Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More Complicated Than You Thought--Leslie T. Chang on China's Factory Workers

Chang's TED talk came around well after the publication of her fascinating and eye-opening book, Factory Girls (See my January 2011 post: My China Road: Town & Country ). In the TED talk, she reprises the major points of her argument which is not that conditions are better than we in the west might think, but that factory work serves a more complex social and economic purpose than we may realize. The workers are not a faceless, suffering mass, but rather individuals, whose lives and aspirations are "complicated, surprising, and funny," says Chang.  For most, the jobs are a tool for upward mobility.  Be sure to read the details about the two profiled workers. Here is the link to Chang's September 2012 TED talk:

Penetrating the Great Wall of Chinese Language--TED Talk

Or, more specifically, Chinese characters.  I have attempted to use this mnemonic technique in my own studies and have hardly gotten beyond recognizing "woman" and "house."  These IS a method here but I have not hit upon the right way for my own learning style.  Perhaps ShaoLan Hsueh's method will help me move ahead.


Faculty Seminar 2011 Pace University Confucius Institute

Pace graduate student, Yan Zhang, made this video giving an account of the Faculty Seminar (2011) at Pace University's Confucius Institute, our trip to China that summer, and our thoughts upon return.  Hen hao!!

Special thanks to Dr. Yanyu Zhou, our language instructor at Pace (Xie xie, laoshi Zhou!), and Dr. Jianning (Jenny) Ding, our language instructor at Nanjing Normal University (Xie xie, laoshi Ding!).

 Faculty Seminar 2011 Pace University Confucius Institute

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Deborah Poe’s Hélène: Weaving in France, Dreaming of China

Deborah Poe's new novella in verse, Hélène, is both exact and dreamy. In powerful, rhythmic words and images of amazing beauty, she draws the life of a 19th-c French factory girl, who is basically a prisoner in a convent where she weaves silken fibers into the silk cloth craved by Europeans. The beauty of what she works on contrasts to conditions of her life. Her escape is through imagination, her fantasy of the life of a young weaver in China, going through the same motions, feeling the same longing for escape.

Poe explores the depth of meaning in common words repeated here: "benefactor," "thread," "falling," "chest." Images of animals--deer, geese, cats, fish, horses--appear creating moments of beauty and escape into the natural world, as in "Orphaned waterscape a flock of sparrows flying over the mind./A thunderstorm rolling in over a family of deer. The horse flying through branches,/landing safely." In the repetition of weft and warp beauty is created from "sticky protein" and the building of bridges through dreams allows lonely young women to travel together beyond the obstacles of geography. The difference in their languages ("Masculin et féminin" or the "Shang-sheng, a rising tone") and geography is overcome through the ideas and meanings that writing make possible and, in the words cited from Chuang-Tzu, "This is called the transformation of things." Poverty, enclosure, the sleazy facts of history, and the abuse of power are alluded to here, but are not allowed to cancel out life and meaning or beauty itself. Poe's work is a significant achievement of balance and beauty.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Louisa Lim on "Bureaucracy Lit"


There is obviously crossover appeal since "bureaucracy lit" is a kind of crime literature. As with all crime literature, the cultural context of the crime, the depiction of the function of the law, and the attitude of characters toward the crime tell readers a lot about contemporary culture. Louisa Lim is National Public Radio's (NPR's) Beijing correspondent.

Today's NY Times Book Review also has a positive yet cautious review of Mo Yan's Sandalwood Death and Pow! written by Ian Buruma.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Current scene in Chinese pro basketball: follow-up to my August '12 post on Jim Yardley's Brave Dragons

Chinese Basketball (CBA) | Chinese Language Blog

I will have to support the Brave Dragons of Shanxi. They became my heroes after reading Yardley's book.

I've read that Wayne Wang will be directing a film based on the book with a script by Jonathan Prince. The choice of Wang makes me think that the story won't just be played for laughs, which would be a relief.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Peter May's Chinese Whispers

Chinese Whispers (China Thrillers, #6)Chinese Whispers by Peter May

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Inadvertently, I'm doing this series in random chronological order. I read one other novel and I thought I'd give the series another chance, hoping it would get better, but it really doesn't. I criticized the portrayal of Margaret in the first novel I read (The Killing Room) in the series because she was a b***h on wheels and I couldn't figure out how she and Li had ever gotten together. Well, in this one, she whines constantly. Sorry, but it does not entertain me listening to women indulging in self-pity because they have children and have to slight their careers. C'mon. We've got an app for that and have had it since the 1960s. Anyway, this "Beijing Ripper" case was pretty interesting but when the solution finally comes it's quite mundane. Do I want to continue back in time to read the earlier book(s) in the series? Oh, I suppose I will, but I will probably be finished with this series at that point, unless I find out that Li has ditched Margaret and turned his attention elsewhere. Overall, I find this series run-of-the-mill except for its Chinese locale.

Qiu Xiaolong's series is far better with more complex characterizations, more complex political situations and insights, and much more layered cases. And poetry. If you like that in detective fiction!

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