Sushu's Travel Journal

July 28, 2008

talking politics with uncle’s stock buddies

Filed under: Asia — Tags: — admin @ 10:44 pm

Tonight, I went drinking with my uncle’s stock buddies. This is something else altogether. It was exciting to see so much political debate in what I always supposed to be a politically apathetic/cautious country. It’s interesting, because apparently the social rule here is that you can only be open to a complete stranger or long-time friend, but not to normal friends. So I listened to my uncle bitch about the government to the cabbie, and then to friends. They claim to be talking about economics, but there were so many underlying assumptions about government and society. I tried to challenge them, but it was hard, and it has left me full of mind-boggling thoughts. The lot of them agreed that the current increase in global oil price is something that the American and European government is letting slide because even though it damages their own countries, the damage dealt to the Tiger countries is even greater. Numbers were cited re: % of Service industry in America vs. % of Hard Industry in China. About how increase in gas prices connects to the investment of Chinese foreign deposit in American bonds. These people were very bitter that *they* have to suffer doubly for America’s housing market crash and weakened dollar. I tried to counter by challenging their assumptions about the cushiness of the average American life (re: wages, health insurance, etc) and their expectations from the government (they can complain about the dictatorial nature of the CCP, but then expect to be saved in the stock market by the same party), but it still left me sort of depressed — they planted a seed of doubt in my mind re:goals of American government and how much control we, the people, actually have. You guys are all politically better versed in this — Has the Democratic congress actually done anything worthwhile? How much change will Obama actually bring? (In a national/international level, instead of in a simple juxtaposition with McCain). We’re having another drink-up (at a teashop, of all places. We’re bringing mini-kegs) on Saturday, and I want to feel more prepared.

Throughout the conversation they kept remarking on my difference in age (24 instead of 54), and culture (they dubbed me American). It made me kind of sad to be reminded that I’m always going to appear “American” to them and “Chinese” to Americans, and acceptance of my message of “Hey, quit your assumptions and actually understand each other” is a hard fight on both sides. (They were saying that America is the place for college, but China is the place for getting things done, and I was like, “y’know, if China ever says, ‘Sushu, come and help me get things done,’, I would, but they wouldn’t actually listen to someone like me.”)

July 15, 2008

Audio Books from the trip

Filed under: USA — admin @ 10:46 pm

Blood of Flowers : coming-of-age tale about Iranian village girl moving to the city, making rugs, mistakes, and a niche for herself. Pacing was slow in parts, the off-shoot stories were cute, the main character not very likeable, and the narrator had a very bland voice. A lot of “girl power in face of societal oppression” type thing. Grade: B-

The Thirteenth Tale: a story about twins, family loss, storytelling, and literature (of the Jane Eyre variety), with a subtle mystery thrown in. Something that I wanted to read again after I finished, just to enjoy the nuances and catch the ah-hahs. The two main characters are: Margaret, the bookish biographer, and Vida Winter, a sharp woman, a novelist telling her final story–hers. Or is it? One of those good books that is good but not in-your-face about it. The narrators did awesome voices. A little too much twin-angst on Margaret’s part. Grade: A

The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time: Props to showing autistic teenagers as complex, intelligent people. I liked the relatively consistent narrative voice. I guess the characters that interact with the main character are about as well developed as you can with such a limited first person…? I really wish I could have known more about the dad, but I guess that omission is what it takes to keep the power of the first person. The narrator also managed an awesome British-Indian accent. Grade: A

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: The characters of Savannah as well as Savannah itself are well-portrayed. Felt like the book should be called “Collection of stories on the people of Savannah”, as there was little plot or anything else connecting the disparate characters. If I weren’t listening to it, I would have skipped around in the book to read all about The Lady Chablis. And then repeat for Jim Williams. Narrator had awesome voice for Jim Williams, Chablis, and the voodoo lady. Grade: B

The Book of Salt: A promising first 3 chapters on the political history of salt in China, Egypt and the ancient Celts quickly devolve into a recipe book for salted things in Europe. Okay, it’s not that bad, but its Euro-centrism was frustrating when it hit the “let’s explain the importance of salt in EVERY SINGLE EUROPEAN COUNTRY.” Granted, we stopped after “Chapter 9 – Poland”, or whatever it was called. And the Rome chapter and the Italy City-States chapters were kinda interesting. But I want more about the Middle East! Africa! Americas! Long recipes cannot be skipped in audiobook. Grade: B-

The Dante Club: Mystery set in 1860s England where the murdered subjects died in full Inferno glory, and a literary club consisting of Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell, etc, try to solve the murder. There’s also Harvard politics and nice little details about Boston in that time period. The deaths are full of Dante-an gruesomeness, but some of the author-wibbling can get quite tiring. We got to SF before we finished, but I read the spoilers on wikipedia and it sounds pretty decent. Pacing and scene jumps can be…. odd. Narrator is decent. Grade: B+

Hey! 6 books, 7 cities, 8 national parks, and 19 states! That’s not half bad for 4 weeks.

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