Monday, July 31, 2006

Friday, July 28, 2006

Introduction to a Baracuda 5 feet away

Is this cool, guys or what?

Monday, July 24, 2006

What will happen to Lebanon?

This fellow blogger had a rather optimistic take:

“There are two most likely outcomes of the war. One is the collapse of the Lebanese government and the creation of another failed state on Israel's border, where desperation will breed terrorism for decades. The other is a strengthened Hezbollah, which will become the leading force in Lebanese nationalism, weakening the reformists. The maximalist option would likely turn Beirut into a poor Shiite city, reinforcing Shiite political power at the center. Destroying a few Katyusha emplacements in the south will not affect either outcome, and in both cases Hezbollah will probably be able to rebuild its arsenal.

The Israelis' current blank check will begin to be canceled by the world community, as the full scale of the destruction of Lebanon becomes apparent and humanitarian crises ensue. At some point it will be forced to cease its attack. Israel will not get the Lebanese government of which it dreams. It may get a U.N. or Lebanese buffer for a while, but it will not be effective, and the southern Lebanese clans are famed for nothing if not long memories and determined feuding.

If, as Abba Eban once said, the Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, it is equally true that the Israelis, with their reflexive instinct to shoot first and negotiate later, never miss an opportunity to make a bad situation worse. The Israelis have responded the same way to military threats for decades -- with overwhelming force. This is perhaps understandable, but each time they overreact they create future catastrophes for themselves. Just as their 1982 invasion of Lebanon and occupation of the south haunted them for a generation, they will be living with the blowback of their ill-considered war on hapless little Lebanon for decades to come. Tragically, the United States, as Israel's closest ally, will also have to suffer for its actions.”

What do the gentle readers think?

P.S. I finally got around to answering Paddy's dinner table question, I just needed the inspiration, you see.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Paddy Hits the Rails

Travel extension has already begun in style: chaos rules, it's raining, dinner cancelled, catching train to Beijing in an hour, haven't packed my room (well that at least is nothing new for those who know my travel prep - actually I have a bit of uncommon breathing room there with a whole hour to pack. That's why I can erite this final note), got $1200 worth of small-note Chinese currency in my pocket, haven't a clue what lies ahead. Wish me luck. Farewell until August. I expect those who can to hit Nanny's on the evening of 2 August: round of mist on me.

Oh, almost forgot. I did have one little victory this morning by getting a TA dismissed from travelling with us. Huzzah! So we're also down a person, but believe me, we would have expended more energy taking care of her than the students. Long story, but yes, she deserved to be fired.

That's me, I'm out. If I don't return in 30 days someone notify the embassy (and Sobin gets the espresso machine).

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Well Let's Just Call a Spade a Spade

Since working in China reminds me of a three ringed circus (although in this case we have added issues: the animals have been shipped to another city, the lights don't work in one of the rings, the clowns are on strike, and the audience was expecting a baseball game).... A few more pics here for Sobes before I depart for Beijing. I don't know if I'll have access to my computer for the trip, so this may be the beginning of a 10 day hiatus for Paddy. I'll be back to Shanghai on the last day of July and then return to DC on 2 August. So all of you better mark your calendar and shine your dancin' shoes cause I got a date with a big girl named Nanny and you're all on chaperone duty. Mr. P recently wrote me to say he's looking forward to a Misty evening as well...if you get my drift WOP.

The shot to the right (and above) came from the Chinese circus, tickets to which we had to squeeze out of Mr. Kwan from the kickback money he swindled from us in Hangzhou by taking the group to a tea plantation 'tourist destination' - these are all over China and entail taking a bus of Westerners to some local craftshop or factory with a shop attached that charges 400% more than what is normally changed. This is normal business in China; we figure one of Kwan's associates was set to make about $1000 from our visit to the tea plantation before Taeko got wind of the whole deal.

After a class in traditional Kun Opera the entire program went out to get a 'glimpse' of several stagings of a few classic works. While I enjoy the costuming, I have to admit that I find the 'music' and stylized movements rather annoying (Sully and Mully know what I'm talkin about).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The WOP at the Lake......

As long as we are talking about hyprocracy I might as well chime in with the fact that I am having a wonderful week at Deep Creek Lake Maryland with my family, reveling in Bouergoise decadance. For those of you at Nanny's and elsewhere who have wondered if I really have a wife, here is a shot of us tubing behind a boat on DeepCreek Lake today.
Since it's probably boring just to see pics of me and Taeko out on the town, I thought I'd introduce you to a few of the more oustanding of my fellow travelers here in Shanghai. The students on program are, as a whole, rather outstanding. Maybe that has something to do with the nature of teenagers who decide to challenge themselves with a language such as Mandarin (or Russian, Japanese, German, etc - essentially anthing other than the standard Spanish or French) and decide to embark on a weird summer program in China.

This is Mr. F. He's a hoot, and a smarty pants to boot. Sobes had a brief run-in with him over IM one night. (By the way Sobes, you rather shocked - though intrigued at the same time -- him with your insistence that I play a certain song by Lou Reed.) I think he seriously wishes he was attending that conference - maybe the Duc can sympathize.

Meet Miguel, a dead-pan ex-phalangist from Mexico. He's slow (physically, not of intellect) - maybe deliberative is the better word here - he's deep, and he delivered an unintentionally hilarious monotone version of 'Labamba' on karaoke night. As the English translation of the sign to the 'Mountain Villa Embracing Garden' instructed: embrace the beautiful surroundings. [For Matt Asbil: this proves that my dislike for Mexican food does not extend to Mexican people.]

It's now 11:15pm on the last night of program. WOP knows my standard procedure for the last two days of summer programs, and this one is no different: I haven't slept in two days as I spend the entire night and morning wrestling with hundreds of jpeg files, moviemaker, and a computer suffering from attacks of the cycber-eqivalent of SARS (at 2am last night the programs froze and shut down. I lost a full eight hours of work. Somehow I pulled off a decent slide/movie presentation for the kids by 1:20pm.) We have our final dinner out tonight - so it's all over except the hugging and crying and packing into busses tomorrow morning. Then I'm taking Tex out on the town to have a suit made and then a long-overdo birthday lunch at Jean Georges (yes, it was just that good!). Parents will begin to arrive for the 10 day travel extension by tomorrow afternoon, then it's off to Beijing on Sunday evening.

And Now For A Bit of Hypocrisy

I know the juxtaposition with my last communist pics is just too much...but, well I am a complex character, and it was a lovely lunch. Ha - i'm a shit!

Duck breast with honey-wine reduction, served with fruit compote and a smoked creame emulsion. Outstanding! Second course was peppered beef tenderloin served over a mix of spinach and soy beans. A bit on the salty side; still good, but the duck was better.

Taeko opted for the Bento Box lunch of fresh wild mushroom soup, asparagus salad, red snapper carpaccio served with a pink grapefruit sorbet, and a fourth fish dish that I didn't catch. She was quite pleased as well. We finished with perhaps the best chocolate sorbet I've even tasted. Lunch for the two of us came to 507 RMB or about $63 (with three beers included)

Workers of the Something for Christ's Sake

Perhaps a bit of rambling here may prove good for the soul. I just finished moderating a good panel discussion on 'One-Party Rule' in China (we had two CCP members on the panel), and I came away wondering if the United States isn't a 'one-party' system: the Party of Wealth. When asked when China will adopt democracy, one of the panelists (not a Party member) shot back: "people have been living in China for 3000 years without democracy. Is it perhaps ok for them to wait a few more years....and American-style democracy is only one style of democracy....We will have democracy the Chinese way." Perhaps if George Bush and all his Democracy-crazed Trotskyites had read more of history and less futuristic Toffler bullshit the United States wouldn't be imposing it's own idealised version of government upon other states with such disastrous results. Oh well.

We took this pic in front of the building where the Communist Party of China was formed in 1922.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An Open Invitation

You are hosting a brunch of historical, literary, or other disreputable persons (think: Mad Hatter's Tea Party). What is your menu? Who are your guests?

Ok, so this is an essay question for the University of Chicago application this year. Considering the readership of PaddyWop, I thought it might prove interesting to hear who you all might invite to this Mad Tea Party (there won't be tea in my pots though (think: Speakeasy on the Southside).

"The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table"

The web is a wonderful place. Here is a link for the text of Holmes' essay cited by Paddy.

The Autocrat
I realize that resorting to the use of quotations might be a cheap way to fill an entry, but so be it. The month has finally taken its toll and I'm in bed tonight with a touch of the flue, nothing too serious at the moment, but I begin our travel extension with parents this Saturday and it might be special if I did not vomit all over their shoes. Attended an interesting class this morning on the Jewish community in Shanghai. I've been leading a class this week on Jewish refugees in Shanghai, which I pretty much had to throw together on the fly, since I wasn't aware of any Jewish communities in China. The earliest record shows Jews in Kaifong since the Northern Song Dynasty (about 1060), so they've been around some parts of China for awhile. About 20,000 Jews came here from Germany and Austria in 1937-38 (Shanghai was one of the only ports not to require a passport or entry visa). Anyway, a rabbi from the Shanghai Jewish Center and his wife came in this morning to talk to us about being Jewish in China, which was rather fascinating, especially considering that the Chinese government does not recognize Judaism as a religion and puts severe restrictions on them (not quite like those on Falung-gong, but limitations nonetheless... -- DAMN COMMIES! they did it again. Using '' I can get to certain sites that the pukes in Beijing don't wish their people to know about. But apparently the little creeps are actively checking up on my surfing. So I had Wikipedia open and just now typed in 'Falung-gong' to get a correct spelling. Surprise surprise Sergeant Carter! 'The page cannot be displayed.' They've shut down the entire browser window. Pretty effective limiting information in a country of 1.3 billion - guess thats why the Chinese never knew that a man landed on the moon until 1976, or what the Chinse high-shool students who joined our program knew nothing about the Cultural Revolution or the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989.

A Bite of Breakfast Crumpet For Le Duc

Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked. Good mental machinery ought to break its own wheels and levers, if anything is thrust among them suddenly which tends to stop them or reverse their motion. A weak mind does not accumulate force enough to hurt itself; stupidity often saves a man from going mad.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. 'The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table'

This is a bit of self-criticism on my part; yes, I've learned how to enjoy my Maoist struggle sessions here in Shanghai.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

More Serious Measures Taken in the 'Little Princeses Rebellion'

The gloves are off in handling these little sheisters. 'Paddy-Wu and Stu' mean business now in Shanghai. No prisoners!

To Counter the Myth of the Over-Industrious Chinese

And believe me, this is not an isolated image. There exists a substantial class of lawn-chair loungers - mostly male - who generally hang out in front of shops or on the street curbs. This photo was taken in a sea-food market in Suzhou; those are live crayfish in the tubs. I'd already passed up the eels, frogs, and turtles - yum!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sobes Wants More - Here's to Randomness

Sobes gave me hell last night for not posting interesting photos, so I'll throw a few pics up here willy-nilly and try to fill in with some captions as I can. I just returned late last night from a three day excursion to the city of Suzhou and am on duty all day today, so my time is a bit limited. I apologize if these are unexplained or trite.

Ok, is this guy (to the right) Ben Mautner's double or what?

Arrival in the city of Suzhou, the capital of the ancient Wu Kingdom (triumphal return for Taeko - though the Japanese battered it once already this century) and an important silk manufacturing center.

Confucian philosophy, while abandoned by the Communists during the Mao era, is experiencing a bit of a revival in China today. So this is a Confucian temple ( though we all thought calling it a Confusion Temple might be more appropriate, given our collective experience of trying to work in China) for the religious worship of a non-religion. I guess it might be similar to us bowing and burning incense at the Jefferson Memorial - I know smoke would pour from WOP's ears just at the thouht (though he might be inclined to bow at a temple to Sam Adams - though I think having a stiff drink and finding someone to tar-and-feather would be more appropriate reverential acts at the Adamsian Temple. Hmmmm...that give's me an idea for a new cult - any takers?)

Woke up in Suzhou and snapped this pic from my hotel-room window. I'm not exactly sure what these two have in their boat or if they were out fishing or gathering, but they were plying her down the canal in between two major roadways.

We are in different worlds WOP

You talk of DCUN - I talk of UNDC

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hey Paddy--Thought of you at the Game!!

United Overwhelms Beleaguered Celtic
MLS Wins Point Of Pride Over Scottish Champs : United 4, Celtic 0

I thought of you Paddy last night as I watched DC United trouce your beloved Celtic 4-0. Even as the Angels played their Harps, I wish you there so I could tease you unmercifully. To be fair United is in midseason form and Celtic are only playing exhibitions for the regular season, but still.....DC UNITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

In a fit of counter-revolutionary abandon, Paddy-Wu (I will use that to refer to the collective admin team trying to keep the lid on things here) fled campus for a night of hipster clubbing.

Dissent Increases As Western Barbarians Continue to Offend

How do I adequately express my dismay with the cultural sensitivities of the staff we've been given here? Let me explain: there are four sane Western (well Mr. Kwan is Oxford educated from Hong Kong and tends to think like us so I include him as somewhat Western, but...) administrators trying to hold together a program staff of 12, 3 Chinese program managers and 9 so-called teaching assistants, four of whom are Chinese Americans from Harvard and MIT - and boy my opinion of those institutions has dropped). The TAs by the way have apparently agreed to internship status, so they aren't paid, which means we can't exactly fire their asses, which is exactly what they deserve (that's Mr. Kwan's department anyway). All of the Chinese staff seem to be under the impression that the three of us from St. Albans are here to put down China and humiliate them, and will interpret our every move and word as a slight to them personally and to the greatness of China more generally. A few examples that upset them and set them to muttering against us:
- being asked to ask the bus driver to turn the lights on and off inside the bus so something could be read
- reading an article about soccer from the newspaper to the kids (I'm completely serious)
- having to translate for a boring, disorganized professor
- laughing about our inability to pronounce 'cat' in Mandarin (apparently this was taken as making fun of the greatness of the Chinese language!)

And it goes on and on. I have not experienced such unprofessional, thin-skinned people in my life. Every day we have a minor crisis with this or that TA because we've upset them in some way. And the way they deal with it is to go off, brooding and sulking, and conspire amongst themselves. The fact that WIll is black and Taeko is Japanese doesn't really help matters any. But geeeeeesh, these people need to get a grip on their self-image hangups, not to mention their work ethic, which contrary to most stereotypes, is on par with the 18th century French aristocracy. To be fair, these are the little princes and princesses of Chinese society (those at Hogwarts Drom know the phenomenon well): well-educated, upper middle-class (surprise! yes, there class exists in this Communist state), only children who have been pampered their entire lives, aren't used to working very hard (again, I'm sure we can all think of a few examples -- and I thought I was bad on this front), and expect to be praised at every turn, whether it be making first oboe in the high school symphonic band, acing the maths section of the SAT, or just getting their ass to work on time (which mostly they don't do here for the record). It is immensely frustrating on so many levels trying to work with this lot in a summer program that, as WOP knows well, pretty much consumes most of your time and energy. One example from this afternoon: The kids have the afternoon free. But until we get written permission for them to be allowed to go out into Shanghai unaccompanied by an adult, we need to have the TAs chaperone them if they go off campus; this has been SOP since day one. However, it seems that all the TAs read free time on the schedule and thought that they would be able to do what they liked as well (which mostly boils down to shopping and going to clubs).
I'm not sure where I'm headed with this rant, but if you recall an earlier Paddy posting, I saw it coming. Hopefully we keep them in line for another two weeks. I do, however, worry about the impending transfer of the Governorship from Taeko to Tex after that for the second session.

We have yet to oder the main gates closed but the artillery has been put on pemanent notice! D├ęsirent ardemment de phase les barbares occidentaux!!

PS - By the way, Wilted Flower has become a respected and effective ally in our struggle against what I'm terming the Rebellion of the Offended Little Princesses.