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Archive for August, 2012

“Three Sisters” at Steppenwolf Theater

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Three Sisters at Steppenwolf

It’s been a long time since I watched a performance at the famed Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Everything appeared larger than I remembered. Amy, a friend from my reading group, secured a few last tickets for the last show of Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov.

Despite sitting in the back on the balcony, we had a good view of the stage and could hear every single sentence uttered by the actors. I had a vague notion of what the play was about, but didn’t expect it to be so dark—the story of the three sisters’ unfulfilled longing for life, and for that matter, nearly everyone else’s doomed future in life, cast a heavy feeling among the audience.

Another scene on the stage

The three sisters were the daughters of a late military garrison’s general. They were born in Moscow. Unhappy with their life in a small town, they were nostalgic about their past and longed to go back to Moscow. In the end, each had to learn to live with their disappointment and accepting the fact that they might never be able to the city and life they dreamed of. Further more, except Natasha, the “married up” wife of the sisters’ brother Andrew, who was manipulative and gradually took over the control of the household, there was not another person in the play who was happy. However, the audience, at least among the few of us, didn’t leave the theatre feeling depressed. I guess partially it’s because of the complexity of life being presented in the two-act play and partially the question about the meaning of life that left each member of the audience pondering, or at least, wondering.

As if adding to the heavy feeling, we walked out of the theater to a pouring rain. Amy made a reservation at a nearby Italian restaurant, and we battled the rain to walk there. The effort paid off—the food was good and the discussion on the play enlightening. I knew we would gather together more often to enjoy the theatre scene in Chicago.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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ISAAC

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

 

And so it came to pass in the year 2012, that the Almighty looked down upon the Disunited States and was not pleased.  America had been a land flowing with milk and honey with vast prairies, beautiful mountains, lakes and rivers and abundant wildlife.  But the Almighty had watched with displeasure at man’s destruction of the environment, in pursuit of material possessions and greed. Even the alteration to the Almighty’s climate, had been led by the Disunited States in their avarice and greed.

The Almighty had sent ever louder messages to mankind that this destruction had to stop or mankind would ultimately destroy himself.  But the people in the Disunited States would not listen.  Even as storm and pestilence was visited upon their land, they sat in ignorance, watching the Evil box and its message of idolatry, celebrity and reality shows, and they learned nothing and sought no information on the state of their country. The Almighty sent even more powerful messages – Katrina, wildfires, tornadoes, flooding, drought, winds of 200 miles an hour, snowstorms, excessive heat, but all to no avail.

In the year 2012 the Government “for the people and by the people” were engaged in an expensive and bloody ritual of deceit and lies, designed to keep the country’s leaders in their powerful positions making promises that would not be kept, pandering to the few and the powerful, at the expense of the weak and the poor.  And in August in Tampa, Florida, the Republicans were meeting to elect a new leader to enjoin a battle for the Presidency of the United States. The Republican congressional representatives and delegates at this conference often invoked the name of the Almighty who they claim had given divine guidance to their leadership and blessing to their policies. These were the same people who had failed the people of  New Orleans in their time of suffering during Katrina, and had pursued enormous wealth by the manipulation of financial instruments, at the expense of most of the American people.  These were the same people who had taken the country to the verge of bankruptcy, turned a massive surplus into an enormous deficit in eight years, and engaged in unnecessary wars not even included in the annual budget, and it was their ultimate great recession which had caused untold distress to the majority of the American people.  But the people were not listening. They were watching the Evil box and were easily manipulated, through an onslaught of negative advertising, to believe the most outlandish claims.  Once again they were being asked to stand up and vote against their own interests.  And the Almighty was not pleased that these people claimed his blessing to their promises, and ignored the destruction of the Planet that they were perpetrating.

And so it came about that the Almighty sent yet another message to the Republican convention, a major storm called ISAAC to delay and disrupt their circus of self-congratulation and perhaps give them pause to think about the direction they were advocating for their country.  The Almighty emphasized this message by aiming, once again at the city of New Orleans seven years to the day from the last storm, which at that time had highlighted the arrogance, ignorance and lack of compassion of those same leaders who are seeking support once again for their policies. But the Almighty wondered, what additional disasters must he bring upon his people to get them to wake up to their misguided policies are misdirected energies, their lack of appreciation for the beauty of nature that surrounds them and their lack of compassion for each other. The Almighty also wonders whether it may now be too late to change attitudes, to change thinking, and to bring about unity in the Disunited States of America.

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

A city full of culture

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Frank Rosaly’s Ensemble

The Millennium Park, which is connected to the Grant Park, sits right in the center of Chicago. The Park is an interactive place, completed with the two water fountains, the “bean” that reflects the surrounding skyscrapers day and night, and the prairie garden. Of course, a most magnificent part of the park is the outdoor Jay Pritzker Pavilion where all the major summer musical performances are conducted.

I stopped by last Thursday to listen to Frank Rosaly’s itodos de pie Jazz, which explored the “Puerto Rico’s bomba, plena and seis music through the lens of creative improvised music.” The seats in the front and the lawn in the back were all well taken. I let the songs and the loud music wash over me. I didn’t know much about Jazz, but I found the energy and passion help relax me after a long day.

The dancing crowd

On my way back home, I was drawn to the sound and crowd at a corner in the Grant Park. I realized that it was one of the two “dancing in the park” nights. I lingered for a while, watching many good dancers swinging beautifully in the crowd and the less skillful ones moving along, having just as good a time, as the smiles on their faces indicated. Despite not having the courage to join them (I had two left feet when it comes to dancing), I walked away smiling, too.

What a beautiful and culturally (economically as well) rich city Chicago is! I feel blessed living here.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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Freud’s Last Session

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

My reading group went to see Freud’s Last Session, a one-act play with two actors by Mark St. Germain, starring Mike Nussbaum as Freud and Coburn Goss as C. S. Lewis. This imagined meeting between the two intellectual geniuses at Freud’s last stage of life was so powerfully well done that we all left the theatre marveling at the witty, captivating dialogue and wonderful performance.

I didn’t know Nussbaum was 88 until after watching the show. It was amazing how he brought an elder man’s vulnerability as well dominating power so vividly to life. I also found his portrait of Freud (83) giving the character a warm, humanistic side, which, I wondered, if Freud actually possessed in person.

Cuburn Goss also did well in bringing S. C. Lewis alive: witty, humorous, and extremely intelligent. The only thing I found lacking was the leap of faith that Lewis went through. Not very convincing in the argument presented.

Our group of seven went to Deleece, a restaurant next to the Mercury Theatre to have dinner after the show. Theater personnel passed a button that says “I HAD A SESSION WITH FREUD.” A clever tagline. We each took one and sat at the restaurant discussing about our reaction to the play over a selection of delicious entrees. It was such a delightful experience that we decided to pick three more shows to watch together before the end of the year.

Freud’s Last Session is extended again at the theatre. If you haven’t seen it, definitely suggest you give it a try—you won’t be disappointed.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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A Perfect Evening at Millennium Park

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

One of the last concert at Millennium Park for the season is Dvorak‘s The Spectre‘s Bride, an opera performed with so much power, grace and beauty by Kurzak, Tuohy, and Hegedus last night, and again today at 7:30 p.m.

There must be thousands of people there, with all the seats in the front taken and the lawn fully occupied all the way to the end. The weather was perfect, mid 70 degrees, with the sun casting a golden glow over the crowd, the Pritzker Pavilion, and the surrounding high-rises. Sitting there, being washed over by the music, the songs, and the moment, I was touched to tears.

I wish I had my good camera to catch a few photos of the magic moment. Since I didn’t, I took out iPhone and did what I could.

Feel so blessed living in this beautiful city that provides such a rich cultural life.

 

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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Reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
Cover of "Beloved"

Cover of Beloved

There is no single statement or simple summary that can express the complex emotions and reflection after reading Toni Morrison‘s powerful novel Beloved.

Thanks to John, one of our seven-member reading group, we selected Beloved for August reading. Except Norm, a professor of literature at a Chicago university, none of us had read Toni Morrison before. “It’s beautifully written,” Norm said. But he warned us it would be a heavy reading.

Heavy it was. The story dealt with the issue of slavery, the meaning of freedom, and the necessity to deal with the suffering in the past in order to move on to the future. It was so well-written that we found ourselves well connected with the lives of Sethe, Baby Suggs, and Paul D, key characters in the book, and felt their pain and unbearable suffering, as if we were present.

Our book group, from left to right: Susan, Norm, Francis, John, and Amy. I was taking the photo and Mary was absent for the day.

At our discussion session over the weekend, we voiced our own interpretation and addressed the questions we each had, bringing the understanding to a deeper level. There was so much to dig into: the symbol of the ghost “Beloved,” the child Sethe murdered out of deep love so she wouldn’t be subjected to slavery; the constant switching point-of-view in narration, making the story non-linear and more complex since it opened more doors to examine the roles both white and black played; and how the repressed past prevented people from moving into the future, an issue we could all related to, either in history or in our present life.

We talked for three hours over lunch and snacks. Afterward, John sent an email that strongly expressed how I felt about our group and discussion every time we met:

“I get so much more out of the book just listening to the various takes that people have on aspects of the book that often I miss completely. I always walk out enriched by you folks.”

Thank you all. I look forward to our discussion on 1Q84 next month!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

 

 

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Ascend inspires Asian Americans to be leaders

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

At the recent Ascend Convention in Chicago

Nearly 1,500 professionals and students gathered recently at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Chicago for the 5th National Convention of Ascend Pan-Asian Leaders (Ascend), an organization dedicated to help Pan-Asians realize their leadership potential in global corporations. I was delighted to be a speaker at one of the panels at the convention.

Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing minorities in the U.S., with 17.3 million people, equal to 5.6% of the total U.S. population. In the decade from 2000 to 2010, the growth rate for the Asian American population was 46%. Despite such development and the affluent purchasing power they command, few Asian Americans have made their way to the top leadership positions in corporate America. Asians are often perceived as model citizens, highly educated, hardworking, but not creative and lacking leadership skills, among other stereotyped perceptions.

Captivated audience at a lunch speech

The three-day convention provided a forum for Asian professionals and students to learn leadership skills, and to empower themselves to seek advancement in their careers. A large job fair was conducted at the hotel and a variety of panels and workshops were provided. Speakers and mentors invited to the convention included executives and experts in a variety of industries. Topics covered included how to succeed in business, how to resolve conflicts, women’s leadership, skills of communication, global leadership trends, etc.

Keynote speakers included Ron Glover, IBM, Vice President; Judy Hu, GE, Global Executive Director; and Chris Simmon, PricewaterhouseCooper, Managing Partner.

Jian (middle) with Heidi Li (left) and Fred Tan (right) from Ascend LA chapter after her talk

“I don’t believe in stereotypes,” Judy Hu told the entire convention. “I think Asian are creative, and can be top leaders.” She encouraged everyone to have mentors and corporate sponsors, to learn to speak up at meetings and make sure his/her voices are heard and recognized in the company.

Ascend reaches 15,000 people with 26 student chapters and 13 professional chapters located in both the U.S. and Canada around major business hubs and campuses. Find out more information about Ascend at http://www.ascendleadership.org/.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.

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