Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Get on board, dick!"

The above phrase is taken from the infuriating-comic conversation between Italian Coast Guard official Gregorio De Falco and Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino the night of the disaster.  An audio recording of the conversation, released in the days afterward, riveted people worldwide, especially in Italy. Almost immediately Italians began printing tee shirts emblazoned with the phrase.

The phrase has become metaphor for Italians.  Embarrassed by their economic plight, by the comic disaster of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's tenure, even by World War II, some Italians see the better angel of their soul in De Falco and the worser in Schettino.  Vada a bordo, cazzo! means to Italians, let's clean up our economic act, let's get on board with new "technocrat" Prime Minister Mario Monti, let's act responsibly as De Falco did, not cowardly as Schettino did, and as we did in World War II.

The Italian people are seeking their collective soul in the aftermath of the Costa Concordia.  Good for them.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The American state of Arizona has, since statehood, had an “arm’s-length” relationship with immigrants from Mexico.  Illegal immigration is as contentious a political issue there as anywhere.

Arizona’s state constitution requires, as do the laws in many other states, official state business be conducted in the English language. American law, whether state or federal, of course requires non-English speakers be afforded access to basic governmental functions: children must be taught in a language they can understand in public schools; those accused of crimes must be provided interpreters in court. For example.

Comes now Alejandrina Cabrera, American citizen, City Council candidate:

“I speak little English, but my English is fine for San Luis.”
                                                             -Alejandrina Cabrera.

The bird in the air-pump for Ms. Cabrera is that San Luis is located in Arizona in the United States of America where official business, like City Council business, must be conducted in the language which Ms. Cabrera speaks little, and where state law requires elected officials read, speak and understand same. 

In America, this is the stuff of which lawsuits are made.

Ms. Cabrera’s access to the ballot was challenged by some of the burghers of San Luis on the basis of English proficiency. Lawyers were obtained. A hearing was held before a judge:

By Mr. Minore, counsel for Alejandrina Cabrera:

Q:  Where did you go to high school?

We interrupt to reflect upon an adage of American court practice: “A lawyer should never ask a question to which he does not know the answer.” 


Thus was birthed the “Alejandrina Cabrera codicil:"  “A lawyer should never ask a question his client does not understand.”

A legal frisson was birthed a twin to the codicil and the judge immediately halted the proceedings.  An Expert was appointed.

The expert's opinion was that Ms. Cabrera did not understand English well enough to conduct City Council business.

That wasn’t the end.

The expert was from Australia via Brigham Young University (How? By what conspiracy of the gods did this happen?) and spoke in the distinctive Down Under patois. Ms. Cabrera averred that the expert’s accent caused her to not understand.  This was an imperfect defense. Ms. Cabrera’s in-court non-answer to her lawyer’s question evinced unfamiliarity with American English. She was now conceding the same with the Australian variant.  An expert from Canada, eh?

No expert from Canada. Judge John Nelson ruled that Alejandrina Cabrera’s name be taken off the ballot.

La causa Cabrera pushes several buttons among Americanos.  For those of us with impressive criminal rap sheets it is chastening reminder to lie down and take a powder.  For normal people it is also aggravation: why can’t she learn English well enough? It seems apodictic to most Americans that all Americans, City Council candidates or deliverers of pizza, should speak, write and understand English.

For abogados though…Ohhh:

  1. Is ballot access a fundamental American right? Sort of?
  2. If the English-challenged can become American citizens how can they be denied access to the ballot…for being English-challenged?
  3. How is it legal for the English-challenged to be permitted to vote for candidates but not be candidates themselves?
  4. Has the constitutionality of that Arizona law requiring office-holders to be English proficient ever been challenged?
  5. How English-challenged is too English-challenged under the Arizona law?  The Constitution?
  6. Does the Arizona law apply to office-holders and office-seekers?
  7. Would Ms. Cabrera still be afoul of the law if she were allowed to appear on the ballot, got elected, took a crash course in English and became proficient before being sworn in?  Ohhh.
  8. If the Arizona law is unconstitutional--even if only “as applied” to Ms. Cabrera’a situation, can the law be changed (and changed it would have to be if it were found to be unconstitutional) and still accomplish its intent to require English proficiency? 

Counsel for Ms. Cabrera said he didn't know if he would appeal. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


"Murder:"  The email yesterday is one of the few times that term has been used, other than here, to characterize what was done to Bian Zhongyun. Weili Ye for example titled her article "The Death of Bing* Zhongyun."   "Killing" is a more common term. Baby steps.

*Weili is a big fan of American crooner Bing Crosby and was being playful with the title in tribute.**

**I do have a talent for making enemies.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


A Chinese-American friend sent me a photo of former NBA player Yao Ming at the Chinese National Parliamentary Conference, which my friend describes as "a rubber-stamp of the Communist Party."  Rubber-stamping can't be too exciting and an inordinate number (in yellow by undersigned) of conferees are "resting their eyes."  Yao appears ready to join them momentarily. 


I am shunned like a leper by many--many--people in the U.S. and China and while it is good to have enemies, it is also good to have friends and to receive appreciative emails, as I did today from a person I did not know previously:

Hi Harris,

This is [name withheld] writing from [ditto location]. As a Chinese American, I wanted to say thank you for all you have done related to Bian Zhongyun's murder.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Joe Paterno, Rest In Peace.

Joe Paterno, the head football coach at Pennsylvania State University, died this morning. 
And now for election news: Religious fundamentalists won 47% of the vote in Egypt, 40% in South Carolina. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It becomes our disagreeable duty to report an additional outrage committed against the honor of the Neptune of the Mediterranean, Francesco Schettino.  Francesco was the captain of the Costa Concordia when, unprovoked, a seabed rock formation attacked the ship.

Francesco gave credible testimony to investigators on the charge of abandoning ship, to wit:

"I tripped and I ended up in one of the [life] boats. That's how I found myself there."

The New York Times cynically characterizes Francesco's account as "farcical."  Shame.

Happily we can report that an Italian judge, moved by Francesco's testimony, let him out of custody on house arrest. Now Francesco can begin his second career as spokesman for the multi-national corporation Chicken of the Sea.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"It's Time."

It’s time
It’s time, Chinese people!
It’s time,
The square is ours,
The feet are ours,
It’s time to use our feet to go to the
square and make a choice.

-Poem by Zhu Yufu, indicted recently by the Chinese government for attempting to subvert the state.

Costa Concordia Wreck.

Ah jeez.  Ships are not supposed to look like that. 

At this writing there are 11 dead in the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship last Friday and you wouldn't want to be this guy right now.

First reported last night by Sky in England, transcripts of phone conversations between onshore Italian police and Captain Francesco Schettino reveal that Schettino abandoned ship.

"Do you realize it's dark out here and we can't see anything?," implored Francesco (from a rowboat).

"Do you want to go home?  It's dark so you want to go home?," replied the police officer mockingly. "Get back on board, dick!  On board! And you get back to me right away how many people are there!"

Ah jeez.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I remember Kitty telling me in a cab in Beijing how Chinese children, and she, memorized Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech in school.

America sets aside today in remembrance of Dr. King. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

You know how when you were in college you'd drag yourself to the library to do a term paper and you'd start researching like the 1896 presidential election in America and you'd get distracted and five hours later you found yourself reading the sports or news and you'd wonder "How did I get here?"

That was sort of like how I spent Christmas day. After opening the presents I decamped to C.C.C.'s where we opened more presents, and then since I love Christmas music we started listening to Christmas music.  We first tried the radio, then Carmen's 800 channel TV that had two separate channels devoted to Christmas music.  But, for every one "good" Christmas song there were four or five others I didn't like or that I'd never heard of.  So I got on the 'puter and got on YouTube where I could choose the ones I wanted and get the visuals of a choir or whatever.

I spent five straight hours doing that. Well, I probably spent an hour or two listening/watching Christmas music and then I got sidetracked.

Some of the great, traditional Christmas songs are English.  That's how I discovered Figgy Pudding.  And, like when you were researching that term paper and got distracted YouTube's suggested other listening/viewing led me here...and then here...and then...there.  The paradigm shifted when I was listening to a Christmas song by an English boys choir and then clicked on some other suggestions performed by the same boys choir.  One of those was Jerusalem, also known as And did those feet in ancient time. 

I immediately recognized the tune from the final scene, Harold Abraham's funeral service,  in the movie Chariots of Fire.  I had never read the lyrics before and thought the tune's mention of Jerusalem was tribute to Abraham's being a member of the tribe.

No.  Or, at least only partly yes.

And did those feet in ancient time is actually an unofficial national anthem of England.

The English are a peculiar people.

After the paradigm shifted I read, if I recall correctly, that England has no official national anthem.  Huh?  Then what's God Save the King/Queen?  If...etc., that is the national anthem of Great Britain, which is England and Scotland and Wales, if you knew anything, Pilgrim. England is devoid of official national anthem-hood, if.  And did those feet in ancient time is a popular fill-in, played at events like Prince Charles' wedding and Prince William's wedding.

What in the world is And did those feet in ancient time about?  Public Occurrences pageviewers from the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland), who are more numerous than all those save Americans, know.  What about us normal people--what is that song about?

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green.

And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen!

Are you figging serious?  Jesus?  In England?  How'd he get there, Virgin Atlantic?

They're serious.  Mad dogs and Englishmen at least seriously sing this, as an unofficial national anthem.

...And did the Countenance Divine, 
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

That is embarrassing.  It's just embarrassing.  It's not the most embarrassing:

...And was Jerusalem builded here ["builded"]
Among these dark Satanic Mills? [i.e. of the Industrial Revolution]

They sing "among these dark Satanic Mills" as part of their unofficial national anthem. J

And did those feet in ancient time began as a poem by William Blake.  That painting at top: bizarre, no?  I mean, God, with a compass?  Blake.  "Considered mad by his contemporaries," begins the second paragraph of Wikipedia's entry on Blake.  That should have been the final word on Blake, who wrote the mad And did those feet in ancient time in 1808.  But history and later generations of Englishmen warmed to Blake. They warmed to a fever.   He is now considered "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced."  "Far and away."  Outstripping the renown of even Joseph Wright of Derby.

The bird hit the air-pump in 1916 when Sir Hubert Parry immortalized Blake's poem by putting it to tune.  It truly is a lovely tune--that sews a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Blake's third stanza is indeed wonderful, evocative poetry--because it's based on the King James Bible, Kings 2:11:

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire.

Back to himself Blake quickly decompensates and the poem/anthem ends with an allusion to his decompensation and more of England as heaven on earth:

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green and pleasant Land. 

What happened to "builded?"  The English sing this seriously.  Seriously.
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green
This page is dedicated to my beloved friends, B, M, and N, the "Silly Sisters."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Willard Wins

Willard Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary election in the Republican Party last night. He won seven delegates to the party national convention. With the seven he won in the Iowa caucuses Romney needs 1,130 more delegates to officially claim the party's nomination. There's a long way to go.  No, there's not.

Politics in America is partly about resources, partly about momentum, and partly about alternatives. Romney has the first two and there is no plausible alternative to him now.  He wasted second place finisher Ron Paul who would not have been a plausible nominee had he won in New Hampshire. Paul beat third-place finisher Jon Huntsman so convincingly that Huntsman is now done. And Huntsman finished so far ahead of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum that they are no longer plausible alternatives.

New Hampshire is the 42nd largest state in America and Romney only won seven delegates. No matter, the Republican race is over. Last night Governor Romney effectively became the Republican nominee for president. He will face President Obama in November. President Obama will be re-elected.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Continuing our popular series "Sexy Chinese Women's Soccer," we present Carrie Nation.  According to Wikipedia Carrie was "Known for Temperance activism, smashing bars with her hatchet."  Carrie Nation.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

This is Pubic Occurrences

Notice to Readers*

Ye olde blog will be changing its name from “Public Occurrences” to “Pubic Occurrences” in order to give readers what they want. And to increase ye olde advertising revenue.

Recent search keywords:

-miniskirts and gogo boots. (7 times)
-ups (sic) skirts for women. (2)
-hot physicists randall. (3)
-chinese women military miniskirts. (1)
-photos of Chinese women in miniskirts. (2) (1)
-candidup (sic) skirt (2)

*Font: Old English.
Image: "Sexy Chinese Women's Soccer." 

"Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"

"You feel like you’re the victim. So do they. They think: during the Qing Dynasty,* no one had television. Now everyone has a television. That’s progress!"
                                                   -Han Han, China's most popular blogger.

*Qing Dynasty, 1644-1912.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Flowers of Cultural War

Movie-goers may recognize the actor in the poster at top as Christian Bale, the lead in Batman. Non-movie-going bloggers who write about China may recognize the name Christian Bale, Batman lead, as he who was attacked--Bam! Wham! Ouch!-- by Hu Jintao's People's Liberation Thugs when he tried to meet Chen Guangcheng, a blind Chinese human rights lawyer.

Hu Jintao likes The Flowers of War.

The Flowers of War is based on the true story--or, "Based on a True Story!"--of  Japanese atrocities against China during World War II, like the Rape of Nanking.  This is the kind of Chinese cultural product Hu Jintao likes. And since it puts Americans on the side of Chinese Hu thought it would appeal to Americans and extend China's "soft" influence in the world.

Americans don't like The Flowers of War. 

The film has limited distribution in America and has been panned by American critics: "Well-worn movie archetypes and slathers on schmaltz;"  "Human suffering reduced to visual showmanship;"  "Cartoonish performance [by Bale]...laughably bad 'heavenly' choral music;"  "Feels overblown and heavy-handed."  And so on.

"Overblown and heavy-handed:"  sort of like Hu Jintao!

I don't think Chinese "get" America--although, all American men do look like Christian Bale; I personally look like Christian Bale.  I really don't think Hu and the PRC leadership "get" America. Overblown and heavy-handed also could have been used here to describe the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics (also done by the film's director Zhang Yimou (and choreographed ultimately by Hu using People's Liberation Army soldiers)) but most Americans were awed. Maybe American movie-goers will prove American critics and non-movie-going bloggers wrong.  No.

Friday, January 06, 2012

China...and America.

Friends and enemies, Americans, Chinese, and Kiribatians, please join in celebration of democracy in America by viewing this ad put out by supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul in the state of New Hampshire!

Earlier this morning the United State Department of Labor released its monthly jobs report.  The unemployment rate fell from 8.7% to 8.5% and an estimated 200,000 new jobs were added in December. This is on top of the 100,000 jobs gain in November.  This is good news for all Americans especially all those named "Barack Obama." 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


In The Gate of Heavenly Peace one of the 1989 student leaders explained that one of the motivations for the demonstrators was a desire for “Nike shoes.”  When I saw that I thought back to my first trip to Beijing in June 2006 and of rounding a corner of one of the ancient hutongs and seeing a man sitting outside his mom-and-pop store watching the NBA Finals on a portable color TV.  The most popular movies in China today are Avatar and Transformers 3 and Chinese are gaga over Lady Gaga.

Hu Jintao does not like any of this.

The President of China, who is stepping down this year, has made the limitation of Western cultural influence his New Year’s resolution.  He has done this with typical Chinese-leader bellicosity:

“We must clearly see that international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of westernizing and dividing China, and ideological and cultural fields are the focal areas of their long-term infiltration.” 

If China were a person, his/her biography could be titled “Pride and Prejudice.” There is such arrogance, and such paranoia of the Foreign. 

The issue of American cultural influence in other countries is a sensitive one here, however. I sympathized with French hostility to Euro-Disney or whatever it’s called but…there’s a but I have not been able to resolve to my satisfaction…of course I want, generally speaking, whatever it is the people of other countries want for themselves. French opera is inferior, in my opinion.  The French were very protective about keeping the French-ness of their opera, and so it developed very differently from others.  Cool, as we Americans would say; Vive la difference, as they might. I respect, in these examples, French resistance to the Foreign.  There are differences between the peoples of the world and I think the world is a more interesting place, if nothing else, with a distinctive French culture and a distinctive Chinese culture.

I own however that this sympathy with assertions of different-ness is also, in culture, due to a reverse of sympathy.  I do not like Disney and its worlds and lands; I have not seen Avatar or Transformers 3 (If there was a Transformers 1 and 2 I didn’t see them either.) and I wasn’t sure Lady Gaga was a lady until C.C.C. went to see her in concert (without me).  I am certain that the French were not culturally disadvantaged before Euro-Disney; I am certain Chinese were not culturally disadvantaged before Avatar; and my own prejudice is I am not certain America is culturally advantaged by Avatar.  And then the “but” gets flipped again. Avatar is what Americans want so they get it. In a free country, as America is, I, an American, can choose not to see Avatar. Why not the same for French or Chinese? Do I not want freedom to choose (and not choose) for French or Chinese?  The unsatisfying answer I give to that question is, in this instance, that is, in the freedom-to-choose-culture instance, I don’t care enough.  It’s an unsatisfying answer. That's my answer.

That’s the tough case for me.  Hu Jintao’s position is not the tough case.  There are no “international hostile forces” behind Avatar, Transformers 3, or Lady Gaga.  There is no “strategic plot [for] westernizing and dividing China.”  Hu Jintao is a western-coiffed, western-dressed, ignorant Chinese punk-ass, a worthy successor to the prideful and prejudiced Emperor Qianlong.  Hu Jintao is one Chinese who couldn’t help but be improved by Avatar, Transformers 3, or Lady Gaga. As for the rest of Chinese, in this instance, I don't care enough.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

al-Islam Can't Do This Anymore.

Win-ter, Spring, Sum-mer, and Fall-all
Come and see,
Come dance with me,
To the beautiful Iowa Waltz.

Image: Iowa, January 2011.

Monday, January 02, 2012

"Yes madam, I am drunk.  But tomorrow I will be sober. And you will still be ugly."
                                                                             -Winston Churchill to a hectoring M.P. in Parliament.

OOOOH!  Weeski!  That's weeski there, ladies.

Ladies, how did Prohibition turn out, remind us. Oh that's right, FAILED.  :o

Yeah!  Look, Ma Kettle, here are some of your granddaughters!  That is what you call ALCOHOL-BOOZE in them bottles.

This really gets under my skin. It causes unwanted ideation of ungovernable behavior.

Below are a couple of other posters from Prohibition. The woman in the first poster below, although a drawing, has a similar "look" to the women in the photo above, which I suspect is fake.

So maybe the photo at top isn't fake.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

This has to be fake, right? Good God. The slogan is legit, there's no doubt there. But the image?  The women? Can't be. Right?  Please.

Happy New Year!

You're still hung-over, arencha? Yeah well, see, let this be a lesson to you.

Image: Prohibition era poster, Anti-Saloon League.