Monday, July 31, 2006
Friday, July 28, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006
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
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
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
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.
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.
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)
We took this pic in front of the building where the Communist Party of China was formed in 1922.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
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).
- 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
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 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.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
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
- 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! Désirent 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.