Archive for December, 2008
English majors studying for various degrees within the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies performed four dramas last night. This year the 11th annual contest, for the first time in its proud history, braved the use of contemporary plays, condensed into 23-minute masterpieces by the students, most of whom had no prior theatrical experience at any level. To add an extra challenge, they employed peers as dubbers who spoke every character’s lines in perfect synch’ with onstage cast counterparts. They built sets, designed and tailored costumes, researched and applied their own make-up, rehearsed the shows wherever they could find space for groups of 10-16 and did all of this while attending the usual Chinese course load of 30-35 hours of class. –all this just prior to final semester examinations.
The plays were all sober American classics: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Desire Under the Elms; Madame Butterfly; and the not literally sober, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf. The writers had done their homework and rendered the essence of each play accessible, understandable and moving and with a flair I have not seen to date in Chinese or American students–and I have had the honor to judge speech and drama contests at countless provincial and national competitions in Asia and the U.S.. And the brief, but creative, humor-filled curtain calls that lent laughter and reprieve to a heavy night were extraordinary (Brevity is the soul of wit). And the show was emceed by beautifully articulate and professionally poised undergraduates who did not seem a bit intimidated by the thousands of their peers and the resident and visiting VIPs in attendance.
I left wanting to write an open letter to the leadership at China’s top companies to tell them that they are fishing in the wrong waters for talent–they usually interview at schools with prestigious names–and that they should drop more than one line in the provincial pond at 广外 “Guangwai” University. No other school, out of the dozens I have visited, has been as rife with risk-taking enthusiasm, project management skills and enviable language and cultural strength. This campus would be first on my list of places to catch self-starters who have the the traits I would seek in an employee: motivation, hunger and the ability to putin to practice, and into in cultural context what they have, and will, learn.
This is not a post about me, but you have to know that I have some authority, albeit limited, to pour out praise: I have a room full of trophies from my years as a debater and interpreter of drama in High School and in College on a Presidential debate scholarship; I have taught college dramatic literature classes; I have written and produced two plays; I have founded three theater companies two of which are still in production; I have acted on stage in in film in over thirty professional productions and have been a stage director for everything from dinner fare to modern opera with the San Antonio Symphony, once winning me a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts and Humanities that allowed me to study and socialize for a month with directors like Morton DeCosta (Broadway and film director of Music Man and Mame), Douglas Turner Ward (Director of the Negro Ensemble Company and Ceremonies in Dark Old Men), Joseph Chaiken (author of On Becoming an Actor and director of the Open Theater), Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society..)…
The students were infinite in faculty, noble, brave and wonderfully advanced in linguistic and dramatic skills considering their level of training. I am proud and humbled to have been a part of a great work that many, like me, will long remember….Uncategorized
I was speaking to Zach, “monk in the Sycamore tree“, Xiao Shuang today about events of late in Iraq. Xiao Shuang and I disagree on many things related to soldiering, patriotism and heroism, but our mutual hunger for meaningful conversation only grows when we debate.
Zach believes that losing one’s life in war or service to a national imperative is akin to dying as a result of a drug overdose or any similar free will decision of dubious moral merit. As a veteran, son of a soldier lost to war wounds and diligent supporter of post-conflict care for the needs of soldiers after their premature introductions to death and human suffering–as if there were a good time for such things. I am emotionally unable to deny feelings of pride and admiration for warriors and even if I cannot reconcile for myself any reason or rightness for a battle in which they may have had a dubious ideology foisted upon them I support their sacrifices and bravery. Xiao Shuang provisionally acceded that it is OK for one to give up one’s life for a cause, but only a worthy one, and then only though non-violent resistance.
Xiao Shang, with a slight nod, acknowledged my feelings and left that dialogue for another time–no story is ever unfinished with us, thank goodness. He went on to query my feelings about the war in Iraq beginning with questioning whether or not I understood the cultural significance of shoes being thrown at President Bush in an Islamic country. I gave a didactic/pedagogical answer: In the Middle east the throwing of shoes is a symbol of contempt and a grave display of disrespect far weightier than the physical act appears to be (even showing someone the sole of your foot is an insult) even a culturally impaired observer. I shared with Xiao Shuang that I had recently polled Chinese business students about the leather clad curse thrown at my nation’s leader: I asked students if they thought that the act should be classified as an act of aggression or as an expression of anger that qualified for protection as freedom of speech. The responses caught me by surprise.
My students manufactured this scenario: They likened Bush to the Prime Minister of Japan during the occupations of Manchuria and Nanjing and made clear that the throwing of shoes in Iraq was neither freedom of expression nor a reasonable expression of anger. The former was too aggressive to qualify for protection as mere freedom of speech and the latter was not nearly an aggressive enough act in their angry estimation.
The most recent war in Iraq was likened to the war invented by the Japanese in order to justify an incursion into Manchuria to rob China of much needed natural resources. And they compared the spread of rhetoric and doublespeak about building democracy in the Middle East to the propaganda spoken by the Imperial Army’s mainland invasion leaders, those based on assertions that they were merely unifying Asia for the sake of Asia’s preservation against American influences. Visiting occupied soil, bombed and blood-stained on orders of the Bush administration, could only bring pain, anger and anguish on the citizenry and would be weakly represented by merely throwing shoes. They were openly pleased that the last chapter in Bush’s public record bore a size 10 seal of disapproval. They doubted pro-war voices that say the war won him the right to express himself through shoe tossing.
I will save debate for later by asking Xiao Shuang and maybe students, if my contract allows, what would have become of any of us had Allied Forces not interceded with force in the Pacific during WWII. I am guessing his answer will be rooted in a call for love and compassion and acceptance any current suffering as a fraction of many yet to come in lifetimes beyond this one as we progress toward “The Right Way”.
Zach digressed a bit and went on to explain that he had viewed actions of the west, directed toward China as a whole during the Olympics, as a metaphorical set of shoes; a symbol not only of contempt, but of aggression against the Chinese people. A pastor from California painted upscale hotel rooms to “give a voice to the voiceless” (Xiao, a Buddhist, says he does not want or need a second larynx donated by a vandal) during the Olympics; and Amnesty Australia put Olympic tourists in harm’s way by asking them to act on Amnesty’s behalf in protest of China’s Internet firewall. Xiao Shuang smiling, wondered out loud why Amnesty Australia has not concentrated on its own censorship issues. “To spoil and politicize for the average Chinese citizen, most of whom neither know nor are affected by China’s online controls, our time to celebrate and embrace the athletic heroes among us was a clearly a lack of sensitivity and understanding of our culture and the pride we felt for the Games.
To believe that those who are subject to censorship are simply suffering in silence or incapacitated by fear is nonsense. The Chinese people are not as docile or as compliant as the media would make them out to be. And we don’t need lectures on the virtues of western life as much as we need tools of empowerment, education, and community building. We also don’t need meaningless regime challenging exercises that only steel the resolve of those have not outgrown the need for power. They may raise funds for the groups involved but they only fuel ignorance and hatred. For the west to rally against situations they have not fully studied is like ranting at fire because it burns.”
Today China’s navy headed out to a sea beyond its territorial borders for the first time in 600 years to battle Somalian Pirates. Zach and I will not agree on this one. I am behind the EU and China in patrolling the waters to ensure the safety of their citizens and their property.
It will be interesting to hear the mediatative musings of Xiao Shuang as the rich and poor get poorer and the girth of hungry anger expands….Asia,Beijing,Beijing Olympics,China Cartoons,China Economics,China Editorials,China Law,Videos
A new “instant best friend,” a term loaned to me by Paula Storti, now has made it into my personal lexicon courtesy of “Miss Xu“. Mimi is a bright and delightfully funny New Yorker who has watched too many episodes of Heroes or is one Amy Tan book over the line: she is in China to get in touch with her roots. Alex Haley would be proud of Mimi who is wholly Cantonese and completely American at once.
She is one of the few folks who met the Unsinkable Ms Yue and been been able to understand the cultural and emotional subtleties of this traditional Chinese Everymom. Ms Yue, who tries to keep secret her ongoing battle with cancer, is one of the few people on the planet who can who can (and has) wander into a gay bar and interview the patrons about the veracity of claims to an alternate lifestyle without irking anyone. Ms. Yue also admits, “I no understanding,” but fearlessly encourages GLBT friends to “try, try,” just once, a straighter course…
Mimi, new to this blog, discovered a couple of old posts I thought I would combine here for re-reading. Try, try, won’t you?
I am one of those people who actually enjoys tests, especially those that challenge my verbal or reasoning skills. In basic military training, near the time of tri-corner hats and canon balls, we new recruits took a language aptitude test. It was basically an examination that determined whether or not we could make sense of an invented language. It asked us to extrapolate from one bit of seeming gobbledygook to another and then build sentences based on recurring patterns of subjects, objects and verbs. Such is learning to communicate with the unsinkable Ms Yue:
I wish I could teach my students the secret of true communication that Ms Yue has mastered. Too, I wish I could help self-absorbed colleagues understand that a lack of established vocabulary is not a lack of intelligence or sophistication and does not have to hinder a conversation. Usually I chide the expat, who knows bupkis about what is being said, for not honoring someone who probably speaks two-and-a-half languages fluently and several dialects within them, for being so ethnocentric…
Ms Yue could understand and explain Quantum Physics given enough time! Mu Mesons and Quarks might translate into something pretty hilarious, but if you were humble enough to enter her world you might actually learn something new.
Ms Yue is the bravest person I know and not because she is emotionally fighting cancer better than any patient I have ever seen in battle. But, it is because she has a fierce determination to learn, and then connect with, new worlds of information and adventure.
In contrast, my students, in the middle of a speech, will look to classmates to rescue them and find the right word for a sentence while Ms Yue will simply invent one. The students seek to have a command of English vocabulary; Ms Yue already has a command of communication skills.
One student last week stumbled through a date and ended up saying one-nine-seven-oh for the year 1970. He got the exam’s highest grade as much for his creativity, sorely lacking in Chinese college students, as his boldness. He did not reach out for help; he solved the problem himself.
Some very simple examples of Yueyinglish:
Check in = Exchange
Ki = Ticket
Laundry = Clean
This (while pointing to her heart and then mouth) and this , no same = Untrustworthy
One more = Do it again, repeat an act
The near = close to
Me the = mine
You the = yours
Where = what and sometimes who and how
You me together = we, us
The man = him, he or any person of male persuasion. The ultimate personal pronoun
Later = then, so or after
Crazy = funny, nuts, ridiculous
You wait me = Wait for me
No way = impossible, not, no
Try Try = Eat it you foreign wimp
Boy love the boy = transsexual, drag queen, effeminate man, gay
Open = take off, turn on, make use of
Now your test:
I laundry the ki so later check in no way.
I washed the ticket so there’s no way to get another one.
Together you me you me watch where the boy love the boy DVD?
Which Queer as Folk video are we watching together this time?
You the soup the pig meat xue try try no way? Try try.
You are not going to eat the pig’s blood soup I ordered you? Get over it!
The before the no same the man drink the coffee house the near wait me?
Are you going to meet me close to the place where your untrustworthy breakfast partner lives?
Open the shoes. Close the den.
Take off your shoes and turn out that light.
Where the crazy?
And what is so funny?
And all of these are accompanied by perfect facial gestures, sound effects like Cantonese tsk’ing (used for everything from displeasure to amazement), and exaggerated body language.
She bade goodbye today to a visiting fellow from Grinell College in America, a young man the age of her son, that she had come to care about and look after as though he were one of her own. Some problems, out of his control, with his visa are taking him home much sooner than expected. So, with sadness and anticipation in her voice that could bring tears to a native Yueyinglish speaker’s eyes, she simply said:
Later, one more, China. You try try, Ok?
Safe journey David. Please hurry back.
I long ago set out to catalog the elements of style in Yueyinglish a rare and unusual sub-dialect of Chinglish unique to the only surviving member of the League of Extraordinary Chinese Women. But, I had not seen Ms Yue for some time and heard her and David using an expanded vocabulary that the aspiring Yueyinglish speaker should know.
Some new vocabulary:
turnf the off=turn it on
turnf the on=turn it off
long time ago=it was intolerably long
cookie the rice=prepare a meal
have the small?=do you have change?
you the one people go?=you are going alone?
only the talking, talking!=don’t get upset I am just discussing this with you
OK, now for some practice sentences actually overheard in Guangzhou:
So, how was Spiderman?
Long time ago!
How about the actors?
The movie one people QQ. The girl no beautiful. Bad the man craysheen da.
I am sorry we got out so late
Only talking talking ma. I go one people home and cookie the rice.
The movie house was crowded
Yesu! The man no tunf the on the cellphone.
So you want to go with David to see another movie?
Newsheen the movie, curse! You the one people want to go?
No, David would love your company. See you later
The waidther no way! Rainling! Take a taxi. You have the small? Seeulateragulator.
For those of you anticipating your YYSL certificates: You wait me, OK?Uncategorized
Long before micro-blogging tightened its Tetris-like grasp around the throats of our blogs many of us frittered away more than one rss feed on things known as memes. For you “kids” out there–the ones who think that LinkedIn members still use Betamax (you don’t even know what that is, do ya?)–a meme is a game of blog tag. It was invented by Notewe Meme an Indian Bollywood blogger who never recovered from a crush on Aishwayra Rai and spent his days inventing ways to divert his attention from the fact that she did the nasty thing (hugged in public) that “Yak Butter Butt” Richard Gere. But, I digress….
My friend Jason, the force behind Social Media Release builder Pitchengine, tagged me and since I am desperate for the days before my mind stopped at 140 characters I am going for it: trying to wtite in complete sentences. I will tag someone else as soon as I determine who still has a blog they are updating….
1. I am the founder of Culturefish Media and several other projects, but, I’m also the chief cook and bottle washer for a lot of other stuff ( two non-profits boards and two guidance committees) for which I also don’t get paid. I am a teacher who pretty much has been in the classroom in one way or another (damn you Kintzler) 35 years! Culturefish was invented to fund CSR initiatives and to pay cancer bills for a couple of people close to me who remain afflicted. To date I have raised tens of thousands of dollars for China charities, built 7 websites for NPOs and Culturefish has donated 5,000 man-hours to China causes. I am writing two new books, starting a program for training in SEO, running 8 blogs and a internship program for Chinese CSR/Digital devotees. I stay up until dawn and then hang upside down when I do sleep. I love social media and have been involved in it since before Jim Channon was involved with goats and I was on a think tank he started in 1978.
2. I was a poet, soldier, martial arts instructor and professional actor/director: I spent my college years at more schools than Sarah Palin, but actually graduated from a few. I am most proud of my degree in Fine Arts (writing) and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry that the panel that year accidentally awarded to me. I have published and produced two plays, three books and a bazillion (eat your heart out Rod McKuen) poems, articles and reviews in national and international magazines. I even managed to get a few Haiku and literary translations published in Japanese (even just one monkey on one typewriter can do miracles!)…. My most remembered roles in theater were: stage director for an modern opera for the San Antonio symphony and as Phil in Adaptation a great one-act show by Elaine May.
3. I’m a Mac. I’m not a graphic designer. I have trouble drawing circles in Photoshop, but even the oval-like things look cooler on a Mac Screen. I do a lot of SEO and could do that on an IBM, but couldn’t rag people like Jason Kintzler who thinks viral is a nickname for Microsoft.
4. I own 5,000 DVDs and a week’s change of clothes: I have moved so much as a military brat, soldier and professional expat (teacher, entrepreneur…) that I feel like the oldest living confederate widow. I am from Colorado where there are more cattle guards than cars (makes for a big state payroll all those guards)….I think people age like the picture in the attic, but stay as young as Dorian Gray if they remain teaching or learning. I live in China and will be here likely until Bush defects to Beijing to escape the Hague or Hu Jintao thinks he and the Dalai Lama are a good match.
5. I’m am the father of three girls. It is probably why my fashion gene (I own the domain, Straight Eye For the Queer Guy) probably kicked in. I dress like Oscar in the Odd Couple, but secretly pine to be a judge on Project Runway. I’ve have never lost my honorary gay card.
6. I did individual sports: Taekwondo, Hapkido, Long Distance Running,
Sex, Wrestling (they gave us $35 bucks a month if we made varsity at Boys Town High), and Swimming (I ditched wrestling practice once and sneaked into the pool area and didn’t have the balls to admit I wasn’t there to try out for the team), and Archery. I was National Outdoorsman of the Year in 1980 having paradoxically shot lots of animals and fostered a gaggle of conservation initiatives all at once. I have more broken and aching bones than did Evil Kneivel late in his career. I love to fish and golf, but couldn’t catch a cold in a mountain stream and constantly lose my balls (ya, ya)…No, I don’t fling sharp edged sticks at Bambi anymore.
I will tag a few folks in a day or two…
Be afraid, be very afraid…Uncategorized