Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Novel and Movie Quotes For Today's Politics

In America, we've been lucky enough to have great novels and movies which say something about us. What is interesting is they still hold true in certain situations.
Here's a great Republican slogan from the pen of F Scott Fitzgerald: "so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
One day, a well-known ex-vice president will pass on. The line will only have to be changed slightly: "then last week, as it must to all men, death came to Charles Foster Kane." I wonder if the people conducting the autopsy will tell us where the 666 is hidden on his body."
We look to the Sun Also Rises for our response to those who hope the Republican Congress will begin to work with the presidency: "Isn't it pretty to think so."
And finally we look to one of the greatest Westerns of all time to hear what Pres. Obama says at three in the morning: "Shane, Shane!"

Sunday, May 12, 2013

On Learning Chinese

The people who compliment me on my Chinese consists of two different groups: Chinese who are trying to be polite, and Americans who are surprised when anyone learns a foreign language.
Do not make the mistake of learning it when you're old. If you do, you'll find that Chinese is the one language easier to speak then to understand. All Chinese seem to think the Qing Army is on their trail and they have to speak as quickly as they can or be brought down by an arrow. Every minute of conversation gets worse because they assume you understand the sentences that came before. You can say "yaoshi ni hen man. ke neng wo  ke yi  zhi dao." (Which means, "if you can speak slowly, perhaps I can understand." They may speak slowly for one sentence but quickly forget and leave you in the linguistic dust.
To show how you have to pronounce each word in the perfect way, let's take the word "ma." Depending on the way you pronounce it, it can mean mother, horse, question, trouble, or marijuana. And you think German is hard.
Of course, except for some second-generation Chinese-Americans, only  enormously driven Meiguoren (Americans) speak the language. I've taught many Chinese nationals  American idioms, and I wonder why more people here aren't learning Chinese. "Wei li" is a way to say "the future" in Chinese. People are still learning French in high school. When France was looking for a place to celebrate the virtues of French, the only place they could find was in Vietnam. French was once the "lingua franca." Now the Germans talk to the French in English. The Italians talk to the Norwegians in English. Germans may try learning French, but almost always you will see a French student learning a Romance language, which is much easier than German or any other language.
Americans should try to learn Chinese (putang hua) but they should realize it's going to be much more difficult than high school French. Then we can get a benchmark on how our K-12 system is working. Having taught at a state university for 30 years, we'll find out it isn't.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sleazy Bankers Strike Again

I just tried to pay my credit card balance in full. The only option that was available was to pay the minimum. I called customer service which said, "of course you can pay your balance in full." But with her help on the bank webpage, we still couldn't do it. It's clear the bank wanted me to owe them money. This is one of the largest banks in America, but it shows just how sleazy bankers are.

Reese Witherspoon and Other Egomaniacs

I will never go to a Reese Witherspoon movie again. However, considering that she plays roles where she's just so sweet, I don't worry about missing anything.
This is because I watched the dash cam video of her arrest. She says things like, "do you know who I am?" and "you'd better not arrest me."
I've placed her in my category of ego maniacal actors who believe their press releases. Just like Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin (who wasn't arrested, but screamed at his little daughter), these are people whose egos are immense and who think they have transcended "little people" like you and me.
In America, we have this fascination with celebrities, from Monaco Lewinsky to Paris Hilton. In fact, oral sex seems to be the way to become an important celebrity.
However, when an actress who is famous for being sweet acts like Leona Helmsley, you know you'll never be able to suspend disbelief about her again.