Friday, June 27

Sally Squires writes
People who eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish have at least a 25 percent reduced risk of dying from heart disease and cancer....
The study's in The New England journal of medicine. The newspaper says something about beans.
Benjamin Kang Lim writes,
China has pulled the plug on a popular television series set almost a century ago because it upset President Hu Jintao, Communist Party and television industry sources said on Thursday.

Hu, struggling to emerge from the shadow of his predecessor Jiang Zemin, was worried the portrayal of court politics in the series "Marching Towards the Republic" may be seen as an allegory justifying Jiang's powerful role behind the scenes, they said.

Plans for a rerun of the 59-part drama on state-owned CCTV and to show it on provincial networks were axed because it portrayed Dowager Empress Cixi (1835-1908) in a favourable light, said the sources, familiar with the decision to axe the drama.

"Hu was unhappy," a Communist Party official who asked not to be identified told Reuters.

"Hu's written instructions were that 'Marching Towards the Republic' did not conform with historical truth and ran counter to history's final verdict on Cixi," the official said.

"Hu was worried people would think it was necessary and even good for Jiang to rule from behind the curtain and that the boy emperor was incompetent," the official added.

Monday, June 23

Today it was Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

I didn't really think much of it. Kind of sad, how Chuck Barris felt he had to make up such lies, apparently because he felt his life was such a waste. But even though I never really liked his programs, I don't think they were all that bad--people enjoyed them, after all.
The Economist writes avout the variation in earnings of British students who left school with good examination results:
Those with degrees in subjects like law, maths and economics can expect earnings around 25% higher than average. But returns on other subjects are sharply lower. Social studies brings a 10% premium. Education and languages may have returns close to zero. On average, arts degrees show a negative return. In other words, those graduates earned less than if they hadn't done their degree at all.

It may be that demand for graduates has slumped temporarily because the economy slowed a couple of years ago. In the past, financial returns to higher education overall have been very high in Britain; the government also likes to point to international studies that link extra years spent in education to higher economic growth.

But it seems likely that government policy, which has pushed up the proportion of youngsters going to university by nearly a quarter over the past ten years, and plans to increase it from its current 43% to 50% by 2010, has also had an effect. By all accounts, the quality of university education has fallen as the government has pushed more youngsters through the system without a commensurate increase in funding. And the price of most things tends to fall as quantity increases. It would be surprising if that did not apply to graduates.
(Emphasis mine.) In our university, all they care about is raising enrollments without a commensurate increase in funding. I wonder what that does to the quality of education for our students, and what that means for the quality of a degree.

Sunday, June 22

According to Richard Dawkins, who wants to coin the term, a "bright" isn't exactly an atheist, but
some brights are happy to call themselves atheists. Some brights call themselves agnostics. Some call themselves humanists, some free thinkers. But all brights have a world view that is free of supernaturalism and mysticism....
Sign on as a bright at http://www.

Saturday, June 21

Saw Igby. Well, boo-hoo, ya little wanker, so your rich family's hypocritical. That doesn't mean that you have to be such a little turd about it.

Also the Matrix Rebloated. Yeah, it was dumb and not as good as the first one, but I'm a sucker for crap like that. Go figure.

Also saw The Good Girl. Not bad; nice to see Holden get his comeuppance.

Saturday, June 14

John Pomfret: China to Open Field in Local Elections Decision to Allow Multiple Candidates Comes During Debate Over Need for Reform

Questions about political reform were fueled by a news conference on May 30, in which a top bureaucrat denied the government had hidden the extent of the SARS outbreak and refused to praise the doctor who exposed the coverup. The bureaucrat also vociferously defended Zhang, the former health minister.

Some analysts in Beijing took the statements by Gao Qiang, the deputy health minister, as a sign that the Communist Party had returned to its traditional way of dealing with crises -- denial and deception. Editors at several state-run newspapers said the Propaganda Ministry subsequently issued circulars banning critical reports about the handling of the disease and other sensitive topics.

But there were few clear signs of a new crackdown on the media or a tightening of the political system. In the days following Gao's statements, several major newspapers criticized him and several others commended Jiang Yanyong, the retired military physician who first revealed the SARS coverup in Beijing. Gao said he didn't understand the interest in Jiang.

"We have 6 million doctors and health care workers, and Jiang Yanyong is one of them," he said.

In a news conference today, Gao seemed intimidated by the criticism, this time acknowledging that Zhang had committed many mistakes and that the decision to fire him had been correct.

Government sources and other analysts said Gao's shift masked a political struggle between Hu and Wen on one side and allies of former president Jiang on the other.

China's press has also responded aggressively to Gao's offhanded treatment of Jiang. Since Gao's attack, Jiang's picture has been on the cover of magazines and newspapers. A larger-than-life photograph of him was displayed on newsstands around the capital, advertising this week's editions of Sanlian Life Weekly with the headline: "Jiang Yanyong: The interests of the people are more important than anything."
Yeah, well, we'll see. Once the new guys are in charge, they may well revert to the bad old ways.
John Pomfret: China Replaces Top Navy Officers Over Sub Disaster. Even though the subtitle (if that's the word) reads: 70 Died in Worst Acknowledged Military Accident; Signs of 'Accountability' Are Seen in Dismissals, a foreign expert on Chinese security issues says, "In our system we regard accidents like losing aircraft or accidents on a submarine as the cost of doing business....In their system it's still much more political."
Peter S. Goodman & Wang Ting: Progress -- Over Their Dead Houses: Shanghai Residents Resisting Displacement Endure Threats and More
In China, it is widely assumed that corruption is so ingrained in the normal course of doing business that all prosecutions are political in some way. Some people here speculate that the downfall of Shanghai's wealthiest real estate magnate is explained in part by worries in higher quarters about the callous ways that he and his allies in the Shanghai government have gone about building ever larger projects with little regard for the people displaced.
Me, I just think he stepped on the wrong toes.

Friday, June 13

Anyway, we finally saw Polanski's The Pianist. I've got to say I was really disappointed. It seemed awfully conventional; even if it's a true story, the German's letting Szpilman escape because he was an artist seemed awfully contrived, and at the same time, didn't really express the extent of the horror of the holocaust for me. So the other six million jews could have survived if they were decent artists, and if the Nazis had properly appreciated art? Speaking of which, we also just saw Balzac et la petite tailleuse chinoise, directed by Dai Sijie, based on his autobiographical novel. Same kind of thing, where art--this time literature--opens up a new perspective for someone, although this time the movie was about half an hour too long. Still, Zhou Xun is a pleasure to watch.

I'm not saying art (including music & literature) can't enrich our lives, but I'm afraid the arty types who think they can effect major changes on life are a little naive.

We also saw Steven Shainberg's Secretary, which I liked a good deal more, although I wonder if self-mutilators can really substitute submission. But the movie was so silly, I was able to suspend my disbelief. Maggie Gyllenhaal was really something. Again, I found the movie about a half-hour too long, though. Another thing is that my mother, while not exactly what I'd call a submissive, has always craved to be told what to do by my father. That's all very well, but it wasn't a good environment to grow up in, for either of us kids, so there's something that makes me a little uneasy about it. Still, any one of these movies is a pleasure compared to Jia Zhangke's Xiao Wu (1997). The more artsy critics seem to like his movies, maybe because you can hear a snatch from John Woo's 1989 The Killer, but here the non-professional actors were too, well, unprofessional, and the movie meandered for much too long.

Speaking of Nazis, I never got around to posting about Andrzej Wajda's Eine Liebe in Deutschland (1983), about a love affair between a German woman and a Polish POW during the war ,with Hanna Schygulla as the woman. I liked it, in that it put a more human face on the Germans, but again it kind of fell apart towards the end.
Geez, I stop blogging for a few days, and blogger's interface is all changed.

Tuesday, June 3

We saw Adaptation. I thought the ending wasn't ironic enough, but as Stephen Hunter points out,
"Adaptation" turns into adaptation: Thriller aspects are thrown in, a car chase or two, a shootout, and each of the characters we thought was real is suddenly a movie cliche. Charlie even has an epiphany at the end and is a Sadder But Wiser man.
Yeah, I know the antic muse doesn't think much of him, (duh!), but I like Hunter's film criticism. His novels, however, are more disappointing.
This shouldn't come as any surprise: China Gets Defensive on SARS Record: Change in Tone Dampens Hopes for Political Reform (By Philip P. Pan):
the Chinese government today dismissed criticism that it was slow to respond to the SARS crisis, denying it tried to hide the outbreak, refusing to praise the doctor who exposed the coverup and asserting that it had warned the world about the virus in early February.
But that's not what most of us were hoping/expecting.