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Archive for January, 2014

Showcase of future

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

photo 2I attended the joint performances of students from the High School affiliated with the Renmin University (Ren Da Fu Zhong in Chinese, RDFZ) from Beijing and Chicago Public Schools. They performed at the auditorium of the Walter Payton College Prep High School (WPCPHS) on Wednesday. I was blown away by the high-level skills demonstrated by RDFZ students, aged 11 to 17.

I interviewed Mr. Shen Xianzhang, Deputy Principal and co-leader of the 66-member performing troupe. I must say I was intrigued and impressed.

cicShen said the troupe will tour several major cities in the U.S. and will give 14 performances. The program staged at WPCPHS was their “short” list due to time limits.

Shen advised that RDFZ has a number of clubs, such as dance, martial arts, acrobatics, choir, etc., which attract approximately 600 students. The troupe on this tour is consisted of merely 10% of the students participating in such extra curriculum activities.

I feel these students’ performance can be praised as semi-professional.

Having been trained as a ping pong player in grade school, I can tell how much time and work they must have put into their select area of activity in order to reach this level.

Shen proudly mentioned a number of “first prizes” students at RDFZ have won over the years, and how many countries they had toured to give performances.

photo 2I know RDFZ is one of the top schools in China. It has a total of 5,000 students, a large pool to select talents, not to mention that those who are able to get into the school have proved themselves outstanding to start with.

Still, talents only would not have delivered such great skills in dancing, martial arts, and acrobatics.

Dedication, hard work, and consistent practices did. And discipline. It also means that they are not just book smart or buried in the preparation for college entrance examinations.

Over the years, as the generation of the one-child policy grow up, I have heard, and lamented myself, the little “emperors and empresses” who are self-centered and ill-prepared to deal with the challenges and hardships in life.

photo 1Here they are, a group of representatives of their generation. They have led me to look at them, and their peers, from a different perspective and with delight, hope, and expectations.

I asked Shen how he felt about the “amateur” performances given by students from CPS.

“I’m glad and moved to see American students dance traditional Chinese folk dances and sing Chinese songs,” he said without hesitation.

His words and sincerity touched me.

I noticed the disparity in the level and skills of the CPS students and neglected to realize the significance of their dancing Chinese folk dances and singing Chinese songs in the celebration of the Chinese New Year in Chicago, the heartland of the United States.

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. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.

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At the 25th Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival (PSIFF)

Thursday, January 16th, 2014
Lupita Nyong'o being interviewed on Red Carpet at PSIFF

Lupita Nyong’o being interviewed on Red Carpet at PSIFF

PSIFF, one of the largest in the U.S., remains my most favorite film festival in the U.S.

It is attended by 135,000 people from all over the country and is always well-organized. Many films are sold out to an enthusiastic audience, and even a 9:30 a.m. show, it’s common to see a long line of people in front of a theatre.

This is my third consecutive year at the Festival.

Variety's awards luncheon: "10 Directors to Watch"

Variety’s awards luncheon: “10 Directors to Watch”

I was first exposed to PSIFF because of Mulberry Child, which was an official selection in 2012 and won “Best of the Fest” award. Afterward, I’ve been attending the Festival as a journalist, covering the Red Carpet event and interviewing filmmakers for coverage.

PSIFF always draws many super stars, this year, including Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, and emerging star Lupita Nyong’o. Many filmmakers attend it, too. Among the big names this year, Steve McQueen (12 years a slave) and HK director Wong Kar-Wai (The Grandmaster, nominated for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film).

Sharing a moment with Elahe Hiptoola, producer of Lakshmi

Sharing a moment with Elahe Hiptoola, producer of Lakshmi

My highlight this year was an interview with Wong Kar-Wai on the Red Carpet (No, he didn’t wear dark sunglasses) and meeting with the producer and director of Lakshmi, an Indian film about child trafficking/prostitution and a young girl’s courage to fight against her oppressors.

Lakshmi’s director, Nagesh Kukunoor, and producer, Elahe Hiptoola, are both passionate about filmmaking. They have been in collaboration since Kukunoor’s first film in 1997. Lakshmi was well received by the audience at PSIFF and won “Best of the Fest.”

Taking a photo for a fan with  Nagesh Kukunoor, director of Lakshmi

Taking a photo for a fan with Nagesh Kukunoor, director of Lakshmi

A few other Asian films were also selected at the Festival, including Chinese director Feng Xiaogang’s epic film Back to 1942, and Singapore director Anthony Chen’s ILO ILO. (Anthony Chen was among the “10 Directors to Watch” named and awarded by Variety at the Festival.)

I did coverage about the Festival for Xinhua News, including the following releases:

Interview: Chinese-French collaborative film “Nightingale” shows beauty of China’s countryside

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/entertainment/2014-01/11/c_133036807.htm

Super stars light up Palm Springs Film Festival

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/entertainment/2014-01/05/c_133019792.htm

Feature: Asian films, filmmakers shine at Palm Springs Film Festival

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-01/09/c_133031614.htm

I look forward to going back to Palm Springs next January to attend another feast of wonderful films and meet with more inspiring filmmakers.

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. Mulberry Child will be on PBS nationwide in May 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Not All Bad

Thursday, January 9th, 2014
New York City

New York City (Photo credit: Johannes Valkama)

 

My wife and I have recently returned from a short trip to New York, part business, part pleasure, and part catching up with some family. We stayed at a midtown hotel, which has been one of my regular choices on visits to New York over the past 30 years, and which has recently been refurbished. We enjoyed our stay, which was particularly enhanced by Anna Marie. She is a receptionist, who greeted us on our arrival. Extremely courteous, pleasant, accommodating and helpful, offering to make our stay as comfortable as possible and handed me a card in case we needed help at any time. I suppose this is not unusual for any good hotel. But what added to this particular experience, was bumping into Anna Marie, as my wife and I were shopping.  I have to confess, that I didn’t recognize her when she approached us in a shoe store. After all she was bundled up against the biting wind outside, and had a wooly hat on. She introduced herself with a pleasant smile, and asked if we were enjoying our shopping in New York.

We then got into a conversation, and I learned a lot about Anna Marie, who was with another employee of the hotel. Anna Marie told me that she had been in her existing job for 8 years, but this was after an eight-year hiatus, during which period she had 4 children. Prior to that she had worked for the hotel for a previous 8 years. Her friend had also been with the hotel for a similarly long period. Anna Marie, whose youthful appearance belied her telling me, more info

that her elder son was in the Marines and serving in Afghanistan. I saw the strain on her face when she said that, but she quickly followed up by telling me that she hoped he would be home in April. She had another son who was in college, and 2 younger daughters who “were driving her crazy.” She told me her husband was in construction, and they had moved 8 times during their marriage, taking advantage of his ability to fix up properties that they purchased, and increasing the size and value of each of their homes. It had been hard work, and during this most recent deep recession, her husband, unable to get work in construction, had gone to work as a hotel doorman. But things were improving, she told me with a laugh, before we finally parted company.

What did I learn from this experience? Well, during these tough economic times, there are still many American middle-class families, who have come through, because of hard work and strong family values. They are loyal hard-working employees who, despite the fact that the deck has been stacked against them over the past decade or so, continue to fight for a better life for themselves and their families.

I also realized that in this age of fraud, greed, and corruption, there are still those employers, who look after their employees, and create a culture of teamwork and success in their organization, where their first consideration is the customer.

New York is a tough city.  But as they say, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

  

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

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New Year, New Start

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

photo 2 The snow that comes with the arrival of the New Year in Chicago added “color” and excitement for the new start.

There is a saying in Chinese, “瑞雪兆丰年,”meaning propitious snow will bring an abundant year in harvest. Hope it also means a year of good health, happiness and efficiency.

I have sensed a level of excitement in anticipation of the immediate projects I need to work on with the start of the new year: teaching another course on China, making a 15-min documentary for the 10th anniversary of an institution in Chicago, and taking upon more consulting business related to China. Of course, with Lisa moving to work in Frankfurt, Germany in March, I have begun thinking of plans to visit her a couple of times during the year, and while there, taking the opportunity to tour more Eastern and Northern European countries as well.

photo 1On New Year’s Day, thanks to technology, I had a video conference with my mother and sisters in two cities in China, my brother in Rochester, New York, and me, here in Chicago. It is wonderful to see my 85-year-old mother on the screen and hear the voices of my siblings, as if they were sitting beside me. I feel very grateful that two of my older sisters live close to my mother and spend a lot of time with her, including playing mahjong, her favorite game, with her every week. My mother’s smiles and talk brought numberswiki.com

so much comfort and warmth to me. My brother and I immediately talked about scheduling a time when we can visit her at the same time so our entire family can have a “complete” gathering, “团圆”in Chinese. I look forward to that. With a bit of luck, I may be able to stay a little longer this year.

I read a column by Mary Schmich marveling at the existence of live on the Chicago Tribune, speaking aloud to herself “I’ve alive,” and expressing gratitude about it. I feel the same—so lucky to be alive, be connected with my loved ones, and do things I value and enjoy.

Another year has already on its way, and I bet that it will pass quickly, more so than we would like to see. A few things that I would love to do more in the new year include playing more table tennis, my favorite sports; swimming more in Lake Michigan during the summer, doing more reading and writing, and spending more time with family and friends.

A friend of mine recently told me an effective way to manage time is to block out hours for designated tasks. I will try to do that and be more efficient and disciplined.  Certainly want to live a more balanced and full life. I shall have to see what the new year brings and whether my resolve holds!

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

 

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The Affordable Care Act. Some Facts and Stats

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

A CNN poll conducted in March of 2010Citation ...

I was listening to the radio the other day, as the December deadline loomed for insurance applications under Obamacare. A man in the Florida Panhandle was being interviewed. He was asked what he thought about Obamacare. He said he was against it. The interviewer then asked him about certain elements of the act such as not being refused insurance because of prior health conditions, and he said that he was in favor of all of those elements. However he was against The Affordable Care Act, because it was going to be too costly, not only to him but for millions of other Americans and for the country as a whole. When it was pointed out that in his particular circumstances his premiums could receive a major subsidy, he said that he had heard about such things but didn’t believe them.

I suspect that this gentleman may have been one of the millions of uninsured Americans who don’t know or don’t understand how the new health insurance marketplace could possibly benefit them. In this age of sound bites and TV ads, this is a further illustration of the administration’s failure to “sell” the benefits of the Affordable Care Act in enough depth and detail, and to allow the critics to command the headlines and the negative TV advertising, once again misinforming the great American public.

I recently read at WebMD.com some facts that need to be spelled out to the American people.

  • 46 to 48.6 million people are currently uninsured in the US, the richest country in the world.

 

  • 20% of those who are in uninsured, are women.

 

  • 22.3 million people with low incomes will become eligible for Medicaid thanks to The Affordable Care Act.

 

  • 78% of uninsured Americans do not know or understand the new health insurance marketplaces.

 

  • The average cost of a three-day stay in hospital without insurance is $30,000.

 

  • 71% of adults aged 30 or younger have said that having health insurance is very important to them.

 

  • 26 million Americans will qualify for financial assistance in 2014 to help pay for their health coverage.

 

  • 3.4 million young adults gained insurance under the ACA, by remaining on their parents’ health plan until age 26.

 

  • The Affordable Care Act provides:

15 preventative health services for adults at no cost,

26 preventative health services for children at no cost,

22 preventative health services for women at no cost.

 

  • $6.1 billion has been saved by people covered by Medicare and on prescription drugs since the health care law was enacted.

 

Maybe if some of these facts and stats were presented by the administration to the American public, with as much commitment and financing as the critics of the act, the computer system failures and other shortfalls of the introduction would not be the only newsworthy items presented by our media. Whatever the problems of getting the system up and running, this country should be able to provide health coverage for all its citizens, as a right, and in due course the benefits of the program, and the savings on health costs–providing that the legalized corruption of our Congress by the healthcare industry is reined in–will become evident to all.

 

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

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