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China Crisis

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OK, so I didn't come up with that title myself: It's the title of an article in today's Independent UK, about China's environmental problems. (And for those of you who don't remember or don't care to remember, China Crisis is also the name of an 80s British pop band who achieved modest success with a single called "Arizona Sky," which, now that I read the lyrics, is kind of lame, but I always liked the lines praising the vast, brilliant blue sky of Arizona.)

Anyway, this article makes some truly dire predictions, which I have no problem believing are very, very likely. For instance:

deforestation is only one of the threats to the planet posed by an economy of 1.3 billion people that has now overtaken the United States as the world's leading consumer of four out of the five basic food, energy and industrial commodities - grain, meat, oil, coal and steel. China now lags behind the US only in consumption of oil - and it is rapidly catching up.

Because of their increasing reliance on coal-fired power stations to provide their energy, the Chinese are firmly on course to overtake the Americans as the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, and thus become the biggest contributors to global warming and the destabilisation of the climate. If they remain uncontrolled, the growth of China's carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years will dwarf any cuts in CO2 that the rest of the world can make.

The article then discusses population growth in China and other parts of Asia, and quotes an expert who offers this opinion:

The bottom line of this analysis is that we're going to have to develop a new economic model. Instead of a fossil-fuel based, automobile-centred, throw-away economy we will have to have a renewable-energy based, diversified transport system, and comprehensive reuse and recycle economies. If we want civilisation to survive, we will have to have that. Otherwise civilisation will collapse.

I lived in Shanghai for several months in 1991. It was the most polluted place I had ever been, though Kaohsiung, a filthy port city in southern Taiwan, ran a close second. I can only imagine how much worse it it is now, with more cars and more people and even more people who can actually afford to heat their homes in the winter. (It was also very poor.) And supposedly Shanghai isn't nearly as bad as Beijing, which becomes particularly polluted each winter.



This is a review of the movie Chocolat that I wrote in 2001 for a class on, well, on writing reviews. The teacher liked it but suggested that it was a bit too idiosyncratic to be appropriate for most publications, so I never bothered to do anything with it, but it seems it might find a home here, especially since I posted all this stuff about movies.


Once at a party a friend of mine who had been sitting near my television said to me, "I can't believe your movie collection. It's so...brazen."

"You mean ‘cause they're almost all chick movies?" I asked.

"It's not just that," she said. "It's that you have them out, where people can see them. I mean, some of my friends own a lot of these same movies, but they put them away before people come over. But you're not even embarrassed."

It's true: I like chick movies, I watch chick movies, I buy chick movies; I don't care who knows. I might add that my collection is alphabetized, ranging from Annie Hall, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Chasing Amy, Clueless to Sense and Sensibility, Singin' in the Rain, Sixteen Candles, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Truth or Dare. I feel entitled to add that I like other kinds of movies as well--I love Lawrence of Arabia and The Pride of the Yankees, and I don't think those qualify as chick movies. But then, I haven't gotten around to buying those movies. Maybe I should. Nothing in my collection starts with L or P.

It's Out


Yesterday I met a friend for coffee at Barnes & Noble. (Yeah, I know: how terribly corporate of me. But my little home in the Rust Belt doesn't offer much else. I have tried and rejected as thoroughly inadequate the various non-corporate alternatives for book acquisition, with the exception of my university library--that rocks. And even non-corporate coffee is hard to come by. The one entry in the corporate coffee delocator for this area was provided by me, and that place is a million miles away, with mediocre mochas.)

My friend was late, so I browsed the books. On the "New Arrivals" table, I saw several copies of Best American Short Stories 2005, but couldn't find the other titles in the series. Finally I located a sales clerk. "Where's the Best American Essays?" I asked.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"The same thing as this," I said, holding up the collection of short stories, "except with essays."

He led me to a display, and there it was. I picked it up and scanned the table of contents: twenty-five essays, by the likes of Jonathan Franzen, Edward Hoagland, Oliver Sacks, David Sedaris, David Foster Wallace--and me.

Celebrated Saturday

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Last Saturday afternoon, SBJ and our new friend Anesthesia and I went downtown to Celebrate! the city we live in. It was your typical street fair, with jugglers and really cool chalk drawings on the pavement and a couple dozen tiny girls (three, four, five years old) doing fierce tumbling routines along the main thoroughfare of town.

We walked around, looked at crafts, searched without success for a stand selling funnel cakes with tomato sauce (SBJ claims they're all the rage in Connecticut), drank beer in the park. We talked about important things, like emoticons. We agreed that the only acceptable emoticons are the plain old print ones, like :-), and that the cartoonish ones you sometimes see online should be banned from use forever more. We spent some time figuring out what Anesthesia should be called in this blog–we were happy enough with the nickname we came up with. At first she said, "Yeah, but it puts you to sleep!" I said, "That's not my main association with it. I think about getting general anesthesia before surgery, and how it feels really good, but it's dangerous--too much can kill you." Which didn't reassure her all that much, but then SBJ pointed out that the word would make a great album title for some metal band, and then we couldn't think of anything better, and this word sounds like another name that is meaningful to her, so we went with it.

SBJ asked about really bad haircut stories. This is a competition I always win because I almost died from a bad haircut. Seriously: I cried so much my intestines exploded and I nearly hemorrhaged to death. (That's the short version--the long version is truly fascinating, provided you're not afraid of being grossed out. I'll tell it someday.)

We found a stall where girls were selling samosas and painting on temporary henna tattoos. SBJ wanted something to complement his three questions, so the girl gave him a straightforward geometric pattern an inch or so below them--she said she had never hennaed a man before and wasn't sure what would be appropriate, so she went for something simple. It looked fine, but SBJ was not overcome with pleasure at the finished product. In fact, he said he felt gypped.

Then it was my turn. I got a paisley (one of my favorite designs) on my shoulder, which looked pretty awesome, and felt very celebratory. All in all, a very satisfactory day.

Moving Day

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In addition to my friend and colleague Tom, I also have a friend and colleague, Sweet Baby Jesus. That's not the name his parents gave him; that's the name he gave himself. It rather fits. Sometimes we call him SBJ, and sometimes we call him Dr. Sweet Baby Jesus, because he has a PhD in one of those silly, useless areas of the humanities.

Sweet Baby Jesus just moved out of a horrid apartment complex full of old ladies who hang wreaths of dried flowers on their doors, changing the wreath to match the season. He never fit in because his door remained unadorned, no matter what the time of year. But now he's living in a cool semi-detached house across from a park.

SBJ does not have a lot of stuff--people who name themselves after wandering mendicant faith healers often don't--but he still has more stuff than he could move on his own. So he asked me, Tom, a new colleague ML, and her husband HC, to help him load up a truck and shlep everything across town. He said that if we did, he would reward us with pizza and beer, and as an added treat, we could watch him eat an entire large pizza on his own.

It took only an hour to get everything in the truck from the old place and out of the truck at the new place.


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