There are numerous articles I had intended to write during the last 10 months of radio silence which never got written. Here are just a few:
A Countryside Drama
Down in Moganshan, a place I have visited regularly for the last 4 years, a controversy has erupted centering around land-use rights, or I guess more accurately water use rights. One villager in Houwu–which is at the foot of the mountain and is a place where there is lots of tourism activity of late–has erected a fence around a small reservoir which is a favorite swimming spot. He has put up a sign advertising rental of mats and coolers. The only thing is, these rentals don’t seem to be optional. Nor does he seem to own the reservoir. He has also placed his elderly mother as sentinel at the gate cut in this fence and she is a hideous shrew. It has thrown into relief the challenges of local development. Who will be the haves and who will be the have-not-as-much?
Bad Journalism Is Everywhere
The BBC published a story a few months ago, it was about the end of the world. That’s probably why I clicked it. The story told of a group of Oxford academics from across disciplines which had come together and had a meeting and concluded that the world was approaching–rapidly approaching–a cliff. Good god, I thought, this is big news! I read on. The article raised up the usual straw dogs–terrorism, nuclear war, plague–but no it wasn’t any of them. In the end, the article failed to offer up any kind of straight answer. The article left the reader with a vague notion that social media was going to be involved as would the stock market. Truly a remarkably bad piece of journalism, and from the BBC no less. Awful reporting, awful journalism, bad media is around us always.
Dictionary of Received (Sinological) Ideas
This one of course was inspired by Flaubert’s final (unfinished) work, the companion volume to Bouvard et Pecuchet, which I read recently and found absolutely hilarious, really tops. I thought a really good piece would be to start a dictionary of received notions from the mediasphere which covers China. I’m not an academic anymore so it would have been more slanted to the mainstream than to real sinology, but the idea is still a fun one. Examples: “Dissident”–rare and delicate, like a unicorn. “Netizen”–an honest person. “Corruption”–endemic. “Someone with close ties to the government”–a valued source, possibly a cab driver, etc.
Sickness in Story of the Stone
I finished Story of the Stone (Hong Lou Meng) this year–in English all five volumes. What struck me about this book is how delicate everyone is, how ill everyone is all the time. How the slightest breeze, the briefest chill could lead directly to an early grave. I suspect many critics take this as a metaphor. I don’t. I presume that people, especially rich people, back then were ill a lot (probably poor folks were too, but for different reason). They didn’t exercise, they ate rich and fatty foods all the time. They drank a lot. They were, in short, very unhealthy–and that’s just physically. A great study would be from a medical point of view to make some guesses to what illnesses people suffered from and what illnesses they actually died from. They were clearly prone to panic attacks, prey to anxiety. By the end of the book Jia Baoyu had suffered a complete nervous breakdown. It’s a valuable historical record of sickness and some genuine medical insight would be really beneficial.
And of course there are numerous people I would have liked to have interviewed in some depth about what they are doing and why I think they are so awesome. BUT I’m not going to take up any of those threads right now. Because I am ten days away from my Tour de Taihu (环湖) adventure where I will be soloing on a bike around Lake Tai–the first foreigner that I know of to do so (excluding the pros who race around it every year). This is a big project and there is lots to talk about and so that will be the focus of my blog for the next little while as White Confucius returns.