Saturday, May 31, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
– I was surprised to learn that the Chinese government has requested, or is at least discussing logistics for, earthquake relief from Japan. If this happens it will be the first time the Japanese military has entered Beijing since WWII. It is significant for two reasons. First it shows that the governments of both countries recognize the importance of helping people in need. Secondly, it shows that the Chinese leaders are finally coming to grips with how to behave sensibly on the world stage. This latter is very important because there have been so many things said, and done, by the Chinese government to promote its international image that have had exactly the opposite effect. Somehow, China 's top leaders have begun to understand that asking for, and receiving, aid can be viewed as a sign of strength in the eyes of much of the world. This time, they are not "dropping the stone to crash their own toes." China – The Chengdu Area Military Command, Earthquake Relief Headquarters gave a press briefing on May 29 at . The following was reported: Through on May 28th the total number of people rescued from collapsed buildings by the army was 3,666. There were 305,000 wounded people treated and 656,000 victims relocated. There have been 44 temporary schools built, including 14 middle schools and 30 primary schools, as well as 148 temporary residence buildings constructed. There were 506,000 tons of relief goods delivered by land and 5,360 tons air dropped. There were 4281 kilometers of road repaired and 139 million square meters of polluted ground sanitized. There were 119,000 tents erected and 2,000,000 cubic meters of rubble removed. This was done with a total of 133,000 troops coming from military commands all over Chengdu . China – Within two weeks, through May 28th the Boston-Aid-Sichuan Committee has collected $613,000 toward the $1,000,000 goal set for June 14th. The relief concert held at MIT on Sunday May 25th alone collected $150,000. There will be a fund raising walk scheduled for Saturday May 31st in the Boston Common. On site registration starts at in the Boston Common, or for advance registration contact GBCCA (617) 232-0377. Boston
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
(Jerry Waxler is obsessed with memory and remembering. For both literary and personal reasons he is intensely curious as to how events transform themselves into memories, and the process by which those memories become written works. Jerry has put together a tremendous collection of writing and thinking on this topic. Valuable stuff for anyone trying to write a memoir, or even record memories, and also for fiction writers. In his interview with me we touched on the relationship between memory and imagination, a pretty fascinating topic. More to this is that his Memory Writers Network blog is full of well-written, informative, and interesting essays. I asked Jerry about his motivation for blogging, and the following is his answer. – Xujun)
The television show, Grey’s Anatomy, is about a group of medical interns. Even though they seem to be clumsy, barely born doctors, their status as “beginners” takes place at the end of an arduous struggle through high school, college, and medical school. They are reaching the top of a mountain they have been climbing their whole lives. After much striving and competition, one of the interns wins a coveted spot scrubbing into her first surgery. She watches what to the rest of us looks like blood and guts, but to her is the dance of life, healing a body by cutting and reorganizing some of those messy tissues. She floats out at the end of the surgery, totally saturated with this peak moment, a climax of the endless desire that brought her to this point. She turns to a fellow intern and asks “Why would anyone do drugs?” I feel the same wonder after my first year of blogging. It is the culmination of a lifetime of desire.
For my whole life, I’ve been intrigued by the variety of human experience. I also love to write. Over the years, these two passions have persisted and grown. I want to understand people, and I want to write. But until recently, I have been unable to combine these desires into one, so I wrote about other things. My first two books were about writing. When I was 52, I received a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. After imbibing this rich array of insights into ways that people could grow, I wanted to put it all in writing, but I didn’t want to just keep it in a drawer, and I didn’t think it would be a publishable work. So I wrote it on my first website, mental-health-survival-guide.com, which thanks to the magic of the internet is still out there.
I kept writing and learning about people, and a few years ago I stumbled on memoir writing as a system into which I could pour all my passions. Memoir writing turns attention inwards, where we can examine our own journey. And it also turns our attention outward, learning how to shape a story that makes sense to others. This is what happens in a therapist’s office. During therapy people authentically share their lives and in the process they improve their own self-understanding. I wanted to extend this from individual therapy to include everyone who is looking for deeper meaning within their lives.
I did not study the value of memoir writing in school. I had to develop the ideas myself, so I began to study, reading memoir after memoir. Each one teaches me two things: what it was like being that one person, and what it was like turning that life journey into a story. The lessons poured in, and I began to organize what I was learning. Again, I did not want my ideas to sit in a drawer, so I turned to blogging. At first I thought this would simply provide an easy way to publish my essays. That turned out to be only the beginning. I continue to find more and deeper rewards.
The longer I blog the more advantages I discover. By receiving comments and visiting other blogs, and finding people interested in memoir writing, I was both discovering and creating a micro-community of like minded individuals. The opportunity to write, then publish my ideas, and get feedback and community from others has been enormously empowering. Like the radicals who printed brochures during the American Revolution, I can put together and hand out my ideas, and I don’t have to stand on street corners.
What is the revolution I am fomenting? I suppose in one way, blogging itself is a revolution. Turning your individual, unique knowledge, passion, and wisdom into story and publishing it to the world is one of the neatest ways I have ever seen to incite deeper understanding and sharing of self. By blogging our life stories we can learn about each other and perhaps improve world peace. Hopefully it will work better and more creatively than trying to promote understanding through street protests.
The blogging world is highly diverse and diffuse, and so it requires exploring to discover blogs that convey this passion but they are out there, sharing worlds, connecting and empowering people. Some are empowering politically, giving people a chance to express views they wouldn’t have a way to publicize any other way. Some are empowering culturally, because sub-communities, outsiders, cliques, ethnic minorities, or in fact any group can band together and share ideas. And others are empowering creatively, because the creative spark becomes brighter when it connect with people in the world. Is blogging the only and true revolution? I don’t think so. Blogging and writing are just tools. The revolution that interests me most is to grow, individually and collectively towards greater wisdom.
One of the most surprising things about blogging is that it’s a form of performance. I have always been shy, preferring to avoid the public. Now, as I blog, I am learning how to extend myself towards strangers. Some become friends, in this new internet sense of friendship, while others remain onlookers. This means I am a performer, which is a mindboggling expansion of my social skills that I never expected to be achieving in my sixties. (I just turned 61 so I’m in the thick of it now.)
What’s next? As I learn more about life story telling, I realize that stories become powerful not just because of external events, but because the storyteller found the power in the events. This has caused me to look more closely at situations in my life that I always assumed were mundane, and what looked like blood and guts becomes the powerful, exhilarating struggle to find meaning within the ordinary. I intend to reveal more of what I discover through my blog and perhaps someday in a book. Over time I expect my investigation will lead in new directions. I find that, in a way, aging is a spiritual experience and at some point I may shift from finding the wisdom in the past into finding wisdom in the future. For now, what’s next is my next blog entry. I’m on deadline every week, under pressure to learn and grow, and find words that let me share myself with the world.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Everybody, at least in
Ahem… I would like to voice my opinion that a recession, in
Many people entered the 21st century with a feeling of optimism. The depression of the 1930s, the oil crisis of the 1970s, the stagflation of the 1980s and the wars big and little to fill in the other decades were all things of the past. The 1990s had gone well (with the exception of those pesky little wars that would not go away) and there was no reason it could not continue. Sure there were people whining about the environment, talk about peak oil, an ongoing AIDS epidemic and other bad things happening, but hey, that is just part of life. For at least 50 years people had been saying we would never finish the 20th century intact – that nuclear war, natural calamity or the wrath of God would claim use before we got there. But finish we did, things were good, and on we could march.
We hit a little hiccup in 2001, with the bursting of the tech bubble, and mild economic slowdown some associate with the events of 9/11 (even though the slowdown started before that). But that was largely restricted to the
Now, the situation is both the same and different. Sticking to economics, a great deal has changed in the sense that China, India and the oil exporting countries are much bigger players than before, especially relative to the US. But very little has changed in the sense that we are still doing stuff – mining copper, smelting steel, building bridges, driving cars and so on – pretty much the way we were a decade ago. That similarity is actually the crux of the matter.
Things work the way they do today because energy is cheap, while plants don't get paid. Take these two in turn:
Gasoline has just passed $4 per gallon in the
Now, before we discovered fire, plants were winners, picking up lots of carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it on the ground. Even after fire, with a relatively small number of people on the planet the plants were still in the game. But we have added coal and petroleum to wood fuel, found lots of uses for them, and increased our number exponentially. Guess what, the plants are now losing. The trouble is plants, and other things in the environment, don’t participate in the economy. We don’t pay for oxygen, and byproducts of production like carbon dioxide can simply be dumped. With a few people hanging around camp fires that was no big deal, but with billions living modern lives it is. There is nothing in ordinary economics (capitalist or communist) that properly manages this. People are trying to deal with these issues, but the responses have pretty consistently been targeted at specifics (noise, sulfur, carbon dioxide, etc.) and not at fundamental changes to the way we do things.
OK, I get it. You’re lost. What the hell am I talking about and what does this have to do with recessions? Perhaps you think this was all just a trick so I could try to teach some economic theory. Well, maybe you’re right but it is actually connected.
As I think I mentioned, the world is obsessed with economic growth. Pesky things like a finite quantity of nonrenewable resources and an environment that can only take so much banging before it breaks are fine intellectual constructs, but they have nothing to do with the business at hand – economic growth. Or maybe they do. Somehow we need to move from the intellectual internalization of these things to behavioral change. For that to happen people need to be poked with a really big, really sharp stick, or be shown an unbelievably juicy carrot. News flash – no carrots on the horizon.
Perhaps having oil hit $135 a barrel is the sharp stick, and perhaps having this happen as a lead in to a global recession is what makes it big. For both people and organizations behavioral changes result from stress. Hard economic times definitely bring a lot of stress to the table. So maybe we will see some shifting.
The alternative, as far as I can tell, is a bigger and more painful adjustment in a few more years. In fact, this may still happen but the bigger will be smaller than the bigger would have been had the smaller not happened before the bigger – if you get my drift. We are driving 80 miles an hour at a brick wall – perhaps if we slow to 65 we will give the air bags a chance to do their job.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
"It is still far away from our goal," the committee's elected convener Jiang Hong says. "We must work harder."
Jiang Hong says she is heartened by Beijing people's successful relief fundraising. Xinhua.net has reported that CCTV's benefit performance on Sunday night raised over two hundred million dollars, "the largest relief fundraiser in history." Internationally acclaimed film director Zhang Yimou donated $15,000.
Working toward the goal they have set, a member organization of Boston-Aid-Sichuan, the MIT Chinese Students and Scholars Association, will hold a benefit concert, to be performed at MIT on Sunday, May 25.
Another member organization, the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association, is planning a three-mile walk around Boston Common on Saturday, May 31 from 10am to 2pm. A $10 registration fee, which includes a T-shirt, and a minimal $25 donation are required for each adult participant.
For information on relief donations in general, contact Jiang Hong (蒋红): firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, May 19, 2008
"Even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination, and that such illumination may well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in theirlives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given them on earth."
– Hannah Arendt (From: Men in Dark Times)
Saturday, May 17, 2008
The story opens with a long blue paragraph. “Blue because I wanted love and money but got a blue plastic boat cover…” The intensity of the sad color is a little overwhelming; you wonder, naturally, what the story is about – is it another middle class love/marriage crisis? And you might begin to toy with the idea of putting it down. Almost right there the powerful hue flows into a lyrical current and fun dialog. Before long, you'd realize how colorful the character of the narrator is and you'd fall in love with the writing while finding every second-guessing you had on the story arc is wrong. Continue to read>>
Friday, May 16, 2008
(capital of Chengdu ) Sichuan
Last night I called a friend in
[The following are adapted and translated from the Chinese internet]
- Wenchuan (the epicenter) – Dujiangyan (northern suburb of
By Wednesday May 14th, about 5,000 survivors had arrived at Dujiangyan, after trudging by foot for 7 or more hours. These were self-rescued refuges from various villages spreading over the earthquake epicenter,
Wang and a few other surviving co-workers fought continuing landslides to escape. When they eventually reached their residential area, all houses and buildings had collapsed. The men then walked to
It started to rain. The men went into a few barely standing houses to look for food. Along the way they pulled out six people alive from under the debris, including a small child. When the rain finally stopped, they walked until the next afternoon to arrive at the relatively safer Dujiangyan.
Among those arriving on foot was a couple from Xuankou who, along with two relatives, carried their 9-year-old wounded son for 7 hours. The boy was hit on his head when his school building caved in, and his right ear was cut off. He was conscious and bleeding all the way, but did not cry (his mother did). At least 7 students in his class were killed.
On the afternoon of May 12th, the classroom building of
A teacher kept looking for her favorite student, Deng Qingqing, a beautiful girl who came from a poor village family and always carried a flashlight with her to read on the dim road home. On Wednesday morning, the rescuers finally found Qingqing under the debris; she was reading a book with her flashlight. She said, "It was all dark under there, I was frightened. I was cold and hungry. I had to read to ease my fear." Her words made the teacher cry.
One girl stuck in the debris heard another girl moaning below a concrete slab. They did not know each other before. The girl above kept talking to the girl below, so that the latter wouldn't fall asleep and accidentally lose her life. Both girls were rescued the next morning. Still in big pain, the girl who had been under the concrete slab sobbed to doctors and teachers that she would never forget the other girl, because their friendship was formed at a time of life and death.
Though Shifang was near the epicenter and heavily damaged, initially its name did not show up in CCTV's earthquake area map. A netizen questioned this neglect on the Chinese web forum Tianya.cn.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Cambridge, MA, May 14 – Initiated by the board members of the Sichuan and Chongqing Folk Association in Boston, about fifty Chinese organization representatives met tonight in Building 56 of MIT, to coordinate support and relief efforts in the wake of the earthquake disaster that occurred two days ago in Sichuan, China.The animated discussion lasted for three hours, from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm, and the attendees reached a confident consensus on raising a million dollars to help the
Zhu Zhenya, a researcher at MIT, Jiang Hong, chairwoman of Yanhuang Performing Arts, and Tao Kai, principal of the Cambridge Chinese Language School moderated the discussion.
Represented in the meeting were Chinese language schools in various towns and cities, Chinese student associations in colleges such as MIT,
The attendees also agreed to report daily to Jiang Hong on their fundraising results.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
There is a notable, and unprecedented, transparency in the official media's news reporting this time, a sharp contrast to the SARS case. A signal that there is movement toward freedom of the press?
(Note: loading a large image from a site in China can be slow, so you will need to be patient to view individual photos.)
Monday, May 12, 2008
- "City on Steroids, " video by Adam Yamaguchi at Current.com
Over two decades ago, one morning in July 1987, I was awakened by loud shouts from four floors below calling my name, “A foreigner is looking for you!" I had recently returned to my parents' apartment in Chongqing for summer vacation from my graduate school in
I grabbed a hairbrush and ran downstairs. Outside our building, on the sidewalk of
The young American, who later became my husband, was likely the first foreign tourist who rode a bike across
Not any more, and this is one of the biggest changes shown (albeit indirectly) in the video "City on Steroids" by Current.com. Now the
The video tries to find answers to that question and it captures several characteristics of today's
"Bang-bang" in this case means wooden shoulder-pole. Because of
"How hard are the roads in Shu / as hard as climbing the sky" – when Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai wrote those oft-quoted lines, was he near
Not only does speeding construction squeeze surrounding farmland, as the video shows, it has also squeezed the two rivers surrounding it. My townsmen have filled in along the rivers to make the "riverside avenues." When I visited home last year, I was brought to a famous scenic spot, a man-made one, on a new segment of road along the
I suppose not all mountains surrounding
The overheated construction also makes
There is another essence of today's
Aside from policy issues, too high a population density has been a dominating factor in creating the problems. I hope by now those Western human-rights fighters fussing over
One thing I wish Current.com's reporters had asked is what the struggling "bang-bang men" think of the Beijing Olympics. Do they care about it or do they not? Wouldn't it make better sense for
Thursday, May 8, 2008
I was out of town in Vermont and did not know about the New York Chinese rally until a friend emailed me a video clip two days later. I couldn't believe that there hadn't been any media coverage. I have a daily email subscription to New York Times' "Today's Headlines," and also Salon's news coverage. In addition, despite CNN's biased reputation, it is the easiest venue for current news and I check its website several times a day.
According to a Chinese post on mitbbs.org, the New York Times did send reporters but apparently chose not to publish any report. That the NY Times would smother news on such a huge event in its backyard is oddly surprising. The vast silence from all the
The main body of the pro-Olympics rally was overseas Chinese students, but there were also people from all walks of life, including some Americans. Thousands of people shouting "We love
Nationalism is a strange thing – it is more an emotion than rational thought. I didn't even think I had it. I was a political dissident when I lived in
Yet look what the media's overdone bias can do to a person like me: it unearths whatever little Chinese nationalism I'd had. This is called backfire.
Growing up during the Cultural Revolution, I'm usually suspicious of any mass activity. The excitement alone can be an irresistible magnet and rationality need not play a role. Similarly, rampant nationalism, be it American or Chinese, is a double-edged sword. It can unite a nation; it can also be divisive and make inter-cultural understanding that much more difficult. It can even lead to imperialism. In short, I have issues with nationalism. Still, even with all those misgivings, I felt strong sympathy toward the Chinese ralliers in
This said, it is time for the young Chinese to watch out for their overheated nationalism. Things turn to their opposites when they reach the extreme, as the adage goes.
Given this large background, I have mixed feelings toward the other, much quieter, event on the same day, at a different location: the launch of Yang Jianli's "Citizen Walk," starting from
It is a bit ironic that, Chinese who are either pro Beijing Olympics or protesting
I learned about the "Citizen Walk" from another friend's email days before. I don't know Yang Jianli personally, but have heard about his arrest and five-year imprison in
The reason that Yang Jianli chose June 4th as his arrival date at
On the other hand, the June 4th's gunshots and tanks became a fixture of
Given this, I'm not sure whose awareness Yang Jianli's walk will raise. Is it Americans or Chinese? If it's the latter, will a walk from
I had planned to report Yang Jianli's walk, but wanted to clarify a few points and gain a bit more understanding. I sent an email on May 3rd to ask the following questions, but did not receive a response.
- How do you think this walk will impact people now living in
- What is the distinction between "Citizen Power" and "people power" as the term used in 1960s-70s
- Do you think the strong nationalism among
- Why do you need to connect your activity with the Tibetan monks, given that they don't even want to be citizens of
I will share his response if I receive it – so far it doesn't look like he will.
The quiet steps of one man echo in the media while the shouts of thousands find no ears. It is easy to impress the Western media with any anti-Chinese government activity, unfortunately that may not be an advantage if Yang Jianli wants to get his message across to the real audience – the Chinese. This is not his fault; rather the complex situation makes his mission a more challenging one. A more thoughtful approach might be called for.
To put things in perspective, let me end this entry by quoting Zhou Shuguang, a 26-year-old blogger who lives in my home city
"I feel overseas Chinese students are more patriotic than us. They attach more importance to their identification possibly because they are discriminated against and experiencing cultural dislocation abroad. For those of us who live domestically, we don't feel what they feel. …they at worst are bullied by a different race; we who stay in the Mainland suffer from our own."
For this reason I give my best wishes to Yang Jianli; meanwhile I hope he will take the time to mull over my questions.