively watching the altercation. Between swings she would stop briefly to vilify him and explain to the restaurant that he had left his newborn son unattended for more than an hour in favor of Five Treasures Tea with friends. And she called him a “lazy panda.”

I caught on that “lazy panda” was not a term of endearment after our tea fancier was frog-marched out of the restaurant and sent back to his enclosure somewhere in Lanzhou. His friends began to joke about the nickname he had earned earned since the birth of his child. It seems he is a lot like the furry masked creatures at Chengdu who don’t show much interest in propagation. It was then I guessed his wife to be a pretty creative zoologist when not involved in a live capture exercise or a domestic violence assault.

The political and cultural weather is better now. It’s quit snowing and people are glad to be out even among the strangers in their communities. And I learned a great deal during this last storm:

Behavioral contagion in the form of anger or violence is color or religiously sensitive, and does not remember names or faces from friendlier times.
No man should aspire to be cuddly like a panda.
I am a guest here and always will be. And it behooves me to watch for signs of inclement days ahead. Cabbies and waiters are emotional meterologists and can gauge the pressures that associated with the best and worst of everything moving in and out of town.

Asian Women,Beijing Olympics,China Editorials,China Expat,China Expats,China Humor,china internet,Chinese Food,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Expats,Humor,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Muslim Food,Personal Notes,Silk Road,中国

One response so far

Gaining Twitter Influence!

I sometimes get hooked into reading articles written by social media industry giants who sell you their services via their articles on their giantism on social media.

One today guided me to do several things to improve my status.  And I couldn’t help myself: I went to check his Klout ( which is phonetically how you say “getalife”) score….

But, first I read his article from which I quote him on Klout and similar products:

“Companies like Klout and Twitalyser offer quantitative statistics to compare Twitter Influence based on factors such as follower counts, retweet volumes, list memberships, Facebook ‘likes’, comments and a number of other parameters. However, it’s an emerging and inexact science, with algorithms being revised and improved all the time. Klout recently revised its algorithm resulting in a number of scores being revised significantly, for example.

However, behind all the formulae lies a more fundamental guiding principle: namely the correlation between interesting, well crafted content and engagement.”

a look at his Klout scores yielded some interesting fascinating telling revealing ridiculous results:

 

And then just to be fair I compared him to someone who I have tried to get to follow me, but to no avail: @Hamsterwatch with his riveting content and despite being an infrequent updater wants nothing to do with this upright mammal.

  1. another hamster guilty plea! BB9 Matt followed Adam’s lead (via TMZ and @BigBroLiveFeeds) http://bit.ly/ePRpRN7:35 AM Jan 11th via web

    And Hamsterwatch’s scores? Put these in your Social Media wheel and spin ‘em!:

     

 

Clearly we have a lot to learn.

 

april fools

4 comments so far

Colour’s China Connect

Colour, new photo-sharing app cloned by China

 

The dubiously hot social app Color had most of Techcrunch abuzz this week. The app, which launched on Wednesday with $41 million in funding, shares user pictures with anyone else using the app within about 150 feet.

The Chinese, not to outdone, have created a reasonable duplicate with some interesting added features:

  • The app can project a mural patched together onto a building or a wall as long as the image is not bigger than the Tiananmen representation of Chairman Mao
  • The app has a uniform recognition program that can auto-delete any security personnel that might appear in the photo and can rearrange troublesome characters. One beta showing of the product turned a poster of Disney’s Princess Jasmine into the Monkey King. There are 100′s of programmable templates available.

The clone is the brainchild of an IT developer who owns Wangfujin’s McDonald’s franchise. Ronald , as he asked to be called, said , “I was sick of people just hanging around the shop with cameras and getting dragged off. Now, everyone can watch CCTV styled  app action in public without a TV! The point of the app isn’t really to share photos, but to “make communities.” A special Peking University version is available and will allow you to tag people in cafeteria lines that grouse about gruel prices so they can be added to such groups until they agree the school meals are a bargain at any price. It’s currently the thirtieth most-popular free app on the government recommended list at the Chinese iTunes store.

Part of Colour’s main pitch is that users can share with anyone and everyone, but won’t be held liable for content. At a walkathon or a big tea party, Colour users can see sanitized pictures that people in their section are taking of the action. It’s instant harmony! And a small update next week planned for Color promises to fix a critical problem facing users right now, but won’t be needed in the Chinese version: If you’re the only Colour user around, there’s still nothing really to see!

Ronald told me that the part of next week’s update that will be used will also adjust the range based on the media density in cities: If there are journalists around, the updated app simply won’t launch.

Some people are saying what Colour really needs to update, however, are its privacy settings.

He Xia, founder of on online privacy consulting blog, said that the app has some pretty serious privacy issues. With Colour, you’ll never have old friends or followers again. Instead, the app determines who your new friends “should be” in the same location. That’s a great idea in theory, but it also means that if another user is getting actively followed he may have more friends than he bargained on. Mr. He has been unavailable for further comment since talking to us.

“Say you are at a party meeting and you meet someone,” He said. “Then, the next thing you know, this person you have been told to know is understanding your world much better than you ever imagined.”

Colour’s meteoric rise makes that possibility a bit alarming.

“I think of this like Cisco on steroids,” he said. “Generally when a new site or app comes out, there’s an adoption curve that moves at a relatively slow speed. This is moving exponentially, but with that comes exponential growth in privacy and stalking issues as well.”

Users can block other users on Colour, but will never have a clear way to figure out who is actually viewing their media.

His final advice to users who just have to try out the app today is to be careful. “If you want to try it out, do it slowly and cautiously,” he said.

 

april fools

No responses yet

Chinese Herbal Remedy for Shortness Discovered….

Cure for shortness

Air China flights from Tokyo to cities near the birthplace of the world’s tallest man Bao Xishun, also known as Xi Shun or “The Mast” (Simplified: 鲍喜顺; Traditional: 鮑喜順) born in 1951, are booked for the next three months in light of a recent discovery by barfoot doctors in the area.

Comissioned by the Chinese Olympic Committee to find undetectable growth substances to give to baketball and high-jump athletes they instead found a blocking agent for the genes known to breed shortness.

Several years too late for me–I stand at 170 cm–the substance causing the stir, Obecalp-A, is made from distilled Miongolian sheep bile. It is expected to recieve governmental approval in Japan even faster than did Tamilflu or Viagra.

Shortly, after Mongolian herdsman Xi Shun made news, the hunt was on for the reason he grew so tall. Bao Xishun claims to have been of normal height until he was 16 when he experienced a growth spurt that resulted in his present height seven years later. “Who would have thought it was the sheep?” said Xi Shun’s new wife. She hopes to pass six feet next year by taking the supplement.

There is already a huge underground market for the extract which is being called “Woolhite” in back alley pharmaceutical shops. Hong Kong authorities have already seized 330 million HK Dollars worth of the drug headed overseas and warn that side effects of poor production can include aimless wandering, sleep disorders, and uncontrolled bleating.

 

(Thanks for allowing a repeat post…)

april fools joke,Asia,Asian Humor,China Olympics,China Photos,China Sports,Chinese Medicine,Humor,In the news,Japan,Just Plain Strange,Personal Notes,Photos,Weird China,中国

11 comments so far

Spread Hope

Reuters Photo

Reuters

There is an old religious joke that talks about St. Peter leading a group of hard-shell Baptists on a tour of heaven. The whole time they were getting a sanctified tour they could not help but notice a high wall blocking any view to the right of the procession. Finally, one of the followers deigned to ask about what was on the far side of the obstruction. St. Peter answered by putting a forefinger to his lips and  whispering, “Shhh. It’s the Catholics. We allow them to to think  they’re alone.”

It’s been quite a week: wars, unprecedented elections, genocide aided by international good intentions not backed by action, uprisings, volcanoes, the earthquakes that bred the tsunami that continues to effect nuclear and economic meltdowns.  And in the tamer, less catastrophic weeks that led up to the horrors in Libya, Bahrain, Sendai, and Fukushima there was the Jasmine Devolution and Groupon’s troubles baiting the China hook on their first Middle Kingdom fishing expedition.

Not unlike the Beijing Olympics ( how is that for a metaphorical jump?), the intense media coverage and social media soapbox attention given to global disasters brought out a raft of what Ted Turner (surely headed toward the console to start playing Nearer My God to Thee) would have deemed kooks or bozos. Everyone with an agenda or a buck to make on adversity had something to say: and most of it was reprehensible. They tried to outwardly extend the boundaries of their political and ideological heavens (or hells) devoid of humanitarian consideration for the suffering at hand.

Let’s look back to Groupon for a paragraph or two: The madmen who contrived the Superbowl ads probably spent  more time discussing the thread counts on their suits than the cultural impact of their decision to air a commercial that a junior high school student in mainland China could have advised them was going to fly them through a shit storm for which a flak jacket and goggles would be mandatory. Groupon’s supporters cried “foul” and pointed to the fact that despite the vagueness of the ad ( Angry Birds should have given away a secret decoder link) they did indeed give money to imperiled Tibetans. It’s just that the Tibetans they support live in India in exile and are viewed by 1.2 million well instructed Chinese as separatists and a threat national stability. Add to it that for religious reasons most Tibetan Buddhists in exile, Tibet, greater China don’t eat fish because they are used to consume corpses in water burial rituals and you had acts perceived as cultural aggression in both sides of the political and geographical border. Offers of money don’t easily buy you out of those kind of fixes.

Pundits piled on that one and Old China Hands talked about the perils of Internet business in China and took odds that Groupon will fare worse here than my beloved Cubs might have of making the MLB playoffs. The jocular usual media suspects and good old boys, journalists and ex-journalists who interview, blog and record each other’s comments over drinks in Beijing, heckled Groupon nearly as much as they normally do anyone not afforded the sign or grip of their secret society. But, I digress…

Then soon after the Jasmine Devolution attracted more media than strolling activists (they’d been locked up or invited to tea (detained) in advance of their morning walks) for breakfast at KFC and McDonalds. Stephen Engle of Bloomberg was beaten, detained for hours and forced to file a police report while in dire need of medical care. It’s hard to imagine not one of the hundreds of cops and soldiers nearby was able to stop a broomstick battering of a journalist by a group of men wearing tactical communication type wireless ear pieces.

Social media fingers began pointing at the photographers themselves, there to do their jobs, as the cause of the ruckus and Engle was quickly crucified in absentia for crimes of omission and submission by reporters from time immaomoraiam. And if something had happened and they would have stayed in the comfort of home away from home someone would have been nailed for that one too.

My truck with the reporting of any of this, aside from the hate mongers who all seem to have heavenly authority to speak ex-cathedra on matters of morality, is the lack of attention to the human response cost in each of these tragedies.

A journalist running a running a stringer’s boiler room inn Shanghai once told me that I would never get published if I insisted on writing human interest stories with a positive slant. perhaps she was right. These last few weeks I have carefully watched  reactions to my updates on Twitter and Facebook and tagged my Twitter upates and my pictures on Twitpic. Those pictures or posts containing disaster or devastation seach terms were rebroadcast/viewed, on a average, 40X more often than those with heroic or human interest markers.

Bing took update hits over a Twitter campaign encouraged by Brian Seachrest (American Idol) that asked people to retweet their commitment to pay the Red Cross a dollar for each tweet up to a maximum of $100,000. It was seen as a commercial ploy while Lady Gaga was lauded for for donating proceeds for a grisly bracelet she designed when the link for the bracelet took you to Gaga’s ad forested online  store. As an aside: Though I don’t use Bing, I am now a fan because of the way they handled the crisis: They donated the $100,000 within minutes of criticism and apologized for what was obviously a poorly thought out and hastily run campaign.

To date I have seen no stories on the impact of Grooupon’s faux pax on Tibetans living inside or outside the borders of greater China. And I have not seen a story about any of the hundreds of workers, who signed on with Gaopeng in hopes of tenured employment with an up and coming new venture, and how this has affected their lives.

I have not read about Stephen Engle’s  recovery, the outcome of Embassy calls for justice in his attack nor the impact on him, and other journalists, of the aggression and subsequent indifference to suffering he endured in Beijing.

I translated and re-broadcast (retweeted) several Japanese updates this week.   One man, trapped under his house in northeast Japan put his address in a tweet. Another man talked about the charity and collective strength he felt after seeing several random acts of kindness. In one of his updates he asked people to “spread hope.” Others have called for a pre-morbid  celebration and recognition of Fukushima’s 180 ( #Fukushima140)heroic workers who have surely sacrificed their lives in service to others. They are already enshrined in many hearts as are the ancient 47 leaderless samurai who embody, arguably, a kind of selfless courage and spirit known in Japan as Bushido. There is no argument about these men and others who have and will surely suffer for their kindness.

One beautiful and moving article this week that touched on the difficulties faced by the nearly 500,000 people searching for news of missing or displaced relatives.  The piece was written by an LA Times reporter “on the ground” in Sendai. I felt it baited readers with a headline that made it sound like chaos had begun to reign in one most honor bound places on earth. In fact the Japanese have made themselves exemplars of dignity with their unselfishness and commitment to the common good. maybe the reporter or her editor felt and important story wouldn’t be read without first appealing to the apocalyptic side of us first. (It was better than the horsemen Beck and Limbaugh who ask you to follow them into foul and foreboding places stripped of any humanity where bright students like Alexander Watson get lost.

Many of the messages I read moved me to tears, many have inspired me, and others made me examine my place in the social web and where I want to be as a writer, friend, social median, volunteer and, more importantly, where I hope to be one day as a more self-actualized person who isn’t afraid he will write a story, or run a venture, only a few will come to know or appreciate.

Best of all: I have adopted a new #hashtag I will use without regard for its popularity: #SpreadHope…

 

American Professor in China,Censorship,China Editorials,China Expat,China Law,Chinese Education,Heartsongs,Human Rights China,In the news,Intercultural Issues,IWOM,Tibet,中国

2 comments so far

海归,海带,海鸥 Part I

China’s narrow definition of educational success abroad

Academic and aristocratic people live in such an uncommon atmosphere that common sense can rarely reach them.
Samuel Butler

“To get into [ China’s #1 University] Tsinghua as an undergraduate, you have to score extremely well on a nationwide test,” Seth Roberts, a U.C. Berkeley professor emeritus of psychology.  That is an understatement. A good score on the gaokao is the dream of nearly every college eligible student in China or rather it is the dream of every eligible Chinese student’s family. And subsequent sheepskins from brand name schools in China or abroad are what separate the social wheat from the chaff.

Roberts is part of a team to teach advanced psychology and happiness (somehow sad we have to study it to achieve it now)  at Tsinghua University. It was formed this spring after knife attacks in kindergartens left 15 young children dead and turned the spotlight on mental health in China. Just walk through any major pedestrian area and, like the US, you’ll quickly spot many in need of help. Shenzhen, the industrial pride of south China has the highest rate of mental illness in China and the least number of rehabilitation beds per capita. All the assailants in the kindergarten attacks were alleged to suffer from psychological problems or grudges related to workplace or relationship problems. And following the “posioned Apple” problems at Foxconn, a computer and iPhone component manufacturing plant in southern China, where several workers committed suicide, the gap between China’s rich and poor, educated and better educated began to look harder to span.

One obstacle to happiness in China, Peng said, is the intense culture of competition: “When you have that many people all fighting to achieve the same narrowly defined goals, it becomes a zero-sum game,” he said. “That’s why we need to change the paradigm of what success means and come together for the greater good of Chinese society,” Peng added. “That’s why we need to talk about the science of happiness.”

Happiness is not a factor when Chinese parents think about the stiff competition facing their children. I had dinner with a magazine editor recently who filled his son’s days and nights with paid tutors in everything from Saxaphone to language test prep’ schools. His son plans to major in engineering though he told me once, with his head in his hands, that he really wanted to be an artist. The son showed me the sketch book that he has secreted away from his family for years. Despite being (not surprisingly) a bit dark, the sketches were extraordinary. He is one of dozens of students through the years that has opted to repay his parent’s financial assistance by fulfilling their dreams of being proud owners of an Ivy League graduate with a job at a well known company.

The last three years, at no charge, I have assisted 20 students in their quest to attend schools in America and Hong Kong. 100% of the students are enrolled in “top 30″ schools. “Top” is defined by parents as a recognizable name or a U.S. News and World Report ranked program. I have helped place students, with differing levels of aid, at Columbia, Carnegie, Colorado College, Penn State, Nebraska, Berkeley, Yale, and others. Many of them came to me as English majors looking to move into business or finance. Some of them had already employed the services of cram schools that extort up to $9,000 USD for recommendations (fake), Personal Statements and Resumes (also fake), and assistance in choosing a “Top 50″ school.

One student came to me bearing a random list of colleges, some excellent schools and some dubious at best, saying she had been told to choose up to eight specially and individually chosen colleges and universities for which the service would then prepare admissions documents needed for matriculation. I designed a test for these lists as it was clear that there was no real rhyme or reason to them. I asked the students to select only the top tier schools listed and return them to the service.

The intern/assistant at the college guidance center was making 1,500 RMB a month preparing fake documents and teaching ways to scam various admissions tests. She was only a college junior herself and when presented with the list of top schools by my student she paled and said, “You need to pick some easier schools. These may be too good for you.” I wondered why they would recommend those schools if the candidates were not qualified for them in the first place. No mention was ever made of the reasons for their decisons and the intern did not even know when queried what programs of study were available at the schools listed. Note: They only get their full fees if the student is admitted to a school. To ensure their financial futures they throw in “ringers” of two types:

1. Schools they know will admit anyone who can pay full tuition.

2. Schoos that pay the service referral fees of up to 20% of each year’s tuition.

The intern finally capitulated and then handed my charge her doctored personal statement and letters of recommendation. They were loaded with errors: Chinglish spelling and grammar mistakes. One of the letters was purportedly written by a famous Chinese native English Professor (who likely gets a fee for each letter bearing his name) who could not possibly have penned such drivel.

I corrected the personal statement (PS) and the letters and sent my student back to the intern with the new versions. I had also removed the glaring buzzwords like “self motivated”, “creative”, “democratic leader”  that appeared with an annoying frequency throughout the documents they said were created using a secret formula. Kentucky Fried Admissions. The intern consulted with her boss, who had been told that an American Porfessor had edited their work. She chastised the student and vilified my efforts: “He has turned a rich cup of tea into a glass of water!” She also was verbally chastened for having a foreigner involved: “The American cannot possibly understand the Chinese mindset and will fail in getting you admitted.”

Near the same time I was  amending the documents I also called admissions directors at the best schools on the list. We found later that the service had not prepared additional documents and essay questions needed to assure entrance into these more elite schools. The student, guided by me, submitted them on her own and said nothing to the sevice. And we added one more top school not on the service’s list and applied without telling them.

The student was admitted to every school to which I assisted in preparing materials. The service claimed responsibility for the success and is now sporting news of her admissions in a forged testimonial on their website. Of the dozens of students who successfully were placed by the service my student was the only one admitted to a U.S. News ranked college.

This is not a story about my acumen as an adviser, but a cautionary tale for Chinese parents desperate to advance their student’s careers. These cram scools and services only exist to make money, not to serve the real needs of the student. One such service, NASDAQ listed, is building nearly 100 new centers to fleece well-to-do parents out of their hard earned Yuan. Their happiness lies in a good quarterly report and a high placement rate regardless of the school’s real impact on the student’s well being or future quality of life.

Sea turtles (Those who return and contribute to China with their newfound skills) will be a catalyst for creativity,” predicts Henry Wang Huiyao of the Western Returned Scholars Association. Sea Weed drifts without purpose and has little to offer. Too many schools, now that education has industrialized, care little for the endowments success will bring and do not mind returning students home that they may never see again. Haio is a seagull and implies that one is free to come and go and represents students who have successfully integrated eastern and western thought so well that they can travel freely to and from a foreign country.

There are some good centers, good eastern-looking western institutions as well as some competent prep schools out there. They are few and far between.

In coming posts I will also examine the explosion of 2+2 and 1+3 degree mills that now prey on wealthy students who under-perform on Chinese entrance exams. They give a year’s worth of expensive preparation in cooperation with schools in the UK and US who have lowered their standards in an effort to raise their bottom lines along with false hopes for the wealthy parents who finance their operations.

 

American Professor in China,China Editorials,Chinese Education,Cross Cultural Training,Education in China,Intercultural Issues,Macau University of Science and Technology,Macau University of Science and Technology,New Oriental,中国

2 comments so far

Turning Hashtags into Plowshares

 

There were “Nine Black Categories” during the Cultural Revolution: Landlords, rich farmers, anti-revolutionaries, bad influences (the catch-all available in any culture), right-wingers, traitors, spies, capitalist roaders and lastly, intellectuals—scholars have been last, or next to last in Chinese caste hierarchies since the Yuan dynasty where they were only slightly better regarded: They were ninth in the caste order and beggars ranked tenth. But, I digress…

Chinese revolutionaries might have hated Twitter and other social media even more than the PRC central government does now because in the often quoted words of W.B.Yeats: “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

A card game, called Beat the Landlord, game grew out of this cultural conflict: Dou Di Zhu– (literally fight the landlord) and continues to be wildly popular on the Internet here with millions of players. The game allows two “bandits” to gang up on one “landlord” in an attempt to allow his partner player to divest himself cards and win. The landlord does not often fare well. I have grown weary of a few Internet landlords and short of beating on them I have just opted to delete them from view.

Social Media has been a digital gift from the heavens for me. I have been active on the web in one form or another since 1978. Social Media as I knew it then worked well because the conference moderators insisted we divest ourselves of titles and station and work on tasks that benefited the community as a whole.

I was playing Scrabble online with a social media “influencer” a year or so ago and we were both updating our experience as we battled. Suddenly he told me that he had to stop clogging his tweet stream with game details as he had lost followers during our contest. His reason for being on networks was clearly different than mine. I have used blogs and networks for years as a way to make and maintain friends. And as a result I have met In Real Life (IRL) dozens of people that were first introduced to me only as avatars, long lines of updates, shared pictures, music selections, videos or blog posts. It has been magical. And on my recent trip back to the States I revisited “old” Internet friends (some I had known for 7-10 years without ever meeting in the flesh) and I sought many I had not met, but for whom I had developed a special affinity. I found them to be even more gracious, kind and fun than their 140 character at a time persona allowed for online.

I use Twitter and Facebook in place of an RSS feed now and revel in new information about cultures, conflicts, charities and ways to improve my quality of life and that of others. I am pro revolution and pro profit as long as there is truth in the advertising…

But, of late I have noticed a disturbing trend. Sites like Quora, and Twitter have given credence to digital landlords, anti-revolutionary government and corporate eavesdroppers, rich corporations looking to speak to trends as opposed to consumers, link baiting spam laden roaders and those that inherited social wealth by association or early adoption who now look to dictate the set, setting and content of our conversations and want to make more money telling me how I can do it too. They act as landlords and exclude or attempt to evict those with differing views or too little to offer them as they extend their tweetreach or make their personal brands more recognizable.  And many of them display far from exemplary conduct as they write the leases that we aspiring digerati will tacitly sign in order to get along with them hoping to be included or for fear of being vilified, or worse, cast into the darkness of less social cyberspace.

I once asked the author of several books and hundreds of articles to “retweet” (broadcast again) a status update of mine wherein I listed the URL  of a U.S. sanctioned charity helping flood victims in China. I was told in seconds that under no circumstances would he jeopardize his social capital by assisting an unpopular cause. People were not happy with China. Lions 2, Chinese 0. “The best lack all conviction…”

Two gurus in Hong Kong refuse to add their name to any charitable cause not self organized because of its possible negative impact on their branding.  One of them actually refuses to pay admission to Internet supported charity affairs because his presence alone has value. His has a lot of social capital, earned by gossiping about others and devaluating their currency, though I wonder how many friends he’d have if he socially sobered up and put principles before his own personality.

Another Internet luminary recently assaulted a well-followed China Twitter user and lambasted him, among many things, for using a pseudonym and for not being in what the communication constable construed to be viable social media circles and for artificially growing his Twitter following. What he did not know is: the monicker is his court appointed name and the man he citizen arrested (with not a little police brutality and great fanfare involved), or rather the criminal in question, has secretly helped fund out of his own pocket important TEDx and intercultural social events that would otherwise not have happened.  I neither know, nor care, how he amassed a huge audience. Ironically, the cybercop in this episode of Social Media’s Most Wanted was concomitantly announcing to the world via his updates how proud he was that answers he offered on Quora were being voted to the top of listings. Now there is a real resume builder. This is the same man who incidentally told me, a former EOD trained Ordnance Officer in the Army, that I was wrong about what weapons were in use during my time in service when the closest he has ever come to the military is a Tom Clancy novel. This is a man who tirelessly works online to build his personal brand as an intellectual and contrary to most things. “…while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

And last, but not least in my not nearly exhaustive (maybe exhausting) rant is the visit by two writers for a brand name commercial financial rag. Their boss called with a day’s notice and asked if I would host them on their first trip into South China. I have done this for many journalists and business people. The heavy lifting is usually done by bright and self effacing volunteers from the local community who translate and accompany them to parts of Guangzhou, as a favor, that newcomers might never otherwise see. “In your life, you meet people. Some you never think about again. Some, you wonder what happened to them. There are some that you wonder if they ever think about you. And then there are some you wish you never had to think about again. But you do.” These two were hosted for meals in a restaurant that stayed open just to be kind to them,  given true visiting royalty status and then left only to write a blog post later that never mentioned the volunteers or kindness showed them, but instead only remarking about how filthy the air was in our city.The two poison ivy league graduates from well heeled families left several young students in Guangzhou wondering if our privileged company knew the difference between engagement and entitlement.

It is about conversation, not adulation. It is about earning relationships, not winning or displaying stinking badges. It is about dissolving boundaries, not drawing yourself into some inner circle. It is about traveling the hills and valleys of the bell curve, not cowering in the far end with only folks with similar statistics in some strange social equation. It is , for me, about trying (and sometimes succeeding in spite of myself) to do something good even if I have to panhandle…

There are no “Seven Keys to Internet Success.” There is one:

Be authentic

And while you are being authentic, if you can find the time to do a #randomactofkindness just do it.  Turn a couple of #hashtags into ploughshares.

And I try to remember that there is usually are real people and dear friends at the other end of my updates. And I believe that if had to belong to one of social media’s black categories I’d likely shoot for scholarship or refine being a beggar…

 

“God, grant me the Senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference”

 

 

Charity in China,China Business,China Business Consultant,China Editorials,China Expat,Cross Cultural Training,Human Rights,Intercultural Issues,Personal Notes,social media,The Internet,中国

3 comments so far

Many Faces: Education in China

“There are quantities of human faces, but there are many more faces, for each person has several.”

Ranier Maria Rilke

I once substituted  as lecturer for a Classics course in a Chinese Ivy League school. The beloved Harvard educated Chinese professor could not teach that term because of medical issues.  I entered the classroom as an unknown entity. Students at the University were used to “Waijiao”  (Foreign Teachers or literally Outside Teachers) with little or no experience being put into their classrooms more for the color of their skin or country of origin than for the their knowledge of the subject to be taught. After a brief run through the ambitious syllabus foisted on me I asked the class if there were any questions. One young man in the back of the room angrily asked: “What qualifies you to teach at this institution?” His question neither offended nor surprised me.

I knew a little of the history of this class and their previous foreign faculty members: one, in his sixties, had recently been asked to resign as a result of relational improprieties and another, also in his sixties, was dating three different young women at once (uknown to the others)  while living with another on campus. Neither teacher had a degree in English nor much of a cultural grasp of China beyond a singular fondness for young Chinese girls. Sadly, this breed of foreign expert had been the norm at that school for many years.

I calmly explained that I had been at on time, before my travel to China, a “real teacher” with a real desire to see them come to love and understand literature as much as I had during my graduate education. I told them that my credentials, awards, and publishing credits more than qualified me for undergraduate lecturing. I stress that  during my program I was taught by mentors and visiting lecturers in my program who had won every award from the National Book award to the TS Elliot Prize to the Nobel, to…But academic window dressing would only have meaning if by the end of the term they had come, to paraphrase Rilke, to enjoy literature more and more, and became more and more grateful, and somehow better and simpler in vision, and deeper their faith in life, and happier and greater in the way they lived and were able to appreciate the power of the written word as it has influenced millions over the decades.

Richard, the young man above, was the class antagonist the entire term: He became my favorite student by way of his challenges and lust for knowledge and academic integrity in his learning. He will graduate from Columbia this year and he still intellectually wrestles with me when I post something questionable on Facebook or other social networks where we remain connected.

Most new teachers in China will not have such good luck. They will not have vocal students (another post will discuss why they are silent and it is not for lack of opinion or ability) who will educate them about how they are perceived nor will they be lucky enough to teach top students much more than oral English idioms in a class better suited for elementary aged pupils.

Know this:

  • You are a foreigner and many round eyes and white faces have preceded you. Some have done their job well, most have not.
  • It is your responsibility to acculturate, not theirs.
  • Learn your students Chinese names and something of their background.
  • Be patient with yourself and your students.*
  • Know that the students have already spoken, and likely written on school boards, about you. Ask them individually how to improve their learning experience. They will tell you though not always with the grace and tact you might like. Do not be surprised to be told, if you open yourself to feedback, that you are short, fat, old, wrinkled or speak too fast, slow, too much or too little to them.
  • Know that the Chinese staff knows little or nothing about you and may not bother to take much time to engage you: you are a transient in their life of endless meetings, regulations, low pay, long hours and mandated curriculum. They may think you less prepared culturally and academically than their Chinese colleagues.

The China Library Project

There are three exercises I use in almost every class to bring each student, and consequently China, into better focus:

  • I take time away from regular studies to have each student write their name in Chinese on the board and describe each element and character in the name. I ask them to include the historical meaning of the name, who gave it to them and why. Att the same time I ask them not to use an English name in my class in order that I might learn their real names and the identities behind each one. This term, Purple Heart, Handsome Horse, Ms Poetry and Beautiful Phoenix are a few of the student names I will never ever forget–where I might not remember the faces or stories of Chloe, Vince or Sophie. And the stories behind the names have been worth a thousand Chinese culture classes as I have learned about Feng Shui from those whose names were chosen for luck by a soothsayer or master, enjoyed tales about entire villages with a common middle or last names, and shared in the hopes and dreams of parents who chose Chinese name characters hoping their meaning would influence the futures of their children by association or divine intervention.
  • I interview each student in many classes and ask them simple questions about the wishes, lies and dreams in their educational lives. I have come to know real people, not numbers, faces or acquired names. And the fear that once separated us has often dissolved and been replaced by lasting respect and I have been able to honor and stretch their boundaries. And they become as uncomfortable with the term Waijiao as I do because, while always an outsider, I am on the periphery with love and appreciation and a sincere desire to see them succeed:  “I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other”
  • The first ten minutes of any class is devoted to school, local, regional and national news. This keeps me informed about things I would never otherwise know, helps with language acquisition, and tells me culturally what is important to them and why. Politics and religion are forbidden discussion topics, but  feelings about sports, war, earthquakes, and even movies or television star scandals will inform about China you in ways you never dreamed possible. Students learn that I am not the America they condemn because of the reader-baiting bias of a CNN or other media source and I re-discover that they are not the perpetrators of the rules and ideologies by which the west defines China.

 

Becoming a teacher in China is more than lessons in language if you have respect, and most of all, patience:”… there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being a [ teacher] means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!”

 

American Professor in China,China Blog,China Business Consultant,China Editorials,China Expat,Chinese Education,Confucius Slept Here,Cross Cultural Training,Education in China,Intercultural Issues,New Oriental,Personal Notes,Teaching in China

No responses yet

I See You

Our common lexicon is often changed by movies, televison shows, advertising, and oral transmission in person or over digital, analog or snail mail networks. “Unfriend” was Oxford’s word of the year for 2009 as it had, despite its psycholinguistic negativity, “lex-appeal” been passed on by social medians around the world. “Believe it or Not,” “Come on Down,” “Help I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up,” “Where’s the Beef?,””Impossible is Nothing,” and dozens of terms have planted themselves firmly in the center of conversation in scores of cultures world-wide even when users are barely able to remember origins.

Avatar has been panned by some critics as nothing more than a film with bright graphics illuminating predictable story lanes. And I have read blog posts asserting that all of its content will fade from our collective consciouness faster than it grossed its record breaking billion dollars in box office revenue. I am not so sure.

The curmudgeonly two-percenters among us, those dizzying intellectuals who can construct an intricate and convincing argument for just about anything negative, are often strangers to the ravishingly simple beauty of an oft told love story. Sure, the fates of Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliette, Cyrano and Roxane and Abélard and Heloise will long be retold as adapted by lesser princes of literature and music, but Bob Dylan once said that all the songs have been sung and all stories already written. However, to put them into a contemporary idiom that speaks to modern hearts (in varied cultures) is worthy of praise, not derision.  Confucius said of these critics: “Men in old times studied to improve themselves; men study today to impress others.” Hopefully we’ll emotionally wake to the fact that an Avatar line like “I see you”–meaning I sense, feel and completely connect with you– can appeal to the marvelously ordinary in everyday people and  may well wind itself into more than one exchange of affection. But, I digress….

There may be other reasons for thwarting the success of Avatar in China.

I saw Avatar last week in a packed Hong Kong theater, tickets to which were were as scarce as a tamed Lenopteryx. Mainland China authorities stalled its release beyond an already delayed debut. Subsequently, I heard rumors that the Radio and Television Ministry (SARFT) had deployed a strategy similar to one used during the National Day holiday to boost domestic ticket sales for the currently running Bodyguards and Assasains, a home-grown feature flick. At that time, foreign films were nowhere to be found during the The Founding of a Republic, initially a box-office weakling, that went on to capture patriotic hearts, minds and a handsome gross. Avatar was reviewed ahead of its opening on the mainland by respected Chinese sites and generally given a bad grade by reviewers during the enforced break.

I am no conspiracy theorist – I look bad in aluminum hats – but, I cannot help but see, even in potentially false rumors regarding Avatar, evidence of a greater problem in China. During the last year China slowly and systematically re-lowered the Bamboo Curtain and took a look backward for guidance about its collective future. From karaoke bars to social networks the ability to electronically connect and “see” beyond China’s borders has been progressively restricted and interactions shunted toward scrutiny. With bit torrent sites ceremoniously closed to posture for the WTO and antedeluvian western IP criticisms gave dubious credence to China’s need to create more Internet restrictions to grow what Evgeny Morozov in The National calls cultural scarcity.

Morozov says, “For every Chinese blogger that the techno-utopians expect to fight their government via Twitter, there are a hundred others who feel content with the status quo.” I don’t agree. Facebook usage fell from 1 million users to 14,000 after it was blocked following the Uruqimi riots, but it wasn’t ennui that caused it, rather China’s Internet landlords upped the rent and effective proxy clients are not in the average netizen’s budget. A huge number of people are mad as hell, but will have to wait a little longer to not take it anymore. They “see” the forces at work…. The culturally hungry find new ways around the existing virtual blockades and the ongoing freedom fail.

A spot-on request by the WTO is that China allow more western entertainment into the country. But, they need to embrace a better model for distribution like Creative Commons along with reasonably affordable properties from which lawyer run entertainment companies expect to profit: DVDs sans extras, China specific releases, and more ad supported online availability would be a good start…..

Morozov is wrong when he asserts that “Citizens of modern authoritarian states face a choice between hedonism with stable prosperity (their status quo) and hedonism with unstable prosperity – the hedonism that may follow a tumultuous transition to democracy.” People cannot object with voices without being taught a vocabulary with which they can dissent. Moreover, it is naive to think that they will defend what  they have never been allowed to see….

 

American Professor in China,Animation,China films,china internet,Intercultural Issues,中国

No responses yet

The Crock Theory

The Elucidation of the Parlous Panjandrum

or

The Crock Theory

by Dr. Dave Garber

One might begin by asking, “What is a Parlous Panjandrum?”  (parlous being synonymous with dangerous and panjandrum being a high muck amuck.  One might describe a person holding high office in a bureaucracy as a Parlous Panjandrum if the person’s behavior fits the definition.

An evolutionary stage of the Parlous Panjandrum is the Sisyphean Wanderoo,  Let me explain the roots of the term “Sisyphean Wanderoo.”   Sisyphean means like Sisyphus, who was a character in Greek mythology.  In Webster’s, Sisyphus is described as follows: “A son of Aeolus and ruler of Corinth, noted for his trickery: he was punished in Tartarus by being compelled to roll a stone to the top of a slope, the stone always escaping him and rolling down again.”  Sisyphean is used to refer to an endless and unavailing labor or task.  A wanderoo is a monkey or langur found in India and Ceylon — most of whom have bright red or purple butts.  The name wanderoo seemed to go well with Sisyphean and conveyed a graphic image of someone who is working very hard and not really accomplishing his/her objectives.  The Parlous Panjandrum generally does not remember being a Sisyphean Wanderoo.  Whence then the Crock Theory?

If one approaches a low level worker in any number of bureaucratic organizations, to include: government, the military, the academy, or business and ask him/her to briefly to describe the nature of the organization a common response will be “It is a crock of ……(fill in the blank)”  (This response will not generally come from the novitiate who, for a period of time, accepts the view of the organization presented in the organization’s indoctrination.)

A prevailing myth in bureaucratic organizations is that as one moves up the hierarchy one becomes increasingly free.  The assumption here is that when one can order others about and control one’s own schedule, that this represents organizational freedom. In fact as one moves up in an organization one becomes increasingly bound by organizational constraints that limit one’s objective view of the organization, to say nothing of freedom of speech.  In fact, organizational freedom is more accurately defined as the ability to see the true characteristics of the organization and to comment there on.  Thus those at the lower levels are free to see the organization for what it is, and to comment about it.  They see that it’s a “Crock” and can say that it’s a “Crock.”  In fact they go about knowing and saying with impunity.

With time and promotion in the organization the previously free individual becomes less and less able to openly say that it’s a Crock.  Frequently these workers become “closet “Crock” sayers.”  That is they go into a closet before work and say: “It’s a “Crock”, It’s a “Crock.”  They then go to work and act and speak as if it is not a “Crock.”

With time and promotion the Closet “Crock” Sayer’s memory fades and he/she forgets that it’s a crock.   This occurs around the time the individual becomes a “middle manager.”  Many individuals become truly dangerous (parlous) at this point because they take the organization very seriously and fail to see the humor that infuses all organizations.

Having forgotten that it’s a Crock, upward mobility subjects the individual to a strange metamorphosis — He/She becomes a “Crock.”  Less you despair, the problem with bureaucratic organizations is not that “Crocks” top them.  There are all types of Crocks: Plain “Crocks”, Fancy “Crocks”, “Crocks” with tops and “Crocks” with handles, to name a few.  The problem is with the “Cracked Crock.”  This problem is related to the contents of “Crocks.”  For it has been axiomatic since Isaac Newton that: “S— runs down hill.”

Dave Garber

—–

My first “real job” was working with a group of developmentally disabled girls. Severely handicapped teens with autism, Downs Syndrome, seizure disorders and more… It remains the toughest job I ever performed. I took the job as I waited to enter the military as a Medic and Social Work Psychology Procedures Specialist. The doctoral students in charge of the program were writing their dissertations in a new an exciting field: Applied Behavioral Analysis or “Behavior Mod” as it was known at the time. I volunteered to help them norm a self-paced course meant to train doctoral students at the University of North Carolina.

Serendipity brought me to the US Academy of Health Sciences after basic training.  The faculty Learning Theory and Behavior Modification instructor, a draftee , was about to leave the service. I was all of 19-yrs old,so my knowledge of Skinnerian principles of behavior stunned the staff and caused not a little doubt about my ability to teach in a Health Sciences School where war hardened vets were returning to be reclassified from combat jobs after tough tours in Vietnam. After two mandatory graduate classes in teaching techniques and examination methods and a trial class examination I was reluctantly brought on to the faculty. I was easily the youngest and least educated staff member and as a result endured more hazing than an Animal House inductee. Even without a degree, our cooperation with Baylor University soon landed me the august title, “assistant instructor” and then later instructor. It was the beginning of a long love affair with academics.

Major Dave Garber was my first and only boss at Ft. Sam Houston. He had a doctorate in Social Work and was a benevolent patriarchal figure to a rag-tag bunch of belligerent and far too intelligent enlisted draftees. We made the cast of M.A.S.H. look like a spit-and-polish outfit. Professor Potter, uh, Garber, who went on to become a full Colonel and the Army’s Chief Social Work Consultant was likely the only man alive with patience and humor enough to guide our department through the last days Vietnam and a fast changing and demoralized cast of military misfits. With better equipment and facilities than colleges have even today, we not only trained the military’s counselors, doctors, nurses and allied health care professionals, we literally wrote the book on Behavioral Science for the military, conducted POW family adjustment research, supervised interns in the Army’s burn center, authored computer assisted instruction material, made training videos used by service schools, and supervised interns in child guidance/abuse clinics and drug and alcohol centers. Dave often said, in years that followed that we “could do it all” and I am guessing we could have.

My peers went on to careers as Teachers, Career Military Officers, College Academics, Psychologists, Dentists Social Workers and more. It was a talented group….

This 19-year old would never have made it through without Dr. Garber. He never raised his voice to me when he found his name tag one day switched to read “Garbage,” and only once had to gently inform me that my signing out of the school for hours at a time for “PT”  was meant to be Physical Training, not Personal Time. And I was admonished, not demoted, for rewiring the non-commissioned chief’s phone to operate upside down and for filing lunch in his desk under the names of its parts: “Banana, Tuna Sandwich and so on…

He consoled me when I couldn’t handle working with trauma cases as I was not far removed from my own troubled teen years: a father lost to Vietnam and a mother claimed by grief. He encouraged my involvement in theater and turned a blind eye to my participation in professional stage productions in San Antonio even when it cost me the honor graduate position in my own class.  In return for his sage wisdom and generosity he received world-class teaching, serious and lasting research and healing clinical returns from all of us on his team.

The original Crock Theory was written by Dave and another faculty member while I was there. It reflects the wisdom, sobriety and keen, acerbic wit of the man who tamed and a group that otherwise would have surely landed in some stockade. The Army was rife with cracked crocks, but Dave wasn’t one of them.

Thank you Dave for allowing me to reprint this here and for staying in touch on Facebook and elsewhere. Thank you Professor for being a role model for all I have positively achieved as a teacher. Thank you Colonel for being a real leader.

A salute, and a warm hug for all you have accomplished yourself and through those of us you led to success.

cartoons,Entertainment,Heartsongs,Humor,Personal Notes,US Army,US Army,Veterans,Vietnam

2 comments so far

New Beginnings

A confession has to be part of your new life

Ludwig Wittgenstein

I am a believer in synchronicity. I am convinced that external events happen in concert with internal “business” that begs attention. And, I believe, that these seemingly random, unplanned instructional happenings occur with an intuitive precision that defies the laws of chance.

I struggled with the writing of the first edition of this post in 2009; then after watching Elizabeth Edwards (RIP) on 60 Minutes talk about terminal illness I knew it was time, ready or not, to type a sort of confession. First, I will digress a bit (imagine that) and I will bring this tale full circle into 2011.

In high school I remember reading Carlos Castenada’s tales of enlightenment via teachings imparted by a Mexican Socerer named Don Juan. Castenda learned from his teacher, among other things, to live with death over his left shoulder and then passed on the message to us to “live life to its fullest” from one moment to the next. This thinking has helped drive me through enchanted landscapes on an amazing dialectical journey.

Anais Nin said, “People living deeply have no fear of death.” and Issac Asimov made it delightfully simple with: “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”  The choice is simple: celebrate life or accede to dying. I am becoming equipped to cast a cold eye on death.

I recently watched  The King’s Speech and left the theater with two thoughts: “Colin Firth is a lock for a Golden Globe” and “What an inspirational film for those of us who battle maladies foisted on us by our minds or bodies.”

I have PTSD. It manifests itself in a public social shyness and awkwardness that most of you would not believe if you have only followed my online presence. I assure you that the latter is far more representative of my inner landscape than the former. Those of you who have traveled with me know that the outside seat in a cab or theater comforts me and that noise and crowds do distract, disturb, and disorient me–when I am not battling complete panic. It is an emotional stutter and my successes in the classroom, on the stage and in public lectures are always interrupted at some point by my trauma induced stammer. I admit to the same feelings of hopelessness, anger (often misdirected) and despair that plagued King George VI albeit, thankfully, the consequences of the symptoms of my malady have personal, not international ramifications.

it is hard for people to grasp or believe the magnitude of hard to see struggles. The VA has long denied my claims for service related treatment because I have intermittently been in positions of authority and difficult and demanding jobs. I think King George would have laughed at the notion that one’s station, or perception of one’s station, had anything to do with the magnitude or difficulty of an illness and its debilitating effects. If it were up to the VA I would have me completely surrender, opt for a lobotomy, eliminate any motivation or attempt to get better and reduce my IQ in order to prove my worthiness for disability related treatment. And I would have to be damned grateful for being rendered intellectually and vocationally impotent.

Too, my body’s immune system is too vigilant. My natural defenses have enlisted in a war against healthy tissue and I am an unwitting host of the conflict. Treatments to date have not been effective and it is likely that I will die, and much sooner than I had hoped, from some nameless autoimmune disease. It has already claimed a gall bladder, nearly killing me in the process, and is now in the late phases of damage to my liver. Tests this week show that my body continues its violent quarrels with itself after nearly four decades and shows signs of worsening. These last three years, fraught with rumor, deception, outright theft and relocations have done little to dissuade my immune system that its host is not a pathogen. Aches, pains, fatigue, irritability, loss of pigment (I am not moon-tanned, nor a Brit from an overcast village: I have vitiligo), and ennui dominate. And any effort by me to mediate these symptoms while in “normal” company is exhausting at best. Those of you who knew me as a professional athlete, army officer, outdoorsman, martial artist or animated professor may well not recognize me these days in person. The physical changes alone make isolation an attractive choice

Know this: I write this only to inform. I desire neither sympathy nor plaudits. It is just life and I will do the best I can with what I have been given. I am less than pleased most days with my performance, but I chalk that up to an artistic temperament rather than routine despair.

Some of you who know me well are aware that I taught Mind-Body Medicine long before it was fashionable. So, yes, I have been doing those things I should be doing to bring back health and homeostasis. But, sometimes a vessel is just flawed. Jim Fixx a celebrated runner/author died in mid-life of a heart attack owing to his genetic make-up. Many people wrongly viewed his passing as a case against the benefits of jogging. The opposite was true. And I am sure that, like his, my life has, and will be, prolonged by exercise, prayer, meditation and other interventions. But, the inevitable it is just that….

Not long before his death John Steinbeck drove his camper, Rocinante (named for Don Quixote’s horse), across America with his poodle Charley as his companion he penned a wonderful journal during the trip: Travels With Charlie. I have longed to for such a land voyage ever since…

So, rather than lament my fate I decided, while writing the first version of this story, to take on a new project: to travel to all 22 provinces in mainland China. I did pretty well and chronicled some of the stories on Facebook, Twitter and Asian Correspondent. I also tried to do as much social good as my mind and body would allow along the way. This last year I have been, save a required journey to the US to placate the VA yet again, I remained in relative seclusion with intermittent outings for pizza, a couple of TEDx events and dinner and conversation with friends and loved ones.

Andrew Young said, “It’s a blessing to die for a cause, because you can so easily die for nothing.” And while I am not so grandiose that I think I am creating a noble exit for myself, I do want this time to count for something more than a grand tour of the Middle Kingdom. Like Elizabeth Edwards I hope to be of service in the process of fulfilling a few dreams.

The new plans are these: Continue to develop two phone applications I have outlined over the last two years: one that will be of medical service to expats and another that will aid micro-entrepreneurs in economically disadvantaged areas. I intend to get in some semblance of shape again and also hope to gain a little color in my face (I am allowed a delusion or two)…  I want to continue my travels and build cultural bridges–as health and comfort allow and I will chronicle my trials, travels and triumphs here. I also have two manuscripts longing for publication and I want to pursue independent, but directed studies in Tibetan and Mongolian culture (more on that later)….

And lastly I want to be a good friend to those I have come to love and admire and to to whom I owe great debts and eternal thanks: Roland Catellier, K, the Lason family, Xiaoli, Phoenix, Mengyuan, Qiwen, Hui Qing, Jianmei, Diane, David Feng, Rob, Richard, Pamala, Rick, Gypsydust, Duncan, Danny, Betsy, Michael, Peter, Matt, Gino, Cyrilla, Sandy, Jiaolei, JJ Ma, Paul, Janet, Cheryl, Tom S, and the many others who have been unconditionally caring, and patient…

I’ll leave for now, still reminded of Somerset Maugham who thought death to be a dull and dreary affair, advising you to have little to do with resignation. I will continue to blog about China, education, poetry, life on life’s terms and about those who have chosen to live it well.

And, when I am not stuttering, I promise to be typing as fast as I can…

American Professor in China,autoimmune disease,Expat Services China,Expats,Movies,n Globes,PTSD,VA,Veterans adminstration,中国

2 comments so far

Dear Mr. Bagel….

Below, find a few of dozens of letters of application sent to an Italian restaurant (Danny’s Bagel) here in Guangzhou. The names and schools have been altered so students won’t suffer any embarrassment. I should have started a collection a long time ago of the many others I have seen….

Typically only 1/10 will even show for an interview even after sending in a recommendation. Even with the dearth of good paying jobs with insurance and social security paid by an honest and caring employer like Danny. Most new graduates or senior students will think a restaurant job too menial and of little value for future appointments even with the tremendous skill set they can acquire while there. Some of the letters sent by no-shows for a full-time position. I am sure they went on to much better things, like CCTV announcer or QIDE (启德)/New Oriental (新东方)English language teacher:

Dear Danny,

Hello, happened to see your ad online. I am a college student at a prestigious college. I major in journalism and communication. Being with people could always excite me, I’ll find it fulfills life to be connected to society. So may I ask for a part-time in your Dannys BAgel at weekend?

If I were not admitted to your Bagel as a waitress then I would like to have meals there as a guest, haha.

Best Wishes,

XXXXXX

“Danny,

I am very grad to make friends with you. I hope we can talk about some chinese and wesern cuisine. So we can study each other.

XXXX

My name is XXXX, a student studying french in guangzhou. It’s a pleasure to have your email when searching the internet, don’t worry, i don’t have a scare attempt. I just want to make friend with some foreigners and to improve my english and french if its OK. i am looking forward to your reply.”

XXXX

“Sorry for late reply. I have just finished my first job…. I have a bachelors in Russian. I like English very much…. I am a good girl I think.

XXXXX

One wrote a rambling three-page personal statement emphasizing her “sunny and careful and patient heart” and wrapped up with “suggestions” for the Danny, a 14-year veteran of business in China–I am still working on what she meant to suggest:

” Some companies especially cafes don’t want to hire short time waiter or waitress, because it will waste the training or other resources. But except for college students , where are young girls with terrific oral English? In other words, as far as I am concerned, hiring the right person may save the training time even can shorten the cycle of profits by so many orders. I think maybe I am not the best, but I am good enough.”

XXXXX

so, I want to work in your restaurant on weekend. What is more, i am good at cooking chinese cuisine. Thanking you!” XXXX

This blog is packed with my deep love for Chinese students and my own long and hilarious struggle to assimilate and acculturate into their culture, while trying to abide by government imposed constraints….I am sure my letters would be much worse, but then I am not an Chinese major at a “pretigious school.”

The barriers erected by, or in front of, students provide the fodder for many a novice writer or newcomer to the Middle Kingdom. For those of us who have been here a bit, it is black humor meant to release a bit of reflexive aggression so it is not misdirected back to the students we are committed to serving….Neither I nor Danny ever make fun of the students, rather we marvel at their lack of preparedness for even a wait-staff position.

One of the many failings of virtually every College and University in China is their inability to give students a sense of direction or prepare them for the future. I wish I had one yuan for every senior who told me that he/she had no idea what they wanted to do upon graduation. I could retire if I had another Yuan for every student that desired to get a “good job at a good company”without knowing what they might like do once there.

Every year I write three versions of every graduate school recommendation letter to cover: the path they “think” they might like to take, the mandated route their parents demand–invariably business or finance at a “top 5o” brand name school–or some easier alternative study plan that will give them time to finally decide on one of the former….

Most of them know the rules of grammar–they can do calculus like we Americans do addition and subtraction–and they can read and speak with astonishing alacrity and competence. But their cultural, vocational and social education has not equipped them to enter an increasingly  western etiquette driven job market without self study or mentoring by a patient teacher. I am hoping that the industrialization of education in China soon includes a module in vocational preparation–even if there is an extra charge.

American Professor in China,Cantonese Schools,China Editorials,China Expat,China Expats,China Humor,Chinese Education,Chinglish,Cross Cultural Training,Education in China,Humor,Intercultural Issues,New Oriental,Teaching in China

9 comments so far

Coffee

In the 1970′s I was tasked by the military to teach medics the stages of grief written about and popularized by Elizabeth Kubler Ross. Disbelief, Anger, Denial and Acceptance are all part and parcel of loss and Ross gave us a viable way to understand emotions in confusing circumstances. Some counselors and friends through the years have used them as a way to help mourners and disease sufferers cope as they journey through tragedy. But, sometimes…

I am not ashamed to admit that I have been stuck in anger of late about many losses that have occurred around me and concerning the pain and difficulties of my own condition. No news or change of status has affected me more profoundly lately than that of “Coffee.”

Huang Cui Xiang, Coffee’s real name in print for the first time as I promised to protect her anonymity , was a saint long before she became ill–as you will read below.

I am reside emotionally and mentally in the hospital where I  saw her battling heat, pain and worry: She was not fretting about her disease, she was concerned about her studies. She had spread her school books on her bed and took every free moment she was not debilitated by chemotherapy to read her lessons. She was determined to graduate on time with her class.

That was two years ago. She carried her books up and down long flights of stairs (no place in China is well equipped for anyone handicapped) and developed a strong walk and great endurance despite an ill-fitted and heavy artificial leg. She took extra classes, enrolled in an off-campus French language translators course donated by one of her school’s most caring foreign teachers, performed an internship at HSBC bank and did, as she intended, graduate with her peers.

The cancer fought back over the last two years and six months ago Coffee’s cancer resurfaced  and she returned home to continue the fight. But in recent weeks the disease spread to her lungs and she was rendered unable to speak. She did text message several times.

Many people wanted to rescue her emotionally and, with good intentions, they would send her new cancer fighting recipes and words of wisdom and encouragement. Coffee, who was already resigned to the inevitable, simply replied, “It is too late for that.”

Her last communication, just days before I had planned to visit her at her home in Yingde, China was simply, “Goodbye.” She died last week. The message was Coffee’s last lesson for me– and one she had been trying to teach all along with a smile on her face and never a bad word to be said about anyone or anything: Take life on life’s terms and give your all to every moment of it in pursuit of something you cherish.

I know she is gone, and I accepted long ago Coffee might leave sooner than she should, but I am still angry. I am angry at myself for not doing more to help her, angry that I was not able to see her before she left and angry that I don’t feel the world is a better place because she was here– Coffee was forced out much too soon…

Coffee, rest in the same peace you knew even in adversity.

n665639898_1806419_1680

My first post after hearing of Coffee’s illness:

I went to the hospital a few weeks ago to visit one of five of my students afflicted with cancer this last year. And my heart hurts since returning.

A former student called me to ask if I remembered another classmate nicknamed “Coffee.” Of course I remembered the 1/500 treasure: A delightful girl with a fervor for learning, who had been a second year English major in the school where I taught. I try to remember most of my students, but Coffee was easy: She often emailed me with serious questions about cultural issues and after several meetings, at her request, we changed her English name to one, at the time, we thought better suited a Business English major. I later felt I was wrong and, unlike other students and associates that I address by their Chinese, I have never called Coffee by the new name I foisted on her.

And I remembered that pretty young Coffee came from a poor rural family and had an older brother and sister. It was this knowledge that especially dismayed me when I was told that she had been diagnosed with bone cancer. I knew instantly that not only would she suffer ostracism associated with being handicapped in China–It it is an enormous social burden that she would not be able to afford to lighten–but the costs would prevent treatment that could help minimize her disability in this difference-vigilant culture. Her father, aware of the same, took more than half a day to accede to the surgeons requests for a consent form to remove Coffee’s leg. He thought it might be better to let Coffee die rather than face shunning for a disability.

It takes no special education to know there is shame and hardship ahead for his daughter and family. Please don’t judge him harshly. He loves his daughter and has already invested his life’s savings to see her through three years of college. He is back at home while Coffee’s mother must pay a daily fee to maintain all an day and night vigil at the hospital. They live two hours and many, many years away from China’s third largest metropolis.

The hospital was without air conditioning and in desperate need of paint and renovation, but I knew that even this questionable house of healing was more than she could afford. I met her mother, a woman who has obviously labored hundreds of long days under the sun, and immediately knew that finances were going to the biggest single factor in Coffee’s treatment and recovery. And worse yet, the hospital’s worn facade was a metaphor for the growing disparity between rich and poor in China that has enmeshed Coffee and her family–and just at a time when they had hoped to improve their station in life through school. The rich are living, and living well, while the poor are dying for want of health care. Coffee was smiling and genuinely optimistic during our meeting. She could already navigate, on crutches, the area from her bed to the common television alcove down the bleak corridor. Her leg was removed only two weeks ago, but Coffee is far ahead of the healing curve. I am told that Coffee attended class up until two days before her scheduled surgery and today she shared, in confident and relaxed English, that she intends to go back to college next semester even if it is during her chemotherapy. I believe her. The school, with no handicapped accessibility, no air conditioning, overcrowded dorms and mind-numbing class schedules, is all she thinks about. She will finish college even if her post-graduate chances for good paying work have been diminished. If I could have bottled one-tenth of one-percent of the courage that issued from her today I could sell it and fund a cure for her disease. But, the best anyone has been able to do so far is take up a collection for her at school: Her classmates, no better off financially, have raised about $600 USD for her care. She is still several thousand short of what she will need for a manageable new leg alone. It is with great sadness that I announce another courageous soul will join the League of Extraordinary Chinese Women. I gave that title to a group of women who met during chemotherapy and have intuitively done health and healing in the face of HER2 breast cancer with bravery and even laughter: they watch sunrise together, meet for tea and inspiration and helped each other through hard times with meager resources, but hopeful hearts.

Cancer Journal,China Cartoons,China Editorials,Digital Cavalry,The League of Extraordinary Chinese Women,The Unsinkable Ms Yue

8 comments so far

New and Selected Poems: Mystery of Faith

I just watched the film Man on Fire again tonight. There are few films more disturbing about vengeance. And despite the success of its anti-hero, I see violence as a poor cathartic. I do not subscribe to the lynch mob calls for oblique justice like those hoping Roman Polanski will be extradited and forced to pay for his own alleged sins and those of a growing mob’s perpetrators of pain.  It seems to me that it is a bit late to revisit the morality of either Polanski, his accuser or the reportedly power abusing prosecutors and judges in his case.

My motto has become: “Writing well is the best revenge.”  Having to examine, catalogue and give order to horror in order to render it into art can effect great healing. But, I am sympathetic to those who scream our in the name of justice because where forgiveness of abuse is possible, the ability to forget is a myth.

Father Dan Maio, who was in charge of a Pueblo, Colorado youth program in the 1970′s was the epitome of evil: The proverbial wolf in priest’s clothing. Maio, the subject of the poem below, used the power entrusted to him as a priest to emotionally wound dozens of diocesan Catholic youngsters from decent homes and several mentally challenged inmates housed at the Colorado State Hospital. He used drugs, music, personal charm and manipulative psychological seminars and retreats to lure his victims. He was protected by church-bred reverence for his station and the misguided arrogance of accomplices like his assistant Father Jerry Varrone and his confessor Bishop Buswell. This was written both for catharsis and to give credence, and hopefully some measure of comfort, to the pain expressed by those he and others like him have hurt.

Mystery of Faith

There were many boys who knew the sound of black

patent leather coming down the hardwood hall

a floor above the nuns, like Mary Elizabeth,

existing on a belief in simple answers

but who would never feel

the drool, the musk

or late day stubble

on their cheeks

Maybe Sister came here once to answer the same questions:

How do you forget the making and breaking of a spirit?

How do you wash away the incense of aggression?

When does grown-up flesh release its hold

on small bones?

How do women stand it? I cannot forget even one turn of cold brass

or stillness rushing from the room, or prayers taking me

from my body, eyes fixed on the rectory’s stained ceiling.

I would be yanked back by the horrifying

rituals of the familiar: the thin vinegar

of communion wine on his breath,

the tiny cruciform medallion

raping against my chest,

vapors of toxic celibacy

everywhere

I’d try to hold my breath when he left,

and scrub the stiffening linen,

remove every corporeal trace

of the god who claimed

he was a delinquent’s

last and only chance

Sometimes I thought I knew more about being a woman

than did Sister Mary and I longed for her easy beliefs.

But, I never risked asking the questions

that can destroy such a faith

forever

When do we accept, like her, a God like the wind

who polices the night, rattles doorknobs and whispers

reassuringly to us past locked doors

that I can close my eyes again

to the dark?

American Poet in China,poems,Poetry,sexual abuse

6 comments so far

New and Selected Poems: The Expat’s Fiance

“Horror is partial, it keeps you going”

–Rita Dove

He’s proof that angels sweat

and make fat promises

in child-like English

She keeps twisting her oversized diamond

then minces toward the ladies room

on the highest of heels

tries to ignore the ghostly make-up

on the woman in the mirror

(dead to her father,

a disappointment to her mother)

and her weary looks of disdain

American Poet in China,American Professor in China,China Expat,China Expats,Heartsongs,Intercultural Issues

No responses yet

New and Selected Poems “Silver Dollar Annie”

Thanks to Rick for finding this and passing it back to me. Rick, a friend now, was a student if mine many moons ago when I penned this poem. I had not seen this draft for 15 years before today.

I can’t tell you where or why I met Annie, but have never forgotten her or her stories….

SILVER DOLLAR ANNIE

The last time I saw her

was the day before her wedding

kneeling in her garden

packing unneeded soil

over already sturdy bases
She was beautiful in the shade:

snakeskin diamonds: cool shadows

cast by leaves above her

I shut my eyes

and the memories revolved:

I saw the dance hall’s mirrored ball,

the bachelor’s party

at the Saddleman’s Club

where nothing’s left to the imagination:

Annie’s body was more public than  most

she’d won local fame for dancing

with a silver dollar

men would place between her breasts

dollars she’d keep if they did not fall fell

and never did

The loud profranties

had to remind her of her father

the sorry bastard whose cock

rose at the rush of a shower

or the clink of a hanger

and Annie in search of a bedclothes

But, her nightgown always collapsed

poured into itself

until the dim light of broken promises

rose again on another tired day
How I came to know her after this

is less important than that night

she slow danced and hugged herself

into a dark trance

before almost letting go

of reticent tears

the clear wine of a new covenant

And the men too nearly wept

and suddenly, quietly returned home to their wives

She did not see me on either occasion:

This time because she was smiling at a thrush

preparing a nest in a boil of leaves

when the wind moved her hair

behind her ear, whispered

a long traveled promise

and dried her cheek with a kiss

she closed her eyes to accept

Uncategorized

One response so far

Found and Still Lost

I first met Shannon during a poetry reading shortly after my first book came out some two decades ago. I later reviewed her first collection of verse and stayed in touch through the years with the sexy, sassy, southern and broadly gifted artist. I last saw Shannon on a business trip down south in the 90′s. She was showing signs of some encroaching malady and I heard people whispering “anorexia,” “bulimia,” “drugs” and worse about the quirky, but elegantly well-centered soul who loved Carrie Bradshaw-ish designer shoes–when her face was not spackled with paint.

She was having slight difficulty with her walking, talking and balance and I missed many of the clues as we were then in the midst of pulling off a daring PR stunt to try and rescue her from impending financial hardship. She faced a huge bill for unsold pottery and jewelry shortly after her boyfriend, who ran a large and lucrative rep’ group that also sold her art, “wandered a bit” and quit selling her work shortly after she left him a permanent stray “on account of his infidelity.”

She lamented to me one day that she wished she could rid herself of a conscience so she could hand the bank note, half owned by her ex-boyfriend, back to the vindictive philanderer. I suggested we sell her conscience on EBay with a certificate of authenticity neatly folded inside a jeweled bag she would design. EBay tolerated the ruse long enough for Shannon to receive calls from morning drive shows and newspapers worldwide–the BBC in Dublin found it particularly amusing. I do not remember how successful we were, but I remember how much fun we had during her 15 minutes of fame. And, for the record, I doubt she would have really abandoned her conscience to a stranger for something as cheap as revenge.

Shannon eventually righted herself  all but physically. The last note I received from her said she had been confined to a wheelchair and was learning to perform simple, everyday tasks again. But, phone numbers no longer worked and emails bounced back to me. I had lost her and on top of the guilt we wandering expats feel when those we love are far away and in trouble, I feared for the worst–despite knowing that she would be no easy match for the brain tumor the doctors could not operate to remove.

This week I found an obscure reference to her on the 9thstlab Blog. It was poetry about her condition that was written by her while in a hospital in Alabama. The poems are from 2007, but I strongly sense she is alive and fighting well somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.

she has always been open, public and unabashed about her situations in life, good and worrisome. so, I wanted to share the work I found, but am hoping that if she reads this that I do not end up the reason for a new sale item on an auction site for IP theft of her poetry ;-).

It is powerful stuff Ms Smith and deserves to be read, as much as you deserve health and happiness.

From the blog:

Shannon Smith is a visual artist living in Birmingham Alabama. Recently she was diagnosed with AVM – Arterio veinous malformations, a rare form of brain tumor. In Shannon’s case the tumor is inoperable. The treatment for the embolism is even more painful than the tumor itself. The combination of illness and treatment has rendered her unable to work in her usual mediums, but she has been strong enough to write poetry about her experience. She is under the care of physicians at the medical center at the University of Alabama in Birmingham – a research hospital and one of the best in the country.

TWELVE BLANKETS FOR MY BRAIN

After the surgeons have
rearranged my head,
they become concerned
about my body temperature
at eighty six degrees. It is strange,
because I do not feel cold, only empty.
Nurses bring one blanket after another
wrapping me up tightly. I feel warm
but trapped and weighted down like
swimming with my clothes and shoes on.

Two more blankets
added to the pile-
Now I am just tangled like
A fish in a fishing net not knowing which way is up
or out. My voice trapped under layers of thick cotton.
And when I reach the numeric definition of normal, I do
not feel different or normal, mostly just trapped.
Tucked in, but no bedtime story.
I picture myself escaping from the hospital;
sliding in my socks on the shiny floors,
running down the halls,
riding elevators ,
waving to other patients.
My blankets alone in a pile on the floor.

LOOKING FOR WHAT IS LEFT

The darkness is back,
hovering over this crumpled body
where waves of pain call home.
The blackness has become opaque now
Not even outlines of the everyday.

Morphine, Fetanyl, Sekanol- hello lovers.
I hide as I swallow nails.
The shutters bang against windows.
It is too late for prayer.
Lightning cracks the night sky
shattering my skull
on the zipper of scars,
one stitch at a time.

Sleep will never find me here.
The warden of pain shakes his keys
at my cage. These are not the tears of heartbreak-
much too salty, much too free.

This darkness is heavy and suffocating
like a fishing net with weights.
If I am here tomorrow,
I will go look for myself
kicking bones out of the way,
to see what is left

Shannon Smith

Much love from China, SSlola

Uncategorized

No responses yet

New and Selected Poems: “After Being Asked” and “Soundtrack”

When I passed through LAX customs yesterday I was asked the same question I suppose the immigration folks are trained to ask in cases like mine: “Why have you been in China so long?” Each time I have to resist the urge to render witty or acerbic comebacks–especially after 17 hours of travel next to some high-strung, dialect-limited Chinese emigrant from Guangxi on his first plane flight. But, I digress…

My answer must seem odd to those civil servants who used to hearing one-word responses like: “Business,” Visit,” Coming home,”  or “Job Hunting.” I reply, “fulfilling a promise. I am seeing someone through a long bout with cancer.”

Ms Yue has outlived many of her chemotherapy friends. If you knew her, you’d understand that her natural talent for befriending anyone, from the local trash collector to a head of security in her district, ensures that there are never strangers in her life. She had met them in the hospital annex next to where where she had her surgery performed. She is the last of the League of extraordinary Chinese as I came to call them. They learned from Yue how to embrace the life left to them with meditation, companionship, spiritual supplications and long conversation and rich laughter over inexpensive cups of Chinese tea.

SOUNDTRACK

I am still listening

When the agitated syncope

Of thready heartbeats

Stop to amass a clap of thunder

Over crashing surf

And you fight the waves of fear

With a hand forged sword

And exhausted share tales of battle

With those who subside on phone calls

And weekend visits from half-hearted

Familial warriors lightly anchored to love

And when your body betrays you

In the ravenous silence

And you think you are

One impossibly simple syllable

Short  of a symphony

Remember the lullabies of the past

Conduct them into the present

Lay awash in the fragile swells of hesitancy

Compose mysterious reconciliations

And keep faith in the God of the metronome

Your friends are lucky to have you

Disarmed and hardly replenished

By the convenient half-loves

To which even tender siblings retreat

You survive by teaching through example

How to keep faith in wellness

And the will of the tides

The gift or accident of nature

That gave you ears for

And a comradery with

The roiling, the murmurs, the sobs

And the wicked playfulness of the ocean

And the weather it dares to rebuke…

for W.L. and Ms Yue

Ms Yue has long hidden her illness from Chinese friends. They are not as open about discussing cancer or life threatening disease like westerners. So, when it became evident that she would have do something cosmetically reduce the impact of the uneven loss of her hair and the endless looks of strangers afraid to ask why…

AFTER BEING ASKED TO CUT HER HAIR

When you called, yesterday evening

or the night before, I made the long walk

to you through the thick heat of Southern China,

flanked by our prostitute of a River:

Beautiful after dark, but only when flattered

by the exploitative light of tourist boats

I hated China that night

I found it especially hard to breathe:

It is always damned humid

and it reeks of smoke and poverty

and in the dim daylight reveals

a blinded sun, Guangzhou’s grey cataract

of a sky that, when it can see, ignores the whore–

the river again–

whose name no one can speak

with any longing in their voice

The water was unlined that night:

a corpse without worry as I prepared

a place in my memory

for what I would destroy perhaps forever:

the hair: forty-five years

of silk, glistening with the kisses

of an adoring mother and vigilant father

times in a China no longer missed

by those who have come to this low-waisted city

to find work and forget the darkeness

in which their friends, awake with temptation

in the darkness of their ancestral homes

just grow into unadorned

albeit long, and painless seniority

You asked to me conceal the evidence

of the waning of the infinite. You told me to cut

because I am foreign, from the west,

and know how to use a razor

to shave away history:

the perfect blackness, the magnificent

mystery of the history of moonlights, fires,

and wind that has run fingers

through the remembered and forgotten

“Love is so short, forgetting so long”

when it is a name like yours,

that you clutch deep in your throat

As strong as you are

will always be, and as proudly high

as have always held your head,

the quarrel with your body,

said the doctor–a white coated immigrant

from the North like yourself and too polite

to tell you or your family–the quarrel

will not always look this well

I addressed my selfish sorrow

in suffocated sobs to the still water

that confirmed my questions with silence

Uncategorized

No responses yet

Twitter Poets to Follow

Mashable and others have published lists of  journalists, fiction writers, non-fiction writers, bloggers, Social Media gurus and new media mavens, but I haven’t seen a post that guide you to poets on any of the big dog blogs.

twitter poetry

Now, while it is true that most poetry magazines have the circulation of a 90-year old chain smoking couch potato there are a number of wordsmiths who have found a new and enthusiastic audience on Twitter.

The list is by no means exhaustive and recommendations are welcomed. Included on the list are virtual voices of those who write everything: refrigerator poetry, Haiku, Free Verse, Caged Verse, Children’s poetry. There are poets represented who have never seen their name in print beyond Twitter’s RSS feed and others who collect awards like academics collect titles.

Poets to follow on Twitter:

@chinamatt (Publisher of the Terracotta Typewriter)

@Kojobaffoe (Kojo Baffoe, my creative cyber friend from South Africa)

@rmfenwick A former student who long ago came into his own

@lonniehodge (Me)

@paisano (editor of dad0matic)

@janngae (Jancie Reynolds: Haiku)

@yojinbo (Mr. Yojinbo)

@32poems (Deborah Ager: Nat. Poetry Series Winner and a great blog at 32 Poems)

@gloson (young man doing some fun stuff)

@5wa (Robert Neff)

@miridunn (Miriam MacDonald)

@elspethmurray (Tweeter in residence for a puppet theater)

@iwritepoetry ( Good follow. Location: Library ;-)  )

@awaretalkradio (Chad Lilly)

@greenskeptic (Scott Edward Anderson)

@poettwist (Kathy Koch)

@puerhan (Kiwi-Buddhist-Architect)

@thebookwright (Tom Evans, “empath”)

@weblaureate (Writes at http://web-poet.com )

@Toltecjohn (John Lavan)

@tinylittlepoems (Kate Larsen)

@lucciano (G Lucciano. Love the “half man, half poet in his profile)

@bookloveher (Brandi Bates)

@poets (Endless poetic tweets from Wapaware.com)

@pookandgrace (Ruth Du Fresne)

@lovelytrinkets

@stacyr3r (Stacy Conley: Haiku)

Collin Kelly also has published a list and it can be found here for those who are blocked from Blogspot in China: POETS ON TWITTER or below here:

Gregory Pincus: @GottaBook
Sherry Chandler: @BlueGrassPoet
Samuel Peralta: @semaphore
Patty Paine: @expatty
Luisa Igloria: @ThePoetsLizard
Maureen Evans: @Maureen
Zach Buscher: @PoetryTwit
Christine Miller: @ChristineMiller
Zoe Nishimuta: @zoenishimuta
John Hudak: @iamcynical
T.R. “Terry” Hummer: @trhummer
K. Silem Mohammad: @ksilem
Mathias Svalina: @msvalina
Tao Lin: @tao_lin
Dave Bonta: @Morning_Porch
C. Cleo Creech: @cleocreech
Michele Brenton: @banana_the_poet
Ray Succre: @raysuccre
32 Poems Magazine/Deborah Ager: @32poems
Marie-Elizabeth Mali: @memali
Joel Fried: @joeltalks
Will Kenyon: @williamkenyon
Tammy Knott: @lileagle
Cole Krawitz: @ckrawitz
Christine Klocek-Lim: @chrissiemkl
Sharon Brogan: @sbpoet
Saeed Jones: @saeedjones
Samiya Bashir: @scryptkeeper
Rachel Barenblat: @velveteenrabi
Lisa Marie: @thirdrootprod
AnnMarie Eldon: @AnnMarieEldon
Susan Taylor Brown: @susanwrites
Deb Scott: @stoneymoss
Pamela Johnson Parker: @Pamela12345
Jeffrey Thomson: @jeffreythomson
Peggy Eldridge-Love: @Plove413
James Valvis: @jamesvalvis

Uncategorized

No responses yet

New and Selected Poems “The Strike”

The Strike

(work in progress: for CD)

At bat is the son of a pro

who looks as though he never leaves

the batter’s box without a hit

Cody is pitching his first inning:

a long shadow of an arm

opens its small hand

and sends a dark disc speeding

over the flat stretch toward home

“Strike One”

Only the next fastball breathes

in the agonizing heat

and fathers close their eyes

conferring with fragments of the future

in the only game that will somehow ever matter

“Strike Two”

There are three sounds you can hear

if you listen closely–It’s never

that  restrained at a Cubs game

It is the sound of a perfect fastball

released across the long barrier

of years from mound to plate

and the impossible difference

between the home run clap of a bat

and the sting and leather slap of an out

It’s the umpire waiting

on the one authoritative second

when he’ll shout as witness and judge

a life-changing verdict

American Poet in China

No responses yet

Next »