This week’s episode of “This American Life,” in which Rob Schmitz and Ira Glass carefully dismantle Mike Daisey’s testimony about conditions in Foxconn factories, so depressed me that afterward I felt as if I’d been thrown into a pot of melancholy and boiled over low heat. Hearing Daisey audibly wither under Glass’ questioning, trying to grope for justifications between long, awkward silences, it seemed to me that all this uncomfortableness could have been avoided by simply telling the truth.
We now know that Daisey fabricated certain details in his one-man show, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, for the noble purpose of keeping media attention on factory conditions in China. To this end he appeared on television programs, op-ed pages, and, yes, “This American Life.”
Let me say now that although I appreciate artistic license and understand the virtue of employing falsehoods in the service of a greater truth, lying to media outlets that stake their reputation on journalistic accuracy is crossing a line. Why didn’t Daisey just say that he was an artist and not a journalist when this all began? Did he think the reality of the Chinese manufacturing industry was not shocking enough to pique the American public interest?
I’m sorry. You are the newest victim of the smash hit Broadway musical Mamma Mia! But hey, it won’t be that bad. A lot of people really love this show. My mom has seen it at least three times (and that’s just the live show—God knows how many times she’s seen the film), Tina Fey is apparently a fan, Tom Hanks paid to have it committed to film. Let’s face it, people love Mamma Mia! I’m sure many of you will too. After all, it is set to classic ABBA tunes, it’s a romantic coming of age story, a comedy of errors, and features lots of people dancing on the beach.
As far as jukebox musicals go, it’s definitely one of the best. There aren’t any gaping plot holes, the placement of the music generally makes sense, and they don’t assume that you already love ABBA. Many jukebox musicals (and musical theatre adaptations of films) take their audience for granted: if you like 80s hair bands and arena rock, you’ll love Rock of Ages, for example, because it’s basically an excuse to immerse yourself in live music and flashy lights while surrounded by fellow kitsch hedonists.
My reaction? Yawn. Although some might object to the crass manner in which Mr. Sedaris points out certain facts about China, none of them are blatantly untrue. He has cherry-picked some of the more disgusting facts about China, but many of them are the very things that the Chinese deplore about their own society. I can’t recall off-hand any Chinese person who explicitly encourages blowing snot on the street—however widely it might be accepted.
At first, I was tempted to rise above this all-too-obvious jibe at one of the world’s great cuisines, borne of one of the world’s once-great cultures. More than anything, I was bemused that anyone would be interested in David Sedaris’ views on food. It’s kind of like asking for Hemingway’s views on leather galoshes. Interesting? Maybe. Irrelevant? Most definitely.
Danish film director Lars von Trier was at a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, promoting his new film Melancholia, where he made some remarks that have become the talk of the cinema blogosphere.
The camera angle here on Kirsten Dunst (star of Melancholia) lets you watch her go through a whole range of emotions as she processes what von Trier is saying. As one Internet commenter put it, it’s like a real-life performance of The Office, with von Trier as Michael Scott issuing forth an awkward stream of verbal diarrhea, digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole while everyone in the room sits uncomfortably, hoping that it will stop.
I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure the Chinese legal system works like a lottery. The judges, if they haven’t been bribed or given a decision by higher officials, spin a comically oversized wheel a la Wheel of Fortune or Price is Right and go with whatever it says.
This morning, the Intermediate People’s Court of Xi’an sentenced Yao Jiaxin, the 21-year-old student at the Xi’an Conservatory of Music who ran over and subsequently stabbed to death cafeteria assistant Zhang Miao, because, as we all know, a “peasant woman would be hard to deal with.”
I can’t recommend this film Old Boys enough. The more I think about it the more I like it. Below is the translation of the ending theme. You should probably watch the film before watching the music video. The music is taken from Ohashi Takuya’s “Arigatou,” with lyrics by Chopstick Brothers, the duo responsible for the film itself. It’s a beautiful elegy to youth, a lament for all the things we’ve lost along the way.
Idly flicking through BBC Online videos, I chanced across a video instructing British tour operators how to “tap the Chinese market.” Amongst the anticipated yawn about “improving visa access” and “facilitating non-English speaking visitors,” the BBC journalist, cheery lite-bite Rajan Dasar, interviews a cluster of less-than-articulate Chinese students about the problems they face integrating in the UK. One girl, who suffered from that all-too-common defect of cultural overconfidence, described British food as the cultural trope she found hardest to adapt to, saying that “of course, in China, there’s a lot of delicious food, but here it’s only fish and chips.”
Amy Chua’s provocative piece in the Wall Street Journal has stirred up considerable debate, and rightly so. Her strict, even draconian, method of parenting is one that many parents will recognize, though perhaps in diluted form. She outlines the steps that she, a proud Chinese mother, took to ensure her children’s success. She doesn’t allow her children to attend sleepovers or playdates, to watch TV or play computer games. In a tautological flourish she says they are not allowed to “play any instrument other than the piano or violin” or “not play the piano or violin.” All the while she examines the difference between so-called “Chinese mothers” and “Western parents,” clearly favoring the former. But while she presents her regimen with confidence and pride, she neglects to examine the drawbacks of such austere parenting.
To Our Republican Cousins Across The Pond…
You’re all morons, and here’s why.