Wednesday, April 30

Tuesday, April 29

John Pomfret writes how A Mistrust of Government Undercuts China's Effort:
Government officials, who initially covered up the severity of the epidemic, are now struggling to gain the trust needed to effectively implement measures to fight the disease. Faced with a government they think has routinely lied to them, Chinese are now being told by Premier Wen Jiabao, "We are all in the same boat." But for many people, such declarations don't inspire confidence.

...the government is trying to recover from a series of admissions that officials had covered up the extent of the disease in Beijing and around the country.

"The fundamental problem here is that people don't have faith in the government," said Kang Xiaoguang, a leading social scientist.

..."The government has said the people are panicking because they don't understand SARS, but that's wrong," said Kang, the social scientist. "They are panicking because they don't know who to rely on. The migrant workers in Beijing are afraid that if they are quarantined they won't get treated, just left there to get sick and die. Their flight is actually a rational response."
I've put up a new category on my blogroll: Toons & funny people. All the people who thinks they're funny but don't read my blog will be heart-broken. Then there are people who are intermittently funny. Or funny without realizing it. Of course, for some of us, it's all a big joke, so maybe everything should go under the funny category. I've got a Calvin & Hobbes toon taped to my door:

Calvin: It's a funny world, Hobbes.

Hobbes: True.

Calvin: But it's not a hilarious world...unless you like sick humor.

Hobbes: The world is probably funnier to people who don't live here.

It's dated 4/12/1993, for anyone who cares.

Monday, April 28

David Stanway: SARS in a Wilderness of Mirrors
There is an old Chinese folk tale in which a fool deposits 300 pieces of silver in a hole. In order to conceal his largesse, he puts up a sign nearby to announce that "300 pieces of silver do not lie here." The moral of the tale was that the more you try to cover something up, the more obvious it is that something is being concealed.
Via Butterflies and Wheels. They also link to some interesting stuff like Paul Berman's review of Jean Bethke Elshtain's JUST WAR AGAINST TERROR: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World, which he quotes as attacking those for whom
America was always a villain and never a victim, and American military response was always a catastrophe, never a measured act of self-defense or a humanitarian boon.
And to D.M. Gorman's Prevention Programs And Scientific Nonsense. More depressing po-mo.

Sunday, April 27

This weekend we saw Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), which was pretty out-dated. Some pretty scenery, which I guess one expects in a Western. In addition to Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as 'Doc' Holliday, both looking very young, there were roles for Dennis Hopper (looking very young), and appearances by Lee Van Cleef and DeForest Kelley (some pics here). Despite being dated and kind of hokey, it was watchable, although I found the title song absolutely excruciating. I kept expecting DeForest Kelley to say, Jim! Jim!; then I guess Kirk Douglas would morph into Leonard Nimoy as 'Doc' Holliday/Spock, and Burt as Capt. Kirk. Hmm, maybe that was the subtext. (Update: no, no! Captain Kirk Douglas! Arrgh!)

Then, coincidentally, we saw Louis Malle's Atlantic City (1980), also with Burt Lancaster, this time older (no surprise) as well as a young, wide-eyed Susan Sarandon and a brief appearance by Wallace Shawn as a waiter. I enjoyed watching it, although the plot becomes increasingly unlikely in retrospect. For example the fact that a hot young babe washes her boobs facing a window where an old coot can peep at her. Maybe that's a French thing about sex; after all, Louis Malle also directed Le Souffle au coeur (1971) with an incest scene and Pretty Baby (1978; you know what that's about, right?). Then again, if I recall correctly, Le Feu follet (1963) didn't have much sex, just suicide. (My mother's favorite quote from that movie: "La vie est bonne, Alain.")
Long Yan writes,

The corrupt Jiang clique, who plotted to fight for power during the latest party congress, now only care about themselves and their own people. While Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao and Wu Yi were resisting the disaster,and medical affairs people were fighting the plague without worrying about their personal safety, the Jiang clique kept quiet as this if had nothing to do with them. Only on April 24th when Politbureau member Zeng Qinghong appeared did the Jiang clique's several main members Wu Bang-guo, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun finally break their silence. However, Jiang Zemin and Huang Ju withdrew to Shanghai, looking for a safe place to hide.

This confirms what John Pomfret says below.
In China's Crisis Has A Political Edge: Leaders Use SARS to Challenge Recalcitrant Parts of Government, John Pomfret says,
The quick explosion of information that hit Beijing and other parts of China created the most significant challenge for China's new government and its political system in more than a decade. But it also created an opportunity for Wen and China's new president, Hu Jintao, who came to power on March 19. The two leaders have used the crisis to challenge the authority of parts of China's government, the military and the capital city's administration, ultimately challenging the authority of their predecessor, former president Jiang Zemin....For weeks, while the epidemic raged in Beijing, city authorities kept information about its scope from the central government, sources said. "It was as if an epidemic raged in Washington but was kept secret from the White House," said a Western ambassador. Henk Bekedam, the head of the World Health Organization office in Beijing, agreed. "The center really did not know," he said.

Beijing city officials had many allies in the central government willing to keep the news from Wen and Hu. For example, Jia Qinglin, former Beijing party secretary, is on the nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo. Liu Qi, the current party secretary in Beijing, is on the Politburo.

"These men knew the extent of the problem, but they have a lot to lose, so they suppressed information," a Chinese government source said.

Health Minister Zhang Wenkang also was aware of what was happening in the city.

So did Jiang know about it, but Hu & Wen did not? And are they going to be able to use this to challenge him?

Friday, April 25

"The Devil's Accountant"
Chomsky may be right to believe that language did not gradually evolve, but even he would admit that this idea is only speculation. He just prefers to think of the language organ as a self-enclosed system whose origins are mysterious. It is not for nothing that he has been called a "crypto-creationist." Steven Pinker, an admirer of both Chomsky and Darwin, thinks that Chomsky's distaste stems from a more general dislike of arguments that derive human qualities from utility. The theory of natural selection, after all, assumes that things evolve because they are useful; in that, it is a larger version of the behaviorist thesis that humans, like animals, do things in order to get stuff for themselves. And it is true that Chomsky believes that humans are driven by the desire for creative expression, not by anything so crass and petty as advantage. Daniel Dennett, a philosopher at Tufts University, believes that Chomsky's resistance is also due to a dislike of the ad-hoc, gadgetry aspect of evolution: Chomsky wants to think of language as a perfect, unified system....

Chomsky is often criticized for focussing on America's evil doings and ignoring or minimizing those of other countries, but this is also a consequence of his limited mandate. It is not that he hates America's government in particular: Chomsky is an anarchist; he hates all national governments....

Though he is a rhetorician of serpentine cunning, Chomsky chooses to believe that his debates consist only of facts and arguments, and that audiences evaluate these with the detachment of a computer. In his political work, he even makes the silly claim (the opposite of the sophisticated anti-empiricism he favors in linguistics) that he is presenting only facts-that he subscribes to no general theories of any sort. (His theories, of course, are in his tone-in the sarcasm that implies "this is only to be expected, given the way things are.") This claim to rhetorical purity has for years infuriated Chomsky's interlocutors, some of whom point out that his facts, gleaned from newspaper clippings, are not always accurate....

Paul Postal, these days a professor at N.Y.U., still loathes Chomsky with an astonishing passion. "After many years, I came to the conclusion that everything he says is false," Postal says. "He will lie just for the fun of it. Every one of his arguments was tinged and coded with falseness and pretense. It was like playing chess with extra pieces. It was all fake."
by Larissa Macfarquhar, in the March 31, 2003 New Yorker.

He certainly doesn't come off very well, does he? Like a lot of academics, he thinks he knows it all, and will brook no opposition.

Thursday, April 24

My partial translation of Long Gang writes Jiang Zemin has responsibility he cannot shirk for the SARS disaster:
After SARS quietly proliferated over a period several months long while people remained entirely in the dark, it has now already become a fearful plague. As many analyses point out, originally SARS might not have presented this kind of threat, but it is only as a result of the authorities' information blockade that the people missed the chance to adopt active preventive measures, thus causing the situation to now be beyond redemption, creating heavy loss of life.

In order to allay intense foreign criticism, the Chinese Communist Party announced April 20th that health minister Zhang Wenkang and Beijing Mayor Meng Xuenong were to be relieved of their duties. As people have pointed out, Zhang Wenkang and Meng Xuenong were merely the scapegoats. Actually, it is not difficult to see that it is Jiang Zemin, hiding in Zhongnanhai, who is the chief instigator who blocked discovery of the truth about SARS, and Zhang Wenkang was taking punishment for Jiang.

According to material now available, SARS first appeared November 16th, 2002 in Guangdong, where it threw the populace into panic, but just at that time Jiang Zemin was leading the 16th Chinese Communist Party congress, and was actively continuing as Central Military Committee president, and in order to avoid tarnishing the image of "peace and prosperity" under Jiang Zemin's leadership or his "three represents", and to enable him to smoothly continue as Central Military Committee president, at that time the Guangdong provincial party committee secretary Li Changchun naturally actively followed Jiang Zemin's instructions, covering the truth to the best of his abilities, causing the SARS epidemic situation to proliferate world-wide, becoming a global threat. The Chinese people are the biggest victims of this deception.
I'm the tops for "robert mapplethorpe, eating poop".
We couldn't find any results for robert maplethoro, eating poo. We have corrected it automatically to robert mapplethorpe, eating poop.
Well, I'm glad of that.
From epochtime:
Although the Chinese leadership has indicated the need for transparency, when one CNN Reporter group in attempted to report the news that the Beijing University people's hospital had closed, the reporters were arrested and their tape confiscated. Also, according to the free Asia broadcasting station, Beijing authorities arrested netters disseminating "SARS rumors" on the Internete. This report states, the event once more exposes the fact that Chinese information is insufficiently transparent, and that one of its consequences was rumors flying all over....The Beijing police arrested several netters, referred to them through rumors disseminated over the Internet.

Tuesday, April 22

Katrina Leung: what was the FBI thinking? I used to want to give the FBI the benefit of the doubt, but a random group of people could have done a better job.
Jodie T. Allen says God (the "Rogue deity") must decide which side of a dispute he is on. Well, some of us like to laugh, but if God is omnipotent, can't he be on both sides at once? I mean, if he did that wave/particule thingy, I figure he can do pretty much what he likes. Hey, isn't it supposed to be his universe? Like the fella says,
God has the freedom and power to do that which is logically impossible....
And so all this levity is out of place.
I finished Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon awhile ago. It had its moments, but it was a little long and a little preachy. Plus he doesn't know as much about the Chinese as he thinks he does; it looks like his informant was a Cantonese prejudiced against the Chinese to the north.

Sunday, April 20

This weekend we also watched Alan Parker's Midnight Express (1978); there's got to be some comparisons to be made with his Birdy (1984). Guys in prison helping each other through the agony. With homoerotic overtones. Brad Davis' Billy Hayes is really awfully unsympathetic, as Prison Flicks explains, but it's still quite a watchable film. Even if the script was Oliver Stone's, for which he won an Oscar, it's OK, although there's a scene of someone clicking his heels in glee at the end that's a little hokey.

And finally, The Ladykillers (1955); unfortunately I somehow got the impression that because it was another Ealing comedy with Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood would be in it too, since she was in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). No such luck. Both movies look pretty old now although they have their moments.

Saturday, April 19

Exhibit 1
Last week's Love in the Afternoon.

Exhibit 2
Then we watched Alfie (1966), one of the best movies we've seen recently. Maybe that dates us. Michael Caine was excellent of course, and it was nice to see Denholm Elliott. Sonny Rollins' score was great. The worst thing about it was what Diane Selkirk calls the "remarkably unfunny barroom brawl", but that was interesting for a couple of shots of one man protecting another, and who finally fled to the ladies' room. I've also got to agree with her here:
As the sexually predatory Alfie makes conquest after conquest, his delightful asides allow us to both laugh and wince (in recognition?) at his misogynism. Interestingly, the film�s first person narration inclines us to relate to and identify with the protagonist, and for much of the film you like the man despite his faults.Yet director Lewis Gilbert doesn�t let Alfie, or us, off the hook, as his complex characterization of a pond-shallow man takes us to unexpectedly morally and emotionally complex the end, Alfie is too insubstantial to realise that he�s doomed to continue his lonely life of transitory pleasures, because he�s incapable of seeing why he�s not happy.
Strange thing: Cher's "Alfie--what's it all about?" was listed in the credits, but not played on the video we watched.

Exhibit 3
Last night I watched the Simpsons, which I'd taped last Sunday. The unexpectedly grim background was Homer's excessive drinking: at the beginning we hear that last week's family activity was an intervention, and then Homer realizes how much his drinking has hurt Marge. After another binge at Moe's, Marge comes to the hospital to take him back.

So what is it with women who love these selfish men? On the other hand, there is an evolution of the male psychology. The 1957 movie (which had to be set in France presumably because they couldn't stand the idea of a woman sleeping around) is the most sentimental time, with the assumption that a woman can cause such a man to change his ways. Although the 1966 movie shows the philanderer with a smidgen of conscience, he just doesn't get it. And Homer is the most desperate of all, horrified when he thinks Marge doesn't love him, a vulnerability underlined by the other lonely, suicidal men in the apartment house he stays in, whose moaning and howling drives him into the arms of gays. I guess that's progress.

Exhibit 4
Five Easy Pieces (1970). I've got to agree with Andrew Hicks, who labels it an angst-ridden drama and Nicholas Sylvain, who finds Jack Nicholson's Robert Eroica Dupea a most unlikable character. He can't seem to fit in anywhere, so he behaves like a self-indulgent boor, or as Michael W. Phillips says, "an enigmatic male main character who doesn't express any emotion except the odd moment of rage". (Once again, the women he meets are willing to put up with it.) Most critics seem to have liked the acting, particularly Nicholson's, but I find it a little overdone, particularly the histrionics of physically lashing out. And the famed Chicken Salad Scene (which in fact I don't remember hearing of) is typical smart-ass stuff that a lot of Americans seem to think is funny, but that I find annoying. His refusal to accept restaurant policy is probably supposed to fit it with ideal of the person who's unwilling to accept what society traditionally has to offer. Similarly, the aimless nature of the narrative is meant to reflect the aimless nature of his life, but instead I found it boring. I found Alfie a far better movie.
Richard Shweder
regards reactions to female genital mutilation as one of the key tests of whether or not people openly accept differences between cultures. "The mutual 'yuck' particularly intense," he says. Not only do western feminists regard female circumcision with horror (in some countries, it is even grounds for claiming asylum); women in countries where the practice is prevalent, such as Mali and Somalia, are repulsed by the idea of unmodified genitals.
Good point. Maybe the men like it, but the women insist on doing it. This reminds me of footbinding, breast implants, leg shaving, and a host of other customs.
Iain Murray wrote:
One of my favorite Simpsons jokes occurs at a prison rodeo the family attends. After a rider is thrown off and obviously seriously injured, the warden/announcer comments "Don't worry too much about him, folks. He's in for erecting a nativity scene on public property." The crowd boos and Marge comments, "So much evil in the world."
In connection with Tony Blair's upcoming appearance on the show, the Economist says,
"The Simpsons" is not just the most successful cartoon on American television, but also a brilliant satire on American religion, society and politics. The right usually comes off worst, which is why it is the favourite programme not just of countless six-year-olds but also of such luminaries of the left as the Archbishop of Canterbury and Glenda Jackson, an actress-turned-politician.
Seems to me everyone's fair game.
Joseph Kahn's A Reticent China Undercuts Its Milder New Image is excellent, and Richard The Peking Duck's commentary on it is even better:
Worried about a new catastrophic disease that could kill your citizenry by the thousands? Don't give it a second thought -- the Chinese plutocracy has the ideal answer: Don't do anything. If you say nothing, you might be able to contain it. Taking that awful risk is far more attractive an alternative than informing people, and in so doing creating "disharmony."

Friday, April 18

'Earliest writing' found in China by Paul Rincon:
Signs carved into 8,600-year-old tortoise shells found in China may be the earliest written words, say archaeologists.
Although there is a gap of about 5,000 years between this and the much later Shang script that's the ancestor of modern Chinese.
China Cautions Officials Not to Hide SARS Cases, by Erik Eckholm, but Beijing officials seemed determined to minimize the threat:
One motive for Beijing's evasions, diplomats and doctors here speculate, was to avoid the placement of Beijing, the capital city, on WHO's travel advisory list, which now recommends against "nonessential travel" to Guangdong and Hong Kong.

But the tactic appears to have backfired, with official credibility demolished and rumors running rampant, here and among prospective visitors, about SARS in the city. The very uncertainty about the situation in Beijing and other parts of China could lead the world body to advise against travel here, though that has not happened yet.
Indeed, John Pomfret says, In China's Capital, 'We're Panicking': Reality of SARS Empties Streets of Beijing.

Thursday, April 17

Speaking of Medpundit (below), he insists there�s no association between low lead levels and IQ. I'm not surprised. Hysteria rules!
Pretty self-explanatory: Virus Badly Underreported in Beijing, W.H.O. Team Finds by Erik Eckholm, and Underreporting, Secrecy Fuel SARS in Beijing, WHO Says by John Pomfret. Also, Cases of Lethal New Illness Rise Sharply in Interior China by Erik Eckholm:
Reported cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome rose sharply today in an interior province of northern China, heralding the possible spread of the disease through the country's vast, medically underserved hinterlands.
And meanwhile Apprehension Deters Buyers From Attending China Fair by Keith Bradsher, not to mention the fact that Youth and Fitness Offer Little Defense Against Disease by Keith Bradsher:
The new respiratory disease known as SARS is beginning to kill younger and healthier adults as well as older people....
Ahh, not to worry. Scroll down to this graph (via Medpundit).

Wednesday, April 16

What about SARS on Taiwan?
According to its constitution, the goal of the WHO is "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health." Many politicians in Taiwan have recently been pointing out that despite this lofty goal, the WHO has long disregarded the health of Taiwan's 23 million people due to political pressure from China. Editorials in local newspapers are slamming the world health body for consistently denying the island nation access to its medical resources in the fight against severe epidemics such as foot-and-mouth disease, dengue fever, enterovirus and, most recently, SARS.

On March 14, when the first three cases of SARS were reported in Taiwan, Taipei authorities immediately informed the WHO of the situation. WHO officials stationed in Beijing responded that the group was not able to provide direct assistance to Taiwan on the matter because, in their view, Taiwan is a province of China.
(link via Geitner Simmons)

Tuesday, April 15

The Economist on SARS:
The question is, are people overreacting? After all, only 4% of those laid low by SARS have died so far. Ebola fever, to take a contrasting example, can kill 90% of those infected. It is not, though, the deadliness of SARS that urges caution, but its novelty. SARS is not an age-old affliction like plague or cholera, with well-established modes of transmission and means of control. While public-health teams have determined quickly what causes SARS, how to diagnose it and how best to treat it, they are still unsure how it spreads and how long it will last.

As Britain's sorry story of mad-cow disease illustrates, in the face of such uncertainty, precautionary measures, however painful, probably cost less in terms of lives, dollars and blame than telling people to carry on with business as usual. Warnings not to travel to the region, and even measures of quarantine on those coming from it, accordingly seem justified for the time being. If China objects, one good response is that it was the failure by the Chinese authorities to inform the outside world that they had an unusual disease on their hands that robbed researchers of vital time to work out what was going on. The earliest cases of SARS emerged in Guangdong in November, but the WHO first heard about the disease in February�and even then through unofficial channels.

Political machinations, combined with a culture of secrecy, mean that China has a bad record in coming clean about disease, as its emerging AIDS epidemic also shows. Although the Chinese government has worked out a plan with the WHO to detect and monitor influenza epidemics, it has not implemented it. Only this week did it belatedly agree to let in WHO experts. Such recalcitrance is unacceptable. If China wants to be taken seriously as a modernising (if poor) country, it must deal more openly with disease risks that could affect its partners through trade and travel.
Well, I think people are over-reacting, but then again, you won't see me in Asia anytime soon. Hey, I got other places to go.
Old news, but still relevant: Francesco Sisci explains how Beijing loses big on SARS gamble.

John Pomfret: As 10 More Die, Chinese Official Terms SARS 'Grave' Crisis: Premier Says Disease Outbreak Could Affect Nation's Stability. Now they tell us.

Monday, April 14

Via In Xin Xiang, the Battleground God quiz. I screwed up:

Analysis of your Direct Hits

You answered "True" to questions 10 and 14.

#10. If, despite years of trying, no strong evidence or argument has been presented to show that there is a Loch Ness monster, it is rational to believe that such a monster does not exist.
#14. As long as there are no compelling arguments or evidence that show that God does not exist, atheism is a matter of faith, not rationality.
These answers generated the following response:
You've just taken a direct hit! Earlier you agreed that it is rational to believe that the Loch Ness monster does not exist if there is an absence of strong evidence or argument that it does. No strong evidence or argument was required to show that the monster does not exist - absence of evidence or argument was enough. But now you claim that the atheist needs to be able to provide strong arguments or evidence if their belief in the non-existence of God is to be rational rather than a matter of faith.
The contradiction is that on the first ocassion (Loch Ness monster) you agreed that the absence of evidence or argument is enough to rationally justify belief in the non-existence of the Loch Ness monster, but on this occasion (God), you do not.
That's just my wishy-washy tendency to give religious believers the benefit of the doubt.

You answered "True" to Question 7 and "False" to Question 15.

#7. It is justifiable to base one's beliefs about the external world on a firm, inner conviction, even in the absence of any external evidence for the truth of these convictions.
#15. The serial rapist Peter Sutcliffe had a firm, inner conviction that God wanted him to rape and murder prostitutes. He was, therefore, justified in believing that he was carrying out God's will in undertaking these actions.
These answers generated the following response:
You've just taken a direct hit! Earlier you said that it is justifiable to base one's beliefs about the external world on a firm, inner conviction, regardless of the external evidence, or lack of it, for the truth or falsity of this conviction. But now you do not accept that the rapist Peter Sutcliffe was justified in doing just that. The example of the rapist has exposed that you do not in fact agree that any belief is justified just because one is convinced of its truth. So you need to revise your opinion here. The intellectual sniper has scored a bull's-eye!
Is my face red. That certainly is cognitive dissonance. I guess that's how I try to justify my moral views. On the other hand:
Analysis of your Bitten Bullet

You answered "True" to Question 16.
#16. If God exists she could create square circles and make 1 + 1 = 72.
This answer generated the following response:

You've just bitten a bullet! In saying that God has the freedom and power to do that which is logically impossible (like creating square circles), you are saying that any discussion of God and ultimate reality cannot be constrained by basic principles of rationality. This would seem to make rational discourse about God impossible. If rational discourse about God is impossible, there is nothing rational we can say about God and nothing rational we can say to support our belief or disbelief in God. To reject rational constraints on religious discourse in this fashion requires accepting that religious convictions, including your religious convictions, are beyond any debate or rational discussion. This is to bite a bullet.
Well, that sounds right to me. I mean, any discussion of God and ultimate reality cannot be constrained by basic principles of rationality. Rational discourse about God is impossible. Since rational discourse about God is impossible, there is nothing rational we can say about God and nothing rational we can say to support our belief or disbelief in God. The site also says,
The bitten bullet occurred because you responded in a way that required that you held a view that most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable.
But it's not illogical, is it?
Europe Seems to Hear Echoes of Empires Past By RICHARD BERNSTEIN
...the United States is being seen in a new way, as the latest � and perhaps most powerful � of the imperialist powers that bestrode the globe over the centuries....Will it turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing for the rest of the world? "The key terms of the new imperialism will be the ability of the U.S. to provide security and stability for other nations without imposing an American way of life"
The implication is that's necessarily a bad thing.
To some in Europe, the operative word is not so much imperialism as it is unilateralism.
The reason for US unilateralism is that Bush felt that trying to work with certain others was just too constraining. And while he gets slammed for his refusal to cooperate with others, the French are seen as heroic for their refusal to cooperate with the US.
Outsiders wonder whether the United States will use its power from now on as it has in Iraq, free of the constraints of multilateralism and dismissive of its allies.

Some answer that question with a stark new definition of the American goal, which is not so much to control unconventional weapons or to bring about government change in Iraq, but to establish unchallenged global dominance. This view, which would seem strange, almost paranoid, to many Americans, is heard in serious and respectable places in Europe....

In the main view being expressed in Europe, it is not the classic imperialist goal of national wealth and resources that is driving the United States.

In the more radical view of American power � represented by The Guardian or by Mr. Fr�lich � the United States is seeking global dominance almost for its own sake....
That's just the "more radical view", but even so, I guess for the radicals, US global dominance is bad because the US is bad.
...with eyes on another potential crisis, an influential South Korean commentator, Kim Young Hie, a columnist for the newspaper JoongAng Ilbo, worries that American success in Iraq will backfire when it comes to North Korea.

"For Pyongyang, Iraq was the second shock and awe after Afghanistan," Mr. Kim wrote. "When Bush is determined to do something, he just goes ahead. And America undoubtedly has the military prowess to carry out his will. This message is sinking in with Kim Jong Il."
Bernstein is a little vague for me, here. What does Kim Young Hie think that Kim Jong Il is going to do? So far, he's behaved pretty well; see The Watchword Is Restraint By HOWARD W. FRENCH. And it's helped to bring China, S. Korea & Japan into line:
China recently started intensive consultations aimed at preventing conflict on its border. South Korea, whose new president, Roh Moo Hyun, took office in February pledging to stop his country from being pushed around by its ally, the United States, is suddenly scrambling to ingratiate itself to the Bush administration.

Japan, which abhors violent solutions, especially in its own neighborhood, and has constitutionally forsworn military action of its own, has been debating the acquisition of deterrent weapons
Ah, here we go:
...the biggest fear here is that the famous paranoia of the northern leadership, which President Bush has already lumped with Iraq in the "axis of evil," could cause the United States and North Korea to stumble into war.
Anyway, I'm a bit annoyed by the presumption that imperialism is unequivocally a bad thing, when countries ranging from Albania to Zimbabwe make such a hash of running themselves, with barely a peep from the anti-imperialists. Still, as Antony Beevor argues, Nobody Loves a Liberator:
A liberator, however generous, should never expect gratitude, at least not for long. According to Isaiah Berlin, who was a member of Britain's Marshall Plan delegation, the European attitude in 1947 toward America's postwar generosity was that of "lofty and demanding beggars approaching an apprehensive millionaire."
John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge are worried about Rebuilding the Politics of Globalization:
The arguments about the Western alliance and globalization have a strange symmetry. Many in Europe feel that the biggest threat to the global order is not rogue states, but the dominance of America: hence the need to shackle it with treaties and multilateral organizations. They feel the same about American-style capitalism. To the French and other supporters of stakeholder capitalism, le capitalisme sauvage is a beast that needs to be tamed by all sorts of rules � like the French law that bans people from working more than 35 hours a standard week.

Meanwhile, according to John De Graaf, "national coordinator of Take Back Your Time Day",
Americans now work 1,978 hours annually, a full 350 hours � nine weeks � more than Western Europeans. The average American actually worked 199 hours more in 2000 than he or she did in 1973, a period during which worker productivity per hour nearly doubled.

What happened? In effect, the United States as a society took all of its increases in labor productivity in the form of money and stuff instead of time.
He seems to realize that this is a choice:
Work and consumption are not necessarily bad. But producing and consuming can become the focus of a person's life � at the expense of other values.
But he doesn't really mean it:
The harmful effects of working more hours are being felt in many areas of society. Stress is a leading cause of heart disease and weakened immune systems. Consumption of fast foods and lack of time for exercise has led to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Many parents complain that they do not have enough time to spend with their children, much less become involved in their community.
I suppose this is the kind of American value anti-imperialists are worried about. But the thing is, in American capitalist society, you can still opt out. De Graaf and the anti-imperialists want to make it obligatory to pursue what they see as the ideal life-style.
Flyingchair has put me on their Asia Weblogs blogroll. I'd better get more Asian again. Oh, and update my China-related blogroll.
Richard The Peking Duck on how China's treatment of SARS parallels its bungling of its AIDS problem. Also worthwhile pic here, and he reminds of this one. And last but not least, he offers us a description of CCTV slanting the Iraq news.


Joseph Kahn offers further evidence that China Discovers Medical Secrecy Is Expensive.
We saw L�olo (1992). The critics liked it, and some even called it a black comedy, but although there were humorous scenes, one was just too gross. Even aside from that, I found it deranged, self-conscious and overly literary, confusing...disturbing...erratic, brutally gross...descends into hallucinogenic rambling.

Sunday, April 13

We saw Barry Levinson's Diner (1982) and Walter Hill's Geronimo: An American Legend (1993). The characters in the former weren't particularly sympathethic. I'm guessing that people who remembered 1959/60 nostalgically in 1982 partically liked it, but I'm too young for that. Although Geronimo made a stab at acknowledging the wrongs done to Indians, they insisted on telling the story from the point of view of a white man. Actually, I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with that, but by trying to be all things to all people, I felt the movie failed to help me understand the narrator/protagonist, and at the same time, Wes Studi was badly underused.
Pandemic of precaution, by Stuart Derbyshire:
While previous generations shrugged off capricious acts of nature and got on with life, today we hunker down and hide in anticipation of further calamity.
What he said.

Saturday, April 12

Shock, Sadness on the Arab Street: Activists Struggle To Understand Baghdad's Fall, By Carol Morello and Emily Wax: "How can we complain if the Iraqi people are happy?"

At a Tea Shop in Cairo, Disbelief at War Reports By SUSAN SACHS: Egyptians that don't believe Iraqis are happy.
U.S. Opts Not to Censure China, Russia on Human Rights, By Glenn Kessler:
The Bush administration handed diplomatic plums to China and Russia yesterday by declining to sponsor critical resolutions at the annual session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which is meeting in Geneva.
So some good comes from the war for them. I can't help but remember how, pre 9/11, certain members of the Bush administration thought that China was going to be our enemy.
Yesterday we saw Billy Wilder's Love in the Afternoon (1957). From a review at
Love in the Afternoon is relentlessly criticized for its major casting blunder. Gary Cooper was 56 years old, and looked older. Audrey Hepburn was 28, and looked younger. Of course, such miscasting was hardly unique....The terse and retiring Cooper is not only the wrong age, but he has the wrong temperament for the role of a millionaire playboy. Cooper had been a notorious rake in his long-past day, but by 1957 he looked like he would rather go fishing.
But although I agree that Cooper was too old (and I find something disgusting about May/November matches), once you get past that, it's worth watching. And although some find the movie overly long, we didn't.

"Fascination Waltz" seems to have been used in popular culture a short-hand reference to Parisian romances; I'm guessing it's thanks to this film.

We also liked this priceless quote, available here:

Frank Flannagan: What does he export and what does he import?

Ariane Chavasse: Oh, he uh--he exports perfume and imports bananas. There's a fortune in it. Do you realize that for one bottle of perfume you get twelve bananas?

Frank Flannagan: Twelve bananas for one bottle of--doesn't sound like such a hot deal to me.

Ariane Chavasse: It's a tiny bottle of perfume and very large bananas.

Wednesday, April 9

Cat soup = catsup?
Residents of Guangdong are famed for eating monkey brains, snake and cat soup and stir-fried rat, among other exotic meals.
They may be known for it, but the majority of them don't eat that stuff.
Why Wine Costs What It Does By AMANDA HESSER:
"If I made the best wine in the world and charged $1 for it," he said, "no one would believe it was the best. They'd say it's a great bottle of $1 wine."
No comment.
RANDY KENNEDY on the Disgusting Practice of token sucking:
The criminal carefully jams the token slot with a matchbook or a gum wrapper and waits for a would-be rider to plunk a token down. The token plunker bangs against the locked turnstile and walks away in frustration. Then from the shadows, the token sucker appears like a vampire, quickly sealing his lips over the token slot, inhaling powerfully and producing his prize: a $1.50 token, hard earned and obviously badly needed.

Tuesday, April 8

Simon Blackburn's joke:

A high-powered ethics institute put on a forum in which representatives of the great religions held a panel.

First the Buddhist talked of the ways to calm, the mastery of desire, the path of enlightenment. The panellists all said 'Wow, terrific, if that works for you that's great'.

Then the Hindu talked of the cycles of suffering and birth and rebirth, the teachings of Krishna and the way to release, and they all said 'Wow, terrific, if that works for you that's great'.

And so on, until the Catholic priest talked of the message of Jesus Christ, the promise of salvation and the way to life eternal, and they all said 'Wow, terrific, if that works for you that's great'. And he thumped the table and shouted: 'No! It's not a question of it if works for me! It's the true word of the living God, and if you don't believe it you're all damned to Hell!'

And they all said: 'Wow, terrific, if that works for you that's great'.

Although is it really fair to put the Catholic in the position of the fundamentalist? What about Muslims who like to kill infidels?

Killing infidels? 'Wow, terrific, if that works for you that's great'.
A new URL for the Statistical Assessment Service. And they've got their own blog going. Aren't they the guys that fired Iain Murray for blogging?
Radley Balko on pulmonary embolism, which kills 650,000 Americans every year, far more than SARS or the West Nile virus.


Similarly, Charles Murtaugh on increasing cancer rates, due to an epidemic of aging. Omigosh! How can we stop this scourge!?
Saddam Hussein as Surrogate Dictator By JIANYING ZHA (author of China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids and Best Sellers Are Transforming a Culture)
"Tolstoy would have said that every democracy is different, but all totalitarian countries look the same," my cousin said as images of Baghdad rolled by on television. They reminded him of his visit to Pyongyang, but I could have easily added Stalin's Moscow or Mao's Beijing. He added, "The leader puts his statues everywhere and gets 100 percent of the vote � and you know life must be living hell in that country."

This was the second day of the war, and we were watching the news in my mother's Beijing apartment. My cousin supports the war; so do all his colleagues at work. My mother, too, is rooting for American victory; so is her downstairs neighbor.

Feeling ambivalent about the war, I visited Beijing and discovered a startling phenomenon: many Chinese I spoke with resolutely support it. Sure, you can't hear their voices in the state news media because of the government's antiwar stance, but in private conversations and anonymously on the Chinese Internet, these voices are distinct and impassioned.

Here is one posting from a major Chinese Web site, "Saddam rapes the will of his people, treating them as weeds and Iraq as his private property. Why should such a leader be allowed to stay on? War is cruel, but after the war Iraq will have a bright new future."

Or consider this view on the American decision to bypass the United Nations: "Suppose a thug has been raping a young girl behind closed doors and the girl is too scared to cry for help," said a guest at a dinner I attended. "Should we keep sitting on our hands and waiting for a neighborhood committee to come to a decision? No! The right thing to do is to rush in and save the girl!"

The analogy may be crude, but I understand its roots. Most of the supporters of the war, I noticed, experienced the darkest periods of contemporary Chinese history. They are officials, scholars and journalists ages 30 to 60 � and they remember Mao's Cultural Revolution and Deng's Tiananmen Square massacre. Much like Eastern Europeans, they see in Saddam Hussein the kind of despot they know too well.

The Chinese government hasn't missed this. After all, the people who support the war exert considerable influence over China's cultural life. That's probably why, despite relatively thorough and neutral war coverage in the state news media, all information about Saddam Hussein's murderous rule has been withheld. (The war, the stories suggest, is about oil and 9/11 retribution.) Chinese leaders, even the new reformists, do not want comparisons drawn between them and Mr. Hussein. Meanwhile, the Iraqis' lot reminds Chinese liberals of China's own past. It also reminds them how far China has to go to reach full democracy.

Support for the war is by no means widespread, and young people who missed the worst of China's purges and know little of Saddam Hussein's atrocities � but plenty about the American strike on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade � are the most fervently opposed to it....

Indeed. I opposed the war in Vietnam, feeling very virtuous about myself, but seeing what a bunch of miserable turds the Chinese Communists were, I later decided that the war wasn't necessarily wrong. And I think that's why I'm sympathetic to the attack on Saddam. Let's hope everything turns out well for the Iraqi people.
A couple of things from The Peking Duck: China's state-controlled media for expats unquestioningly recycles Iraqi propaganda (link via Gweilo Diaries). The news for the Chinese market is probably even more anti-American.

The Duck also links to More Afraid of Ideas Than of Capitalism by Ross Terrill. He writes how in addition to punishing dissidents, the government also criticizes Chinese-born writers who've met with wider success in the West, like Ha Jin (Waiting), which won the National Book Award, or Nobel Prize winner Gao Xingjian. Neither one is particularly political, and apparently that's the problem for the Chinese authorities: they refuse to serve as shills for the regime.

Also via the Duck: William Pesek Jr. says that China's handling of disease is a warning for investors
Officials in Beijing consider themselves high-minded realists, and dismiss doubters as paranoid fools. They silence critics questioning their honesty. They exude extreme confidence - and yet closer scrutiny suggests the skeptics have a point.
He goes on to draw parallels with how China stifles criticism of its banking system.

Monday, April 7

THOMAS CRAMPTON: World Health Organization criticizes China as being uncooperative and secretive in handling the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak.
JOSEPH KAHN on Yongkang, the dismemberment capital of China.
I also repotted a couple of African violets, and broke off a bunch of leaves to propagate. About a dozen leaves I'd broken off earlier from another repotting had started to show roots, so I put them in soil. Let's see how long it takes them to grow into plants.
Over the weekend we saw City of Joy. Dumb and predictable. I was struck by some resemblences to Lao She's Camel Xiangzi/Rickshaw. Duh, both stories involve rickshaw pullers. However, in addition, both stories have prostitutes that the protagonist wants to "save". But more to the point, the thinking behind the stories represents two poles along one line: successful collective action, represented by City of Joy, and futile individual action, represented by Rickshaw.

Whoops, but that's about it. Anyway, I can't help but feel that with a few exceptions, City of Joy was just a little too positive, but of course it had to be, being a Hollywood movie. And of course it had to have a white savior, otherwise presumably the white audience couldn't relate. Finally, some reviewers took exception to Patrick Swayze in the role of white savior. He was OK (funny how young he looked). My problem was more with the annoying character he had to play--angst-ridden and tempermental. And also the fatuous psychology behind his troubles. But we were able to watch it to the end.

We then saw Indochine. Epic, and pretty much what Rita Kempley says. Certainly not as predictable in the same way as City of Joy, although as soon as I saw Catherine Deneuve's character carrying on with a man young enough to be her son, I suspected that her adopted daughter (played by Linh Dan Pham) would fall in love with the same man. Perhaps I also should have expected that Linh's character would have become a Communist. (Speaking of Linh, it was interesting that my wife complained that by East Asian standards, she's no beauty--her skin's too dark, and her face is too round. Maybe us round-eyes like the round faces because of our round eyes.) Nevertheless, even if there's nothing about the abuses of the Communists, the French colonials aren't depicted as a hundred percent evil. Kempley says the protagonists see themselves as nurturing the Indochinese rather than oppressing them, a notion she labels as "presumptuous if not altogether indefensible". In other words, it's politically incorrect to say anything positive about colonials. Anyway, there was something I found very French in the way the characters would mull over what had happened to them, in a way far removed from the annoying blatherings of the Westerners in City of Joy. Still, once again it's pretty much the East through Western eyes.

Friday, April 4

From The Iraq Invasion in (An) Historical Perspective:
...the First and Second Gulf Wars should be seen as having to do mainly with cleaning up the ill effects of irregularly high oil prices for thirty years. The OPEC scam itself should be understood as an outgrowth of the Cold War. Its costs should be accounted as involving, not just a pair of global recessions, but the rise to power of wealthy states in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, free to do petty much as they pleased.

It is for that reason that Financial Times columnist Amity Shlaes wrote the other day that, when the time comes for reconstruction, "The single most important thing the US and Britain can do to facilitate stability is to privatize Iraq�s oil reserves � even if it means cutting deserving Kurdish leaders out of the bounty. And even if it means being accused of creating a �Texas on the Tigris.�"

She�s almost certainly right. Perhaps the Gulf Wars are best understood as being antitrust policy for oil � industrial reorganization by force in the aftermath of successful monetary stabilization.
Gee, I'm so smart. My thinking was, "It is about oil--and what's wrong with that?"
I finally figured out what to do when confronted with "The Page Cannot Be Displayed" when I tried to access Megan McArdle's blog--use google to find Computers > Internet > Proxies > Free, and try one of these.
DAVID BARBOZA:Export Apple of China's Eye Is, er, Apples
There are so many apples in China � which over the last two decades turned itself into the world's biggest apple grower � that the world price for apple juice concentrate has been depressed for nearly five years. Apple juice makers in the United States purchase more of China's cheap concentrate every year � though they do not like to talk about it � and every year American apple growers complain of devastating losses.

But do not expect growers in Xian, or any other part of China, to abandon their apple orchards.

"Yeah, prices are low, but I'm sticking with my apples," says Wang Aimin, a 40-year-old grower in Lining, a village about 40 miles northwest of Xian. "Life is better now. I used to grow corn and wheat, but you couldn't live on that."

These are the economics of modern agriculture in China � and the market psychology of the modern Chinese farmer. Even a deeply depressed market is preferable to what farmers suffered through for decades, when they could not expect to make even $1 a day selling crops to local markets.
So the after-effects of socialism are that they aren't thinking of diversification. And as the article notes, American farmers want protection. Of course the article doesn't tell us that means keeping prices high for American consumers.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: China Yields Data on Mystery Illness Reluctantly
In early March, when a new mystery illness started hopscotching around the globe, Chinese health officials looked on in silence, as if to say, "This has nothing to do with us."

At that point, China was already four months into an outbreak that officials later acknowledged was the same disease, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Yet they insisted that the situation was fully under control, shared none of their data and declined to join international investigations....once again, China's penchant for burying bad news and manipulating statistics for political ends has increased human suffering. In the late 1950's and early 60's, historians estimate, tens of millions of farmers starved in the aftermath of Mao Zedong's disastrous experiment in collectivized agriculture during the Great Leap Forward. The policy continued unchecked because local officials, eager to please their superiors in Beijing, reported only bumper harvests.Today, SARS has presented these same kinds of officials with a similar choice � to save people or save face with their bosses � and until recently they chose the latter....many Chinese have been disappointed in a statistical cover-up that seems more suited to the Mao-era China of three decades ago.
Then near the end, she points out:
In the economic sphere, a result is that investing in China is a risky business. As a health matter, poor statistics mean that serious unreported public needs are often ignored.
And yet they're criticizing the US for restrictions on press freedom (below). Meanwhile, LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN and ERIK ECKHOLM: China Defends Actions in Battling Contagious Illness
Some residents of Hong Kong, where the virus is now fulminating and schools have been shut down, blame Beijing for not sharing information about the brewing epidemic more quickly, possibly allowing stronger countermeasures early on.
Do they really mean fulminating?
The BBC says: The Chinese Government has published a report attacking the United States for its human rights practices, pointing to problem areas in the US such as violent crime, poverty and sexual abuse.
It says US law enforcement agencies now have greater powers to monitor their own citizens.

There have also been restrictions on press freedom since 11 September and a rise in racial discrimination, particularly against Muslims and Arabs, it claims.

The Chinese report has been published annually over recent years, partly in response to US criticism of China.
(via gweilodiaries). "partly in response to US criticism of China" Yep. Also because they're all screwed up but don't want to admit it, so they pretend we're no good.

Thursday, April 3

Stephen Hunter: Wipe That Smile Off Your Face
Of all the Oscar scandals, the most persistent is the Academy's refusal to acknowledge comedy as an art form and its near-universal preference for so-called, often dreary, serious films come Oscar night.
Yeah, preachy, too. Of "Ben-Hur", he says,
I happen to love this old cornball carnival of religio-nutso freakiness and sadism, but only because I love holiness as an entertainment convention (that business of never showing Jesus's mug -- priceless) and because it starred the great Charlton Heston (whom I admire immensely) at his craggy movie-star best, with a face like the Grand Tetons in winter and a dignity so imperturbable that not even a .416 Remington Magnum could penetrate it.
Ha-ha. He also mentions
John Pomfret on China's Slow Reaction to Fast-Moving Illness:
"Officials want to keep 'stability,' and they are afraid that there will be chaos if people know the truth."....China's slow response and media blackout about a life-threatening illness has angered some Chinese, notably those in major cities, where information has been available from independent sources such as the Internet....The outbreak is also posing an early challenge for China's new government, led by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, who have promised a government more attuned to the people's needs....The illness is also a test of China's new-found interest in working with international organizations....[The] director of foreign affairs for the Guangdong health department, said the government did not act faster partly because of economic considerations -- it did not want to affect the Chinese New Year holidays when people spend vast amounts of money on food and shopping....The Propaganda Ministry ordered the media to halt most reporting about the disease during the run-up to the National People's Congress, at which time "bad" news is rarely published....Chinese officials have not exhibited any regrets about the way they have dealt with the outbreak.
Pfff. "The truth?! You can't handle the truth!"
Kim Griggs on a "colossal squid": "This animal, armed as it is with the hooks and the beak that it has, not only is colossal in size but is going to be a phenomenal predator and something you are not going to want to meet in the water." (via Radley Balko). And CNN says,
Its eight arms and two tentacles have up to 25 teeth-like hooks -- deeply rooted into muscle and able to rotate 360 degrees -- as well as the usual suckers to ensure fish do not escape.

Wednesday, April 2

HOWARD W. FRENCH seems to think our N. Korean policy is working: North Korea's Reaction on Iraq Is Subdued So Far.
"Sleck shug vok," gop flut, jes strowble disclorping ruch illarptacture. Wiss splind miff doilible, grooring "Floke drair weeg snoiggal, feg shrid brost! Clirt splafe scurnly creld grort flamp, dez scight shrong sprell blim troud." Cag stobosaurous smez scrule phantrite hoint thob scray feanlissable wacespink. "Spow frarp chie sprund," shrawed fland cleab. Droy thription ploon scry gurt throrn, frubehabe slared naightentance.

I think I'll get a Nobel prize for literature for that. Thanks to Brian Micklethwait at Samizdata for the vocab.
Sophismata exerpts this subscription-only article from the Economist, which argues that privatisation of water supplies "may actually bring benefits for the health of young children, the group most vulnerable to disease." In the same issue of the magazine, there's a free article on Risk management for the masses. Interesting to me, anyway.

Tuesday, April 1

ELISABETH ROSENTHAL and LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN: China now probably has had more cases and deaths from the mystery pneumonia than any other country.
For months, Chinese officials tried to hide the problem, health experts said, and in recent weeks world health officials have applied increasing pressure on China to improve its cooperation and statistical reporting on the disease....In China, disease statistics are often regarded as politically troublesome and are not publicly released....With little hard information about SARS released by China's government, rumors of new cases have run wild in China's cities. The Chinese press has been banned from reporting on the topic.
As other countries provide international health monitors with daily updates of cases, China has still not provided recent statistics about the spread of the disease, even though it claims new cases are waning. The information shortfall is slowing scientists' investigation into an emerging epidemic when time is critical.
The thing that jumped out at me from Nicholas De Genova's letter was assistant professor "of latina/o studies". Sheesh. a/o to you, too. Link via Daniel W. Drezner, who's got lots of other good stuff, like a link to a Time article, quoting, 'The regime has inflicted more casualties on its own people in the last couple days than any errant bombs of ours.' The trouble is, many seem to feel it's OK for them to kill each other.
JENNIFER 8. LEE: China has 39 journalists behind bars, more than any other nation. Now who's hurting the feelings of the Chinese people!
I'm back. Something odd: I wasn't able access Asymmetrical Information before I left for NY or even now. Anyway, my trip and conference was OK. I got some mostly annoying feedback about my paper. I'd lived in NYC 20 years ago, and boy has it changed, but then again, so have I.

I remember that there were hardly any Mexican restaurants there, but now they're all over the place, as are many others. We found Los Dos Rancheros Mexicanos in a guidebook (507 Ninth Avenue, at 39th Street). It was pretty cheap. I had the mole poblano and my wife had a vegetarian burrito. Pretty big servings, not too greasy, and extremely filling if not wonderful. Farther up on 9th Ave. (792 9th Ave.) we ate at a not-bad Thai restaurant Wondee Siam. The weird thing was that in addition to a Buddhist icon, they had an altar to Guan Gong; while one sees altars to him in many overseas Chinese businesses, I hadn't expected to see him in a Thai restaurant, but the cashier said that some Thais did worship him.

We found Guru on our own on E. 6th st, bet 1st & 2nd, a street that has a bunch of Indian restaurants. It's a vegetarian buffet; I was pleased by the frugal warning not to waste food. It, too, was filling though not as spicy as we would have liked. But the host also emphasized that the food was prepared according to Ayurvedic principles. Maybe it's not allowed to be too spicy. We also went to the Chinatown in Flushing, but didn't eat much except for a bowl of wonton soup. The little place also served beef puzzle; according to the Chinese menu they meant to use an "i".

While in NY, we saw Jia Zhangke's Unknown Pleasures. I found it a bit long, and my wife said that the director could have made it more amusing. Apparently the director likes improvisation; maybe that's why a couple of incidents didn't quite make sense. I couldn't help feel that the director was catering to his artsy audience with its topical references to "the Americans bombing us", TV reports of the downed U.S. intelligence plane the 2008 Olympics, and Falun Gong . But I knew enough about movies to "get" a request for DVDs of the director's movies and a musical quote from In the Mood for Love.

Speaking of the Village Voice, I picked up a copy someone had left on the bus from the airport. Whew! "No civilized person could watch [the attack on Iraq] unfold without feeling sadness and rage". I hate it when people presume to speak for me. I guess I'm neither civlized nor a thinking person. And the issue that I found had this cartoon. Well, I guess back when I opposed the war in Vietnam (wrongly, I now believe), I would've thought that the epitome of humor. On the other hand, I see Nat Hentoff has a more nuanced view.