Monday, October 20, 2008

Ahoy from Amoy (Common Talk Highlights)

by Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Ahoy from Amoy!

A summary of news from this Week's Common Talk (Xiamen Daily's weekly English supplement, which is the first of its kind, and has gone international):

Cover story: "Gulangyu graced with poetry!"

"The third session of the Gulangyu Poem Festival kicked off on Gulangyu last Saturday, where over 80 renowned poets across the country met and shared their poetry and literary beliefs."

Renowned poets? Why wasn't I invited? I'm a poet, and I know it (though I blow it when I show it). Seriously, can you not read my epic poem about the true story of Amoy Vampires and not be moved? Or, at the least, want to move--far away, perhaps?

And "sharing literary beliefs?" I can imagine how that went.

"Yes, I'm professor Hong, and I'm honored to be here and share why I believe in the noun and the verb but eschew the adverb."

Or perhaps Doctor Dong waxed eloquent upon why verbs move him? Or Miss Tang shared how adjectives made her feel? Or....

Now I know why I was not invited to the Gulangyu Poem Festival.

America's Milk Scandal! So you thought it was just China? Common Talk reprinted an article from the New York Times that revealed American milk producers were killing up to 8,000 babies every year, for decades, with milk that contained swill milk, plaster of paris and starch and eggs, etc. Of course, this was 150 years ago. But it took decades to stop it. So the upshot was that what is happeing in China is bad but it's what happens in any rapidly developing country when the government cannot keep up. Of course, the government had a hard time keeping up with the biggest culprits because it had exempted them from inspections.

I appreciated the quote from a leading Chinese dairy's Vice manager last week. "We've learned an important lesson from this. We must provide the public quality, safe, and healthy foods." As if he did not know that before?

But today, Sue and I threw out our remaining bags of Nestle milk powder. It appears Nestle milk powder has malamine in it. An article quoted Nestle in Hong Kong as saying they've no idea how the melamine got in there but it's only a little bit so its okay.

How could even a little bit of a chemical used for plastics end up in milk?

By the way, I was with Alan Smith, of the Livcom Awards, in Shanghai a couple weeks ago, touring a brand new housing development. Alan asked why the new swimming pool was empty and I said it was because they founbd melamine in the water. The officials said, "That's not true!"

No sense of humor.

Xiamen Wal-mart, by the way has been having big sales on milk powder--piles of the stuff, and people with loudspeakers urging people to buy it. Trust-mart is doing the same thing. TV Commercials show smiling Chinese officials with milk moustaches holding glasses of milk.

Still, I'm switching to soy milk. Though who knows what is in soy milk. About a decade ago, Xiamen Daily announced that Xiamen's tofu makers had been filling out their tofu with plaster that they had obtained from recycled plaster casts bought from Xiamen hospitals.

Not sure why everyone complained. With global warming, aren't we supposed to be recycling?

Xiamen University invents Anti-Cancer Drug -- a surefire cure for cancer! It's a "compound that can turn a cancer cell-protecting protein in the human body into a cancer cell killer."

Hey, I think Sichuan cuisine can kill cancer as well--at least any cancer in the tract that leads from mouth to posterior.

I remember about 15 years ago China Daily had a spate of articles about how Chinese medicine had been proven to cure cancer. They also said it had cured AIDS. Those articles went on for months and then nothing more was said about these miraculous cures. Fortunately, given what I know of Xiamen University's Life Sciences department and bio-chemical research, I think XMU's claim to having developed a cancer cure may have more substance to it.

School Principals Swapped! Common Talk said 15 primary and secondary schools in Beijing have come to Xiamen to study local educational practices because Xiamen is a "leader in China in primary education, especially in curricular reform, quality of instructions and extracurricular activities." I guess in Xiamen good primary education is just elementary. Especially if it is at Xiamen International School! This is a free plug for them, by the way).

Quanzhou will host cultural exchanges with Taiwan, including Gaojia opera, Hui'an hand puppets, and Quanzhou marionettes, or "Quanzhou string puppets," as they put it. I'm sure there are strings attached to the exchange program as well.

Common Talk also announced the results of the 2008 Ig Nobel prizes, held on October 2nd at Harvard University, to recognize scientific experiments that "cannot or should not be reproduced." The winners included research in France proving dog fleas jump higher than cat fleas, Swiss scientists got the peace price for recognizing the legal principle that plants have dignity. The cognitive prize went to the Japanese who proved that slime molds can find their way out of a maze (this should encourage some of the low life that lives in our back alleys here). The chemistry prize went to two researchers who tested Coca-cola as a spermicide (one wonders how they tested it, and if they shook it up first). Two archaeologists measured how much an armadillo can mess up a dig. Etc.

Further news: NASA's Rhessi spacecraft has put a different spin on our understanding of the sun with the bright revelation that the sun is not perfectly round. During years of high solar activity it bulges at the middle. (I do the same thing).

The Quanzhou International Club just sent this announcement"

The 6th China National Peasant's Games will be held in Quanzhou starting on Sunday, 26th October 2008 and end on Saturday, 1st November 2008.
This Gala National Event would be akin to China¡¯s own Olympic Sports held every four years but certain events would be held with a difference. Some events would have a peasant and/or agricultural twist such as water-carrying race; seedling-throwing and 60-metre seedling-transplanting competition
We are attaching the games event schedule together with the venue of each sport. Note that the games will be held not only in Quanzhou City but also in JinJiang; Nan¡¯an; Hui An; Chong Wu; Shishi.
Unfortunately, attendance for the OPENING and CLOSING CEREMONIES are by Invitation Only. We asked if tickets for these two events may be purchased but we are told tickets are distributed to businesses, sponsors and local government. So if you have some connections with these, go for it!!

All other events are OPEN and FREE to the Public. We are trying to get confirmation this is indeed the case also for the finals in Basketball; Track & Field; Wushu and Dragon & Lion Dance. We will let you know if we can get confirmation from the organizers.
Please find in attachment a calendar of the games, a brief introduction of the 6th and the 5th China National Peasant¡¯s Games, a reference map showing locations of the downtown venues, and a picture of mascot Tongtong and logo of the games.

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