A grab-bag of news items

Feeling a little twisted out of shape

I recently had an allergy and sinus attack that left me with no voice for two days. By the time I taught on Tuesday, I had a gravelly smoker’s voice that was pitched lower than normal, and actually sounded kind of butch. Fortunately, my students were making oral presentations, and I didn’t have to talk much. I introduced the documentary Super Size Me. They got a kick out of watching “super sized” Americans loading up on McDonald’s, but some couldn’t understand why we can’t make more informed and intelligent decisions about how we treat our bodies.

How does one explain a country that is both the fattest nation on earth AND the most diet-obsessed? I think it’s time to introduce the concept of “oxymoron.” Kind of like George W. using the words “war” and “democracy” in the same sentence.

Today’s post is a grab-bag of items that caught my attention recently.

News from my former home:

Los Angeles recently had two horrendous happenings: a fire that engulfed one-fifth of Griffith Park very close to where I lived, threatening the neighborhoods close to the Observatory; and a violent attack by the LADP against peaceful protestors in MacAurthur Park, who had spent the day raising their voices about immigrant rights.

Read more about the attacks on protesters here:
http://www.alternet.org/rights/51454/
http://blogcritics.org/archives/2007/05/03/170606.php

L.A.: Burn, baby, burn. The Hollywood Hills in Griffith Park

News or hype?

I had lunch with two other English teachers the other day. On the way home we talked about press censorship in China and the U.S., and how each country depicts the other in its news coverage. Both countries practice censorship; in the U.S., the “real” news is often covered up by superficial “fluff,” or “airhead” reporting, supposedly catering to “what people want.” Does a statue of Paris Hilton REALLY deserve anyone’s attention, much less rampant press coverage? Is this more important than the U.S. government’s abuses of power?

I did my own informal research today. Here are the top 10 stories from a recent week on China Daily‘s website, compared with Yahoo‘s 10 most-emailed stories today. Keep in mind that this doesn’t really reflect cultural differences: this is English-language news, and so may only reflect English-speakers’ readership. Take it at face value for entertainment.

China Daily most popular stories in recent week:

1. College girls go nude before camera for eternal beauty
2. Porn company to release Paris Hilton sex video
3. Commencement celebration in New York
4. Wolf and donkey share a cage
5. ‘Over-working models’ in vogue in big cities
6. Please try [I am. Can you be more specific?]
7. Mom shows body to teach sex
8. Swimmers
9. Stock market boom entices new investors
10. China stocks break key barrier

And…
Yahoo “most emailed news” today:

1. Lloyds of London insures Ugly Betty’s smile for 10 million US dollars
2. Popular Alcatraz tour gets an update
3. Wisconsin festival sells deep-fried testicles
4. New hummingbird species discovered
5. Anti-Semitism on rise in parts of Europe: study
6. Syracuse professor is pop culture ambassador
7. Americans and Japanese Read Faces Differently
8. Potter author pleads: Don’t spoil [Harry Potter] plot
9. World’s mayors hold climate change summit
10. Brazil’s Indians offended by Pope comments

Believe It… Or Not.

What, Me Whine?

Whine (hwīn, wīn) [Origin: bef. 1150; ME whinen (v.), OE hwīnan to whiz; c. ON hvīna ] verb Definition: to snivel or complain in a peevish, self-pitying way: He is always whining about his problems.

Do you think that Americans are the biggest whiners? I did, until I read this:

FRENCH WHINE
By RITA DELFINER
May 15, 2007 — Quelles kvetchers!

The French are the world’s whiniest workers, according to a study that ranks the United States fourth.

The Irish, meanwhile, are the least likely to moan, with the Thai next to last, says the FDS research group, which looked at 14,000 workers in 23 nations.

FDS Managing Director Charlotte Cornish noted, “After France, Britain and Sweden, the world’s biggest workplace whiners are Americans – despite their having, by far, the highest levels of income relative to their cost of living.”

Source: http://www.nypost.com/seven/05152007/news/worldnews/french_whine_worldnews_rita_delfiner.htm

Oh, stop your whining, Jane! Get a life.

China’s children too busy for playtime
(Xinhua) Updated: 2007-05-13 10:13

BEIJING — At the age of 12, Zhuzhu seems to have everything a child could dream for — plenty of toys, beautiful clothes and even a piano. Zhuzhu however, has little time to play, with a mountain of homework to do.

Like most other Chinese children her age, Zhuzhu has to go to school from Monday to Friday, nine hours a day — an hour more than her parents spend at work. Come the weekend, her mum and dad indulge themselves in a lengthy lie-in — Zhuzhu however, isn’t so lucky.

Unlike her parents, she has to get up early for piano lessons on Saturday and Sunday morning, followed by private extracurricular Maths and English classes the afternoon. As a reward for her hard work, Zhuzhu’s parents let her play with her toys for one hour on Saturday and Sunday evening.

“She will have plenty of time to play after she enters university,” said Zhuzhu’s 42 year-old mum An Hui, a department manager of a PR company in Beijing.

…According to a new survey conducted by the Chinese Youth and Children Research Center (CYCRC), increasing numbers of children in large cities across the country are experiencing joyless childhoods. …Indeed, Sun Yunxiao, director of the CYCRC noted that heavy study loads have exhausted children, more than half of the survey’s participants said that what they want most is, “A good night’s sleep.”

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/

Hmmm… plenty of time to play after she enters university?? Is that why some of my students don’t seem to pay attention in class?


National Robot Soccer Competition

Students and designers for the Harbin Institute of Technology Robot Soccer Team watch a match in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province, May 14, 2007. The 8th National Robot Soccer Competition recently kicked off in the city, attracting 86 teams from across the country.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/photo/2007-05/15/content_872508.htm

“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow….”

China creates first artificial snow in Tibet

Tibet: yaks, mountains, prayer flags. Is the snow real, or is it artificial?

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has created artificial snow for the first time in Tibet, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday, months after experts warned of melting glaciers and drought in the Himalayan region.

The Tibet meteorological station had performed a “successful artificial snowfall operation” last week in northern Tibet, about 4,500 meters above sea level, the agency said.

“The first artificial snowfall proves it is possible to change the weather through human efforts on the world’s highest plateau,” it quoted Yu Zhongshui, an engineer with the meteorological station, as saying.

“To launch artificial precipitation can help alleviate drought on the grassland in northern Tibet,” Yu was quoted as saying.

Chinese scientists have warned that rising temperatures on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau will melt glaciers, dry up major Chinese rivers and trigger drought, sandstorms and desertification.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070418/sc_nm/china_tibet_dc_2

Parting shots: Neon at night, Chengdu

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