Last Thursday, just in time for Chinese new year, President Obama unveiled new directives that would make it easier for tourists from countries like China and Brazil to visit the United States.
In a speech delivered from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the President announced:
I’m directing the State Department to accelerate our ability to process visas by 40 percent in China and in Brazil this year.
Charles Bennett, minister counselor for consular affairs of the US embassy in Beijing, told China Daily earlier that 50 more American staff members will be deployed to the embassy and US consulates in China this year.
In addition, more interview windows and buildings will be built and the embassy is considering allowing people to arrange an interview date as early as two days after he applied, he said.
But don’t be fooled. Despite the bilateral enthusiasm surrounding these new initiates, the push to expedite visas for Chinese nationals has less to do with improving Sino-US relations than one thing: cold hard cash.
It all happened so fast. When I wrote my satire of David Sedaris three months ago, I didn’t think anyone would read it. When it comes to writing for this blog, that’s usually a safe bet.
But this time something happened. From what I can piece together, Amy, an intern at Sinica, read it and sent it to Kaiser Kuo, who, among other things, writes the back-page column of the Beijinger. Kaiser put out an APB and got my e-mail from his cousin Arvin Chen, who was my TA in film school. Small world. Kaiser, who had been looking to step down as the back-page columnist, asked if I was interested in taking over the column and I almost shat myself before saying yes. After some back and forth with Jonathan White, the managing editor of the Beijinger, I was confirmed as the new back-page columnist on September 22.
The Shanghai subway accident has reignited concerns over China’s transportation infrastructure, in particular the involvement of a company called Casco, which supplied the signalling systems for a number of subway systems in China.
I wrote before about Internet memes following the Wenzhou train collision. It’s no surprise that this incident has spawned another wave of Internet jokes.
Top: “Subway, railway, highway, way way to die.”
Bottom: “Officer, announcer, investigater [sic], word word to lie.”
A commenter suggested that the top scroll for this couplet should be: “Welcome to China.”
Finally, a scientific validation of what we already knew intuitively!
Brad Plumer over at Ezra Klein’s blog has a link to a Time article where researchers coded languages to see which ones were more information-dense—meaning they contained more meaning per syllable. English is fairly dense, with a score of .91.
Mandarin Chinese was the densest language studied, with a score of .94.
Reporters who embed themselves with the military are a special breed of daredevil, the paparazzi of death and discord. As Chris Hedges notes in War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, the book which provides the epigram for the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker, war can become a kind of drug, both for the soldiers and the men who follow them.
Restrepo, the Oscar-nominated documentary directed by American journalist Sebastian Junger and the late British photojournalist Tim Hetherington, plays on that theme with stunning lucidity. Junger and Hetherington both spent May 2007 to July 2008 embedded with the men of 2nd Platoon, Battle Company in the deadly Korengal Valley of northeast Afghanistan.
Restrepo is not a film about war—it is war. The moments captured on camera are only a fraction of all the conflict in the world, and just a snippet of America’s ongoing struggle, but for 93 minutes it is all that matters. The images are plain and unadorned—the shaky camera is not for effect; the loss of sound is not an aesthetic choice; the tracers streaking through the gathering dusk are not the addition of a post-production supervisor.
I’ve been reading a lot about the British riots, including a post by fellow contributor Monica Tan, and I feel like most of the discussion is missing the point.
The funny thing about crowd psychology that most people miss is the concept of diffusion of responsibility. Basically, it means that the more people there are, the less responsibility each of them feels for what is going on. It’s a simple but powerful theory that helps to explain behavior that might otherwise signify the end of morality—most notably the murder of Kitty Genovese. Thus, individually, each rioter feels little responsibility for the actions of their neighbors or for their own actions. After all, if you are just one of a dozen people taking things from a shop, and you weren’t the first to take it, then it’s not really your fault. Besides, if you don’t take it, someone else will.
In reading Zoe Williams’ excellent Guardian piece on the psychology of looting, in which she analyzes the significance of London rioters doing away with consumer retail products, I was reminded of a vaguely analogous story in China, of a 17-year-old boy who sold his kidney to buy an iPad 2. Both stories seem to illustrate the extremities to which consumerism has driven us.
Niels Bohr once said, “Some subjects are so serious that one can only joke about them.” Certainly, humor is one way in which the Chinese public have chosen to deal with the Wenzhou train collision. I recently wrote an article for ChinaGeeks about the dual catchphrases uttered by ministry of railways spokesman Wang Yongping at a press conference after the Wenzhou train collision. His two phrases—”This is a miracle,” and, “Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.”—have been co-opted by the Chinese public and raised to the apotheosis of humor: the Internet meme. But these Internet memes do more than poke fun at the governement—they prolong the public memory of the incident and undermine the government’s credibility.
There is a battle raging in Hollywood, and it’s getting ugly. The explosive growth of the Netflix customer base, which now has more than 24 million subscribers (more than any individual cable channel), has seen the Los Gatos, CA based company morph, in last ten years, from an under-the-radar DVD rental service into the distributor of movies online.
Speaking of good science fiction, Attack the Block envisions the marginalized urban periphery as a literal war zone where authorities are content to let both their homegrown poor and intruding illegal alien invaders eat themselves alive in a bloody struggle for survival — until a Respectable Attractive White Girl is put in danger, of course. [...]