I have Western TV again!

I have Western TV again!
JISHOU, HUNAN — China would not be at the top of anyone’s list of entertaining television. The Chinese government strictly limits consumer access to Chinese cable and satellite TV channels, which offer a staid variety of historical dramas, reality shows, moralistic soapies and news programs — all of which must pass inspection by government censors. Foreign channels, like the BBC, CNN or HBO, are usually only available at big-city hotels that cater to foreigners. Police patrol residential areas to ensure no one has an illegal satellite dish pointing in the wrong direction. For an expat, this situation meant your only access to Western TV was through the computer, either by downloading programs or catching the rare streaming website that doesn’t black out China. (I’m looking at you, Hulu!) But, as of last month, this expat now has access to more than 200 international TV channels, because I bought an Internet settop box marketed by A2SATV. The provider also offers several hundred free TV channels from all over the world. The box with a year’s subscription to the premium package cost about $145, and subscription renewals are about $50 a year. The box runs Android, and comes with two USB ports, ...

Supreme Court sticks fork in John Freshwater dismissal case

JISHOU, HUNAN — Seven years! This case has been dragging on for seven years, and now maybe we will never need to read about John Freshwater in the news again. His last chance to have the courts reinstate him as a science teacher in Ohio ended in defeat this week. The US Supreme Court has let stand a lower court decision that Freshwater’s former employers, the Mount Vernon, Ohio, school district, had cause to fire him for insubordination for refusing to remove religious materials from his classroom. Freshwater’s lawyers argued that the district had infringed his First Amendment rights, and wanted to Court to hear their case. The Justices were apparently unimpressed with this argument, and denied his writ of certiorari — basically, a request that the Court hear his appeal.. Freshwater was a seventh-grade science teacher who had a few bad practices. Judging from the testimony of former students and co-workers during a lengthy administrative hearing, he had a long history of teaching Creationism in his class, leading his students to doubt the validity of evolution and the Big Bang theory, and pushing his conservative Christian faith in class. Unsaid and unexamined was the district’s seeming tolerance of this ...

Right-wing culture warriors attack new AP US History plan

JISHOU, HUNAN — America’s culture warriors have found a new battlefield: the new College Board Advanced Placement US History framework. Most of us would just yawn, and say, so the College Board revised the course, what’s the big deal? But to those people who fear any change is a threat to Life As We Know It, the new framework to AP US is a liberal, anti-American plot to indoctrinate high school students in liberal, anti-American ideas. Conservatives are so alarmed that they persuaded the Republican National Committee (RNC) to issue a resolution opposing the changes, and have also succeeded in getting Republican-controlled state assemblies to do the same thing. The wording is nearly the same in each case. Their reactionary approach to the “new” APUSH alarmed Jefferson County, Colorado, students and teachers so much that they staged a sick out late last month. National Review columnist Stanley Kurtz spent more than two-thirds of a rather breathless column tracing, a la Glenn Beck, the invidious anti-American influence of one liberal historian on the new AP US curriculum. The origins of the new AP U.S. History framework are closely tied to a movement of left-leaning historians that aims to “internationalize” the teaching ...

It’s a wrap (for me, at least) 1

It's a wrap (for me, at least)
JISHOU, HUNAN — My first brush with Chinese film making has ended. Now I’m waiting to see the results, like everyone else. My services were needed for only three days. I’ve already related the first two days’ events. The last day was Tuesday, coincidentally the last day before a week-long break for the National Holiday. First off, consider that my schedule that day began with four hours of classes, and ended with four hours of classes. Sandwiched between these sessions of Oral English was that day’s filming in Aizhai and Dehang and a very late lunch at 3 pm. A really long day. Along the way, I got a better idea of my role in the movie. One scene on Tuesday had me in hiking clothes in Dehang, coming across a local woman drumming in the local Miao style in a canyon. This scene happened some years in the past. At the time, my character, Jason, was moved to the point of tears and wanted to meet this woman, but she refused to see me. I left disheartened. My other scene filmed on Tuesday was in the Ford used earlier. Jason is in the back seat looking at the video ...

Slideshow of protesters and police in Hong Kong

This is one photo in the slideshow at Yahoo.com To see more, go to Yahoo News.

Explaining the unrest in Hong Kong

JISHOU, HUNAN — If you’ve been watching the news, you’ve probably heard about the protests in Hong Kong. Media accounts are portraying this as anti-Bejing, but the unrest has much broader objectives than telling the mainland government to mind its own business. Occupy Central is essentially an effort for universal suffrage, which Hong Kong has never had. Nevertheless, an important side issue is the extent to which the mainland government will have control over local politics. Historical background Before 1997 Hong Kong was directly ruled as a colony of the United Kingdom by a viceroy appointed by the monarch. The viceroy — known as the Governor of Hong Kong — appointed other government officials, including members of the advisory Legislative Council (LegCo). Indirect elections of LegCo members began in 1985, and beginning in 1995, 35 of the 70 members are now chosen through direct elections. British control of HK ended in 1997, and Hong Kong once again became a territory of China as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). Replacing the Governor was a Chief Executive with essentially the same civil powers. A 1200-member Election Committee, whose members are appointed by the mainland’s Central People’s Government, chooses the Chief Executive by ...

Someday, kid, you’re gonna be a star!

Someday, kid, you're gonna be a star!
JISHOU, HUNAN — So, I’ve been a little busy these last three weeks. Classes started just two days after I arrived, then the freshmen started two weeks later, doubling my class hours. Oh, and then I was asked to act in a movie. Before you all get too excited, this is probably not a movie you’ll see in America, on TV, the theaters or DVD. It’s what they call in China a “micro-movie” — a 45-minute teleplay for the web only. In fact, it’s half a promotion for the local tourism scene and half a comedy-romance. Two weeks ago, my foreign affairs officer Cyril Hu called me to ask if I had time to appear in a movie about Xiangxi, the prefecture of which Jishou is the capital. I agreed, figuring it would be a one-day TV thing, no big deal. Then I met the director, 陈晓曦 Chen XiaoXi, and a few members of his crew, all from Beijing. His assistant, Xiao Hong, and one of my seniors, Li Dongling, served as interpreters. I was to be a foreigner who comes here looking for the “empress of Xiangxi.” It would not be a speaking part, and I would have to ...

Resuming the narrative

Resuming the narrative
JISHOU, HUNAN — When we last heard from our intrepid traveler (me), he had just returned from Toronto and was in New York City. Now we resume the narrative. Yeah, so the last two weeks of my visit to the States were busy enough that I didn’t around to blogging about them. So, here we go. Aug. 10-13: The Maple Leaf pulled into Penn Station about an hour late. Not too bad, all things considered. My hotel was the Lexington NYC at 511 Lex. I had gotten a good deal from hotwire.com ($98 for a midtown Manhattan hotel is quite a steal) and I’ve gotta say I was much impressed by this hotel. The room was comfortable, the lobby inviting, and the food in the restaurant pretty good and priced fairly. While my inclination was to laze around in bed, my mission that day was to visit the 9/11 Memorial Site and have lunch with another former student from China who was interning at the UN Peacemaking Commission. I had waffles at Pershing Square and took the Lexington Line downtown. There is still a lot of construction around the WTC site, so reaching the memorial was not as easy as ...

Correcting a Facebook post: the drummer girl is from Taiwan, not S Korea

The video in question: JISHOU, HUNAN — So, while I was noodling on Facebook last month in the USA, I came across this video of a young street performer playing a mean drum cover. I was impressed, so I shared it on my timeline. The originator of the post said she’s Korean, which I found out today is wrong. The drummer is Luo ShiRu 罗仕茹, who goes by the stage name S. White (小白 xiao bai). She’s from Taipei, Taiwan, not South Korea. Here’s her Facebook page. Here she is performing another cover. S. White sometimes performs with another Taipei drumming talent, Vela Blue, the stage name of Chen Manqing 陈曼青, outside the Ximen metro station in Taipei, sharing the same drum kit. Vela Blue, 26, also has some good chops on the drums. Here’s her Facebook page, and a sample of her work. I notice both Xiao Bai and Vela Blue have the same right hand drumstick twirl.

And on a lighter note, a trailer for the next holiday blockbuster

SNACKPOCALYPSE with Chloe Grace Moretz, Tyler Posey, and First Lady Michelle Obama from Funny Or Die It helps if you’ve watched Divergent and The Hunger Games before watching this video. Oh, the heroine played Hitgirl. Yeah, I watch a lot of movies.

In an animated video, a student explains, “Why did I study physics?”

In an animated video, a student explains,
Linky: The Atlantic

To Toronto and back

ABOARD AMTRAK’S MAPLE LEAF OUTSIDE TORONTO, CANADA — Despite my best intentions, I have not been able to blog about my travels until now. I’ve been too busy or too tired to write. Unlike the tribulations of my air travel from Changsha to Boston, everything since I have arrived has gone off perfectly. Here”s the highlights of my travels to date. July 30-31: Dallas-Fort Worth airport apparently shuts down between midnight at 6 am. No flights in, no flights out. I discovered they graciously provide cots and blankets to travelers with overnight layovers. The airport hotels are ritzy, and not suitable for budget travelers. On the downside, DFW was as cold as a meat locker, and the blanket provided is the thin kind the airlines provide. As soon as I started drifting off to sleep, I’d get cold and wake up again. At least lying down was better than trying sleep in one of the airport chairs. July 31, Boston: I was met by my son at Logan airport. We visited a few parts of Boston, including Fan Pier and Mr Dooley’s Pub for a pint o’ Guinness. By this time, I reckon I’d been awake or semiawake for about ...
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