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Archive for October, 2011

Maya Lin talked about art and environment in Chicago

Monday, October 31st, 2011

 

Maya Lin with her fans at ITT

Last week, Maya Lin, best known as designer of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D. C., came to Chicago to give a talk about art and the environment to a packed auditorium of 500 people at the College of Architecture, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).

I learned about Lin when I was doing my graduate studies at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. My landlady Margaret was a close friend of Lin’s mother and I heard about the controversy on the Vietnam Memorial from them. Over the years, I came across Lin’s name at various occasions and knew she had become a well-known architect, but never followed her work or activities.

 

An aerial photograph of 'The Wall' taken on Ap...

The Wall by Lin

Listening to Lin, I learned for the first time about her large-scale outdoor and indoor designs that immerse themselves with their natural surroundings. Lin stated that is a balance of art, architecture and monuments. Her talk at IIT was focused on art and environment and the work her foundation “What is Missing” strived to achieve: advocating for a sustainable living world.

She uses recyclable and sustainable materials for her artwork. Terra Bench, one of her artwork, is selected in “Design for a Living World” exhibition at the Field Museum in Chicago. It is made from red maple that was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and was sustainably harvested from Maine forests. It showcases the beauty of a tree while presenting forest terrain in the seat base.

 

Terra Benby by Lin

“I’m an landscape artist of the 21st century, balancing between outdoor and indoor designs,” Lin said. “I want to create a different relationship to the world around us.”

 

Lin showed short videos from “What is Missing” that aimed to bring “awareness about the present sixth mass extinction of species,” and to “prevent deforestation.” She advocated it as “a wake up call and a call to action.”

“We spend more time planning what to have for dinner than what our great grandchildren will have,” she said. She urged Americans to reexamine their lifestyle and consume less.

I gained a new level of respect and admiration for Lin’s work and her devotion to the protection of the environment as an artist and citizen.

By Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Mulberry Child has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. For more information, visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com, www.moraquest.com and www.mulberrychild.com.

 

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Our Children, Grandchildren, and the National Debt

Friday, October 28th, 2011

by Nancy Werking Poling

Mountaintop Removal

Image by IdaStewie via Flickr

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. Our country’s leaders are REALLY worried about our children’s and grandchildren’s future. Hence the appointment of the Supercommittee, twelve experts in matters of money. There’s only one woman, though historically women have been responsible for making sure families are fed and clothed, and are, hence, experts at stretching a limited amount of money. But I digress. This committee of very intelligent and experienced people was appointed because we don’t want to pass a national debt—is it 14, 15, trillion dollars?—on to our children and grandchildren. The GOP website states, “If nothing is done, our generation will have the sad legacy of being the first to lower the standard of living of the next generation” (http://www.gop.gov/policy-news/10/08/24/the-next-generations-debt-burden).

While I certainly want to relieve my children and grandchildren of the heavy burden of repaying this debt, what good is it if they have money but lack the following?

1)     Clean air to breath and clear water to drink. Yet we hear calls for dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency. How quickly we’ve forgotten the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010, Massey Energy’s 60,000 violations of the Clean Water Act within a six year period. Republican legislators oppose efforts to prevent oil-fired power plants from emitting dangerous toxins into the air. Regulations, they say, cost jobs.

2)     A safe food supply and access to basic medical care. Yet Republicans are calling for the repeal of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and trying to weaken the power of the FDA and the Department of Agriculture.

3)     A solid education that will allow them to become leaders in ingenuity and production. Yet pledges not to increase taxes are forcing teacher layoffs, denying schools the resources they need for effective teaching, making increased class size necessary.

4)     An understanding of what the song, “America the Beautiful,” refers to. Yet deforestation and mountaintop removal for coal—which, yes, provide jobs—destroy our nation’s beauty. There are calls for the privatization of our national parks. Who will stop businesses, whose goal is profitability, from opening parks to logging and mining interests, then walking away when resources have been depleted?

If we are truly concerned about our children’s and grandchildren’s future, let’s bequeath them a quality of life, a “standard of living,” that insures health and learning. Let’s leave them a country that is beautiful from “sea to shining sea.”

Nancy Werking Poling  is author of Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman and Out of the Pumpkin Shell.

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An Inspiring Experience at the Heartland Film Festival

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

 

Tickets to Mulberry Child sold out at AMC theatre

Nothing is more reassuring and gratifying than finishing the screening of your film at a film festival with a SOLD OUT show and a standing ovation from the audience. That was the exciting experience I had at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, a well-respected festival by filmmakers and film patrons at which Mulberry Child had its world premiere.

 

“Thank you! Thank you so much!” Susan Morgan Cooper, director of the feature-length documentary film based on my book Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, repeatedly said to the enthusiastic audience. She wiped away tears of joy and appreciation as she faced the audience in this packed AMC theatre in Castleton Square.

 

Jian, Lisa and Susan at Heartland Film Festival Gala

My daughter, Lisa, and I stood by Susan’s side, along with Louise Henderson, director of the festival’s documentary program who introduced us to the audience. We were all touched and thrilled by the response we received. I must say I was also overwhelmed and humbled. All my concerns and worries about exposing my life and that of my family evaporated at that moment. Even Lisa, a reluctant participant throughout the filmmaking process, came on board, now that she saw the positive impact that the film had on others.

 

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com to watch the trailer of Mulberry Child. For more information on Jian Ping and her book, visit www.mulberrychild.com and www.moraquest.com.

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Hard Knox for Amanda

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

 

By Ellis Goodman

I haven’t followed the Amanda Knox trial in all its gruesome details very closely.  Of course this sensational horrific murder was hard to ignore, especially given the frantic attention of the world’s media.  What I did read seemed to indicate that Amanda’s British roommate, Meredith Kercher had been brutally murdered during a drug-induced sexual orgy.  It quickly transpired that Amanda had falsely accused other parties of carrying out the murder, and that the blood-filled room seemed to provide enormous amounts of evidence.  After a lengthy trial, Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were found guilty of the murder and sentenced to twenty-six years in prison. 

The Knox family launched an appeal citing police incompetence, tainted DNA evidence, and circumstantial evidence.  The appeal hearing generated as much journalist fervor as the original trial.  Ultimately, Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend were found not guilty and released.

We were then given an outstanding example of how far journalist standards have fallen.  In a competitive clamor to be the first to break the news, London’s Daily Mail Newspaper, which likes to think of itself an up-market tabloid, released a headline that said, “Guilty: Amanda Knox looks stunned as the appeal against murder conviction is rejected.”  Their reporter on the spot Nick Pisa had, with other journalists, misheard or misunderstood the judge’s pronouncement on Amanda’s not guilty verdict.  Within seconds he flashed his story to London.  Not only had he misrepresented the verdict, but even more alarmingly, his story was totally fabricated, describing reactions of Amanda, who “sank into her chair, sobbing uncontrollably,” now facing over 20 years in jail.”  He then goes on to describe other reaction and comment.  “Prosecutors were delighted with the verdict, saying Justice had been done.”  Other comments were included from Kercher’s family.  Not one word of this was true.  This is the most glaring and latest example of the decline of journalistic standards.

I am a writer of non-fiction and fiction.  For non-fiction, I research carefully to make sure my facts are correct.   For my novel, “Bear Any Burden,” where I used historical facts, I researched in great detail.

I understand that, in today’s competitive media environment, newspapers, television, magazines, etc. have to move quickly and, in their view, ever more sensationally, in order to capture audience attention.  But nevertheless, they have an obligation to tell the truth.  Even though in our cynical world we have less and less faith in the complete accuracy of our newspapers and television reporting, it is still true to say that these are the main sources that inform our opinions.  Clearly, the self-regulating British Press Council is not doing their job, when their members accept this style of reporting, particularly following upon Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation’s scandalous phone hacking, and the latest disgrace to their newspaper empire – Wall Street JournalEurope, manipulating circulation figures and giving favorable press to the company responsible for handling their bulk sales and producing those figures.

We are already manipulated by “talking head” political analysis, focus groups, negative advertising, misleading product descriptions, misrepresentations by our Congress and leadership and of course flat-out lies.  In this era of competition for our opinions, votes, support, prejudices and hatreds, it was no surprise to read that the Knox family had employed image consultants from the time of Amanda’s arrest, to burnish her image in the media.  Her Facebook name, “Foxy Knoxy,” was, according to her family, nothing to do with sexual innuendo but all to do with her soccer skills!  I find that one hard to believe!

But they were successful in creating a “girl-next-door” image and glowing descriptions from family and friends.  Who can blame them?  Their daughter was facing life in imprisonment, and they had an obligation and presumably the parental love to do everything they could to help their daughter.  This was not cheap but in the abhorrent celebrity world that we live in, we can be confident that Amanda’s story whether it be in book, TV, or magazine form will reap millions of dollars to her and her family. 

This all leaves the unanswered question of who killed Meredith Kercher.   We may never find out, but we can be confident that the media will continue to spin the story for years to come.  What a depressing thought.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com

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Jobs (Steve) and jobs (US)

Monday, October 17th, 2011
Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

Image via Wikipedia

By Ellis Goodman

It seems the whole world has mourned the passing of Steve Jobs at the age of 56.  Not surprising when you see how the foresight, innovation and invention of this one man and his company – Apple Inc – has transformed the world as we know it.  Steve Jobs was undoubtedly the world’s most influential businessman of the last 20 years.

He has given us the user-friendly Mac Computer, the iPod, the iPad, and the iPhone, all of which have revolutionized communications and, in the process, have created new industries and destroyed others.  His mission was not to find out what consumers wanted, but to tell them what they should have and, in the process, he has changed our world.  There is a million times more computer power in one hand-held iPhone device than there was in the computer that NASA used to launch Apollo 13.   That is how far we have come. 

The iPhone and the iPad have become the partners of globalization, allowing us to communicate instantly around the world, receive and send information, and allow businessmen to function 24/7.  These devices also allow us to photo, video, and video conference with each other, as well as adding thousands of application options – everything from currency translation to flight information, to weather conditions, to playing games across the world with your children and grandchildren.  This free flow of information has also had a major impact on world politics by making it increasingly difficult for authoritarian regimes to control the flow of information, allowing whole populations to rise up in revolution, protests and demonstrations, to remove leaders and overcome oppressive governments and dictators.

The global success of Apple Inc over the past decade and the enormous profitability resulting from the introductions of ever-increasingly innovative devices, has made this American company one of the most profitable and successful in the world.  The stock market valuation of the company exceeds $350 billion.  The company’s cash on hand – multi-billions of dollars – exceed the reserves of many sovereign states around the world.  What a stunning tribute to the technological creativity and marketing skills of the USA.  In past times, this great American company would be a driving force for American jobs and American productivity.  But not now unfortunately.  Apple Inc outsources the vast majority of its manufacturing processes, primarily to Asia – China and Japan.  The cost of sales in the year to June 2011 totaled some $64 billion, nearly all paid to Apple’s outsourcing partners.  We can only imagine what an impact $64 billion of American production would have on the future of American workers, their lives and families. 

Of course Apple has created these outsourcing partnerships around the world to obtain their products at the best possible prices, to maximize their profitability and to be able to compete with their many competitors.  Maybe these outsourcing arrangements would be less attractive if China would allow their currency to float at probably 20% or more than the current valuation against the dollar.  In those circumstances, maybe Apple Inc would have considered or would still consider producing their products in the U.S.  One thing is certain however, until such time as we can find a solution to the issue of how we bring jobs back to America, our economy will continue to stagnate, and the decline in the standard of living will bring further suffering to the American people.

Steve Jobs and Apple Inc have had an incredible success and they’re only just at the beginning.  It is impossible to contemplate the changes in technology that will take place in the next 20 years.  How much more satisfying this success would have been if Jobs had been able to provide jobs in America.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com

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China’s “Grand Strategy”

Friday, October 14th, 2011

 

Wang Jisi giving a talk in Chicago

Professor Wang Jisi, Dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, gave a talk on the grand strategy of China earlier this week in Chicago. The event was organized by the Chicago Council of Global Affairs.

 

Several hundred people packed the meeting room at the Peninsula Hotel. Wang, who is currently at Princeton University as a visiting scholar, captured the full attention of the audience. He talked about China’s core interests today, namely sovereignty, security and development; China’s domestic priorities and foreign policies, and the focus of Chinese government on “the improvement of Chinese people‘s living standards, welfare and happiness via social justice.”

The key issues of the talk was covered in his article titled China’s Search for a Grand Strategy which was released in the Foreign Affairs, March/April 2011. Read details from link below: http://www.ciss.pku.edu.cn/en/DocumentView.aspx?id=666.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Mulberry Child has been made into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more details. For more information about the book, visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com

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Mulberry Child Movie Postcard

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Mulberry Child movie, directed by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset, is finally completed! The world premiere will be at the Heartland Film Festival on October 16, 2011 in Indianapolis and the film will be screened three times at the Festival.

Sunday, October 16, 5:45 PM at AMC Showplace 17, 4325 South Meridian Street,

Monday, October 17, 3:30 PM at AMC Castleton Square, 6020 E. 82nd St.

Friday, October 21, 7:15 PM at AMC Castleton Square, 6020 82nd St.

Check out the details at the link below.

http://heartland.slated.com/2011/films/mulberrychild_susanmorgancooper_heartland2011

On the right is the postcard of the film!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A memoir of China. Visit www.moraquest.com, www.mulberrychild.com for more information.

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Climate Change

Monday, October 10th, 2011
Cover page cuverture Turning the Tide On Clima...

Image via Wikipedia

By:  Ellis Goodman

Much has as been written and debated about Climate Change and the influence of humans on the climate of the Planet.  I don’t profess to have expert knowledge in this field, but it appears that something like 90% of the world’s scientists now agree that we are entering a period of climate change and that human activities have been and continue to be a contributor.

My own experiences of course are more limited, but I’ve definitely noted a change in our weather patterns over the past few years as I’m sure have millions of people.  This year has been no exception.  In the Chicago area where I live, we had a particularly snowy winter with some massive blizzards, followed by a very wet spring and cool temperatures through May into June (one of the wettest on record).  This was followed by a very dry July and August (one of the driest on record) and a cold, wet September (one of the coolest and wettest on record).

We have just returned from visiting family in London, England.  The English have endured one of the warmest springs on record, followed by one of the wettest and coolest summers on record, followed by incredibly warm temperatures last week (just after we left), and record-setting heat for the first day of October.  Now in the UK, records do go back 250 years or more, so we can definitely see something is changing our weather.

What does seem to be obvious to all is that our Planet is suffering from more extremes – extreme cold and snow conditions, extreme winds and hurricanes, extreme rains and flooding, and extreme heat and drought.  Where all this leads I don’t know, but I do believe we’d better be prepared for more of the same, maybe even with more frightening extremes of weather.

Last week in Chicago was no exception.  The meteorologists were telling us that we had a circular storm in a low-pressure belt hanging over the Midwest and going round in circles, providing us with cool temperatures and a combination of rain, sun and winds, which again were quite extreme on occasion. 

Last Friday evening, I had an interesting experience driving home from work.  I left my office at about 5:45; and, within five minutes, was under a very dark cloud which dumped a massive amount of rain on my car, but which lasted about five minutes.  As I continued to drive, I saw an incredible pattern of color in the sky.  There were patches of dark clouds in front of large white cumulous clouds with areas of gold and sunshine peeking through, and since the sun was beginning to go down, reflections of pink, purple and blue were in an ever-changing pattern of cloud formations and clear skies.  The winds had been pretty strong all day and I had noticed similar cloud formations over the lake and indeed it transpired that the winds had whipped up the lake so as large amounts of spray were coming over the seawalls onto Lake Shore Drive.  Is this an unusual weather pattern for the end of September?  I don’t really know but I would think so.

This week however things have calmed down and the weather seems to be warm and pleasant.  Perhaps we will have an unusually warm record-setting October.  Who knows?  But something is definitely happening to our world.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com

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Political Development in Contemporary China

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Following the publication of China in the Next 30 Years, I just released another book on today’s China: Seeking Changes: Political Development in Contemporary China. It is a collection of 13 essays on China’s political system.

I was very much impressed by the fact that the Central Compilation & Translation Press published the book in Chinese in May of this year, for these essays are not only insightful, but also—some more than others—very critical of China and thought-provoking, to say the least. As I applauded the changes in China to publicize different views on its political system, I decided to acquire the worldwide rights to distribute the book in English in digital format, and in certain countries, the paper book rights as well.

Here are the details of the book:

China’s revolutionary attempt to transition to socialism was an economic disaster. Since adopting elements of an open market policy in the 1970s, China has doubled its GDP every decade, and has lifted 400 million people out of absolute poverty.  But as renowned social historian Arif Dirlik keenly observed that in China, “Post-socialism is of necessity also post-capitalist.” As the wealth of the country continues to accumulate, the Chinese Communist Party is increasingly concerned about updating the tenets of Karl Marx’s ideology to create a uniquely Chinese-styled Harmonious Socialist Society.

Contributed by 14 international scholars, Seeking Changes: Political Development in Contemporary China gives a historical account and thoughtful analysis of the major changes in the legal system that provided the political grounding for China’s recent economic development. The possibility of a broader definition of democracy that includes single party rule is debated. By contrasting the Chinese experience with those of its neighbors such as Russia, India, Vietnam and Japan, an image of a new Chinese Socialism that incorporates Confucian traditions emerges. Time will tell if this ‘Beijing Consensus’ can serve as a touchstone for the developing world.

Contents:

  • Democracy and the Governing Party: A Theoretical Perspective   Brantly Womack w Remaking the CCP’s Ideology: Determinants, Progress, and Limits under Hu Jintao   Heike Holbig
  • The Cadre Responsibility System and the Changing Needs of the Party   Maria Heimer
  • The Chinese Communist Party’s Nomenklatura System as a Leadership Selection Mechanism: An Evaluation   John P. Burns
  • Party Work in the Urban Communities   Akio Takahara and Robert Benewick
  • The Politics of Lawmaking in Chinese Local People’s Congresses  Young Nam Cho
  • Singularity and Replicability in China’s Developmental Experience  Barry Naughton w Thirty Years of Chinese Reform and Economic Growth: Challenges and How It Has Changed World Development  Ross Garnaut
  • Post-Socialism Revisited: Reflections on “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”, Its Past, Present and Future  Arif Dirlik
  • Post-Socialist States and the Evolution of a New Development Model: Russia and China Compared   Peter Rutland
  • China and India: The Institutional Roots of Differential Performance   Ashwani Saith  w Economic Reform and Performance: A Comparative Study of China and Vietnam  Khuong M. Vu
  • Developmental States in East Asia: A  Comparison of the Japanese and Chinese Experiences  Mark Beeson

Available at www.amazaon.com, www.B&N.com, and www.itunesstore.com

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A memoir of China. Visit www.moraquest.com for more information

 

 

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American Airlines Downgrade

Thursday, October 6th, 2011
London Heathrow Airport (LHR/EGLL), London Bor...

Image via Wikipedia

By Ellis Goodman

I think my wife and I will probably enter the Guinness Book of Records after our experience last week at London’s Heathrow Airport.  We were flying back to Chicago from London on Business Class; and, when we checked in at the gate, we were told we were being upgraded to First Class.  Now 99.9% of the people in the world would jump at this opportunity, but my wife thinks differently.  This is not the first time we’ve been offered such an upgrade and, in fact, it happened to us just over a year ago on a similar flight.  In normal circumstances this sounds like heaven, but in practice, the First Class Cabin these days have these incredible mechanical seats which convert into flat beds screened off from other passengers.  However this was a day flight, so the flat bed option holds no attraction and First Class means that, if you wish to sit together, you have to be in the middle of the plane since there is only one window seat on either side of the aisle.  As the First Class seats are separated from each other by a bulky armrest and screen that can be raised or lowered, it’s difficult to talk to your traveling companion because of the bulk of the seat and its location and shape.

In addition the seats we were offered were against the bulkhead, which from experience means that after the flight attendants have served you your meal, which incidentally is no different than the meal in business class – in other words just as bad! – they retreat behind the bulkhead and continue to laugh and chatter for the next five or six hours before eventually they come out and offer you a glass of water if you’re lucky. 

So all in all, my wife much preferred to be twelve rows back in Business Class where, as she says, she can at least hold my hand when we take off and land, and we are only a few inches away from each other when we wish to converse.

Declining this wonderful offer from American Airlines however caused complete panic, probably because our Business Class seats had already been given to some other lucky couple that were upgraded from Coach.  So we waited for ages while the ticket agent proceeded to assault his keyboard the way that ticket agents do, and a mound of mysterious information was reviewed, re-reviewed, replaced and whatever else they do in order to change a couple of boarding passes.

Finally, we got on the plane, being the last passengers to board and we had a pleasant, comfortable and contented flight in Business Class, including the usual inedible meal and being ignored by the flight attendants for six hours of the eight-hour flight.

Nevertheless, we felt at home and comfortable knowing that we were “something special in the air.”

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com

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