Embarrassed conference interpreters at President Obama and President Hu Press Conference

Sunday, 23 January, 2011

Have you watched President Obama and President Hu Press Conference (2011, Jan 19) and listened to the interpreters’ English or Mandarin? I have and I feel embarrassed for some of the “professional” conference interpreters working that day.

You see, I think people working at that level (interpreting the words of presidents) should be the best qualified people available. Because misunderstanding can have immediate and sometimes serious consequences.

If you have some working understanding of English and Mandarin, you would have realized that some of the interpreters’ English and Mandarin just sounded horrible and almost laughable.

I don’t know the conference interpreters and the protocols (e.g. if both countries were responsible of hiring and providing their own conference interpreters). I just think some of the conference interpreters that day should feel seriously embarrassed. And they should take some refresher courses to greatly improve their English or Mandarin before they work again and commit any more mistakes.

I do wonder if all the conference interpreters that day were International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) members. If they were all registered members, then I have to question the AIIC admission standard.

Check out the press conference and see for yourself.

P.S. I hope I am not too harsh on the conference interpreters but I refuse to think they were the “best” available conference interpreters.

Feb 3, 2011 2:29pm MST Update: I guess a personal note may help here. I am  a Canadian and am used to fluent translation between French and English. For example, I am listening to the English translation of “Meeting No. 54 INDU – Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology” right now. And the translated English is fluent and flawless!

President Obama and President Hu Press Conference – 2011, Jan 19

Wednesday, 19 January, 2011

President Obama and President Hu Press Conference – Good to see the full press conference posted online.

The Q&A starts at about 16:54
(note: This YouTube clip has a very useful interactive transcript function where you can use to jump to various time codes. Highly recommended.)

17:00 Reporter asked President Obama and President Hu about human rights.
25:06 Question Chinese reporter from China Central Television.
39:34 Bloomberg reporter asked President Hu about human rights which wasn’t answered by President Hu because of “translation problems”.

Jan 25, 2011 Update: I have some harsh words in this entry, “Embarrassed conference interpreters at President Obama and President Hu Press Conference“. See the comments section for other people’s different views.

China’s Annual New Year Migration – CBC radio program “The Current” (中國農曆新年大遷徙)

Wednesday, 19 January, 2011

From CBC radio program “The Current” about China’s Annual Migration. Highly recommended. The following are program info from CBC. See here, here, here, and my interview with Lixin for more info about Lixin Fan’s “Last Train Home” (some have video clips).

Last Train Home will be released on DVD on February 22nd, 2011.

“China’s Annual Migration
We are two weeks away from the Chinese New Year and the largest annual human migration on the planet. Nearly 150 million Chinese have migrated to cities in search of work. And the trip home for the holidays isn’t going to be easy.


China’s Annual Migration – Lixin Fan

We started this segment with the sound of the world’s largest annual human migration. It happens around Chinese New Year. Tens of millions of people who migrated to China’s cities in search of work leave those cities and go back home to their families in the countryside. There are at least 150 million rural migrant workers in China. And as you can hear, a lot of them pass through the Guangzhou train station in southern China.

In two weeks, that annual migration will begin again. Amidst the sea of humanity, it’s easy for individual stories to get lost. Lixin Fan is a Chinese-Canadian documentary film-maker who follows one family caught up in the move from the countryside to the city and back again in Last Train Home. The film has just been nominated for the Directors Guild of America prize. Lixin Fan was in New York City.

Last Train Home will be released on DVD on February 22nd.

While many Chinese migrate from the countryside to the cities, many others stay behind. We hear the story of one woman who lives in a small village called Hazelnut Valley or Da Jen Yu. It’s about an hour from of Beijing. She’s 58. All of her children have left home. Her son lives in Beijing and makes a living as a driver working for foreigners.”

More video clips about DGA nominated Last Train Home (歸途列車)

Friday, 14 January, 2011

Here are some more video clips about DGA nominated Last Train Home (歸途列車) directed by Canadian documentary filmmaker Lixin Fan.

Last Train Home Q&A, Part 1 of 2, Sundance Film Festival 2010

Last Train Home Q&A, Part 2 of 2, Sundance Film Festival 2010

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PBS: Jailed in China, Dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) Honored With Empty Chair at Nobel Ceremony

Saturday, 11 December, 2010

An empty chair for Mr. Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), Winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010

PBS News Hour: Jailed in China, Dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) Honored With Empty Chair at Nobel Ceremony

“Jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, serving an 11-year sentence for writing a pro-democracy manifesto, was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia Friday despite vocal opposition from China.”

Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong – 地產霸權 – Alice Poon

Thursday, 9 December, 2010

地產霸權 - Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong

In my recent trip to Hong Kong, I made sure I picked up a copy of the 2010 translated Chinese edition of Land and the Ruling Class (地產霸權) by Alice Poon. I will try to write more about the book after I finish it.

Here is an excerpt from a nice review of the original book (in English) in the Canadian Book Review Annual,

Poon’s concise, well-argued analysis is one of the few available English-language sources on Hong Kong’s predicament. While Hong Kong’s once-vigorous and argumentative press has lost its teeth following the takeover, new outlets such as blogs have assumed huge importance as a barricade for free expression and democratic principles. With Shanghai rapidly eclipsing Hong Kong as the banking and finance powerhouse for China’s breakneck growth, there’s a chance that competition may in fact re-emerge and make for the kind of “popular” entrepreneurship long absent in Hong Kong.

Alice talked about the case of post-service work of Mr. LEUNG Chin-man in the updated Chinese edition’s introduction. And, yesterday, just by chance, the LegCo Hong Kong issued its “Report of the Select Committee to Inquire into Matters Relating to the Post-service Work of Mr LEUNG Chin-man” (English full report link) (in Chinese “調查有關梁展文先生 – 離職後從事工作的事宜 – 專責委員會報告”).

If you understand Mandarin, here is an interesting video chat about the book.


For the record, here is Apple Daily’s report of the news of the LegCo report re the post-service work of Mr. LEUNG Chin-man.

利益輸送 立會裁決 政府認錯 釘死梁展文 – 2010年12月09日


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BBC Imagine Ai Weiwei 艾未未 documentary

Tuesday, 7 December, 2010

Sunflower Seeds - pix 28

For the record, a very insightful BBC Imagine Ai Weiwei 艾未未 documentary “Ai Weiwei Without Fear or Favor”. Highly recommended.

Dashan – Canadian Ambassador to China’s Funny Bone

Wednesday, 3 November, 2010

Dashan (大山) is the Chinese stage name adopted by Canadian Mark Henry Rowswell. In the wonderfully made 1996 NFB documentary Dashan – Ambassador to China’s Funny Bone (free full video online), you will get to know a bit more about Dashan and what makes him a great success in China. I think Mark is not just a funny comedian, he is also a very insightful man. Mark was Canada’s Commissioner General at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo.

I highly recommend you check out Dashan – Ambassador to China’s Funny Bone (free full video online).

P.S. Years ago, I relearned the way I hold my chopsticks after watching a non-Chinese Canadian held chopsticks correctly. Yes, for years, I held my chopsticks incorrectly! Today, as I watch Dashan – Ambassador to China’s Funny Bone, I am inspired to try much harder to improve my Mandarin. I know I probably won’t be as fluent in Mandarin as Dashan but I want to improve my Mandarin from “laughingly bad” to “semi-understandable”.

Institute for Law and Economics, Peking University

Wednesday, 3 November, 2010

I like to send my best and warmest wishes to congratulate the Institute for Law and Economics, Peking University for its launching on November 1st, 2010, and to my friend Zhaofeng Xue, co-director of the Institute. 祝賀 北京大學法律經濟學研究中心 正式成立。

Looks like the Institute will be studying some really interesting subject matters that will be very important to China’s economic growth and legal system. Here is a translated (to traditional Chinese) excerpt from “中國的法律經濟學現象“. Zhaofeng laid out some very insightful Chinese scenarios and questions, I highly recommend you read the article.

未名湖畔朗潤園,今天舉行北京大學法律經濟學研究中心的成立儀式。 法律經濟學一位創始人Henry G. Manne從太平洋彼岸傳來祝賀,儀式後緊接題為“法律經濟學與中國”的學術研討會。 這個中心關心的,是如何借助發源於美國的法律經濟學範式,解釋中國的法律經濟問題,探索法律、管制與經濟增長三者的動態規律。

最初,人們認為法律的各個部類,財產法、合同法、侵權法、刑法乃至憲法,都是相互分離和獨立的,他們看不到其中的共性;人們贊成這樣的法則,反對那樣的法則,爭論的時候他們缺乏一以貫之的分析工具。 然而,從1930年代起以芝加哥大學為基地,逐步形成了用經濟學工具來分析法律和管制現象的學術運動。 這場運動改變了人們的看法。

經濟學對“權利”概念的錘煉,貫穿了全部分析。 一項權利,代表一種受到社會認可和維護的、對資源的用途作選擇的能力。 這是說,一個人的某項權利,是依靠社會其他成員的主動贊同和維護,才得以實現的。 不存在天然的、先驗的、固定的權利。 法律經濟學要做的,是觀察權利界定演變的現象,分析其中的規律。

[...] 法律經濟學還年輕,而中國遍地是有價值的問題。 北京大學法律經濟學研究中心,目前只有十位成員,包括陳若英、鄧峰、李力行、凌斌、徐建國、姚洋、張帆、周其仁、朱蘇力和我自己[薛兆豐]。 我們彼此應和,也互相爭論;我們有志在這個領域作出貢獻,並期待團隊逐漸壯大。

For information “北京大学法律经济学研究中心简介”

“北京大学法律经济学研究中心(Institute for Law and Economics at Peking University)是北京大学法学院创办、北京大学国家发展研究院加盟、由两院合营的非赢利性学术组织。

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Made in China – World’s fastest supercomputer

Thursday, 28 October, 2010

China has used Intel and Nvidia technologies to build the world’s fastest supercomputer Tianhe-1A, at the National University of Defence Technology in Tianjin.

Defense university builds China’s fastest supercomputer, Xinhuanet

“The title has gone to China’s Tianhe-1A supercomputer that is capable of carrying out more than 2.5 thousand trillion calculations a second.

To reach such high speeds the machine draws on more than 7,000 graphics processors and 14,000 Intel chips.

[...] Tianhe-1A is unusual in that it unites thousands of Intel processors with thousands of graphics cards made by Nvidia.

The chips inside graphics cards are typically made up of small arithmetical units that can carry out simple sums very quickly. By contrast, Intel chips are typically used to carry out more complicated mathematical operations.

The machine houses its processors in more than 100 fridge-sized cabinets and together these weigh more than 155 tonnes.”

China claims supercomputer crown, BBC News

China builds world’s fastest supercomputer, UK Telegraph

- Is China a supercomputer threat? (Q&A), CNet

Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), Winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010

Friday, 8 October, 2010

Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), Winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010

I had dared not to dream of this morning’s announcement but it is finally true.

Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) has been announced as the winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010 “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”.

The quest for Chinese democracy is truly a long struggle (山長水遠的鬥爭). Because of Mr. Liu‘s ill health for being locked in Chinese prison for so many years, it is important for citizens and governments of the world to demand Mr. Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) to be released from prison now.

Chinese Dissident Wins Nobel Peace Prize, Associated Press

Nobel-Winner Xiaobo ‘Stuck to His Guns’ on China’s Political Reform“, PBS News Hour

Fighting for freedom in China, Al Jazeera English

News from around the world:

Chinese dissident wins Nobel Peace Prize – Recipient denounced as ‘a criminal’ by China, CBC News with video

- “Liu Xiaobo Nobel win prompts Chinese fury – Chinese authorities say awarding peace prize to ‘criminal’ will hurt relations with Norway“, Guardian UK (with video report and phone interview from China)

- “Liu Xiaobo receives the 2010 Nobel peace prize“, Guardian UK posted a series of beautiful photos

Wife of Chinese dissident ‘swept over’ by Nobel prize win, Toronto Star

- Here is an earlier article/interview “Chinese dissident tipped for Nobel Peace Prize“, published three days ago on Oct 5th, showing a bit of Canadian involvement and inspiration that is worth quoting here (emphasis added),

“But recently, Liu Xia revealed, she has taken some strength from words by Canadian author Margaret Atwood.

Writing to friends in Hong Kong last month to thank them for supporting her husband, Liu Xia cited words from a speech that Atwood delivered in April on receiving an award from PEN America, an organization that works to defend free expression.

Atwood spoke of how silence and secrecy allow the worst horrors to breed,” she said, “and how sooner or later the hidden stories in a society have to come out.

Atwood then went on to say, ‘The messengers in such cases are seldom welcome — yet they are necessary and must be protected.’

“Of course,” said Liu Xia, “my husband is one of those messengers.”

And yet his winning a Nobel Peace Prize is one message the Chinese government doesn’t want to hear.

In fact, last summer the Chinese government sent an envoy to Norway to directly threaten the Nobel Committee if it dared to give the award to a Chinese dissident.

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to China dissident Liu Xiaobo, BBC with video

- “China blanks Nobel Peace prize searches“, CNN

China’s Silent Peace Prize, Wall Street Journal. Here is an excerpt with emphasis added,

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Friday it awarded the peace prize to imprisoned Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo for his fight for human rights in China, but there is no mention of it in Chinese media. Access to news segments broadcast on CNN and BBC International, normally available, have been blocked by government censors, aiming to thwart widespread knowledge of the prize.

China’s Web censors have deleted chatter from Liu’s colleagues, as well as China’s intellectuals and elite, that began to spread on China’s blogs and message boards only minutes after the news broke. On Sina, personal comments that referred to Liu as LXB or Liu Liu, avoiding his full name, disappeared an hour after having been posted. Remarks that said, “He won,” are no longer visible.”

China calls Nobel decision ‘blasphemy'; West praises it, CNN

- “Nobel Peace Prize for Dissident Liu Has China Warning Norway on Relations“, Bloomberg

Financial Humour: AIG, AIA IPO, HK$18.38 to $HK19.68

Monday, 4 October, 2010

You have to know a little bit of Chinese and Chinese culture to appreciate the unintended humour or comedy in this Bloomberg headline and story, “AIG Said to Offer AIA Stock at HK$18.38 to $HK19.68 in Initial Share Sale“.

Love to hear in the comments section if any readers also find this news funny.

P.S. I am normally not a betting man (unless the odds are with me), in this case, I am willing to bet $10 that, within the about IPO price range, there will at least be two prices that will NOT be used. :)

2010 CIFF Picks: A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop (三槍拍案驚奇)

Sunday, 29 August, 2010

Another one of my 2010 Calgary International Film Festival Picks: A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop (三槍拍案驚奇) (CIFF screening time)

The film is acclaimed Chinese director’s Zhang Yimou‘s remake of Coen brothers’s “Blood Simple” (1985). It should be an interesting movie going experience.

From Reuters (emphasis added),

“The first time I saw ‘Blood Simple’ I liked it immediately,” Zhang said. “It was a very cool film.”

Zhang said he had never met the Coen brothers but was in touch with them about the remake. He said he was delighted they sent him an email after seeing a copy of his film.

I got an email from them. I was very, very touched. They’d seen the film and they said they loved the remake. They said it was very amusing. They took the trouble to write and say they loved the way I changed things. I was very pleased by that.


Trailer of “Blood Simple”

Interpreting & Consecutive Interpretation – Y. P. Cheng (鄭仰平)

Monday, 12 July, 2010

Y.P. Cheng (鄭仰平), formerly Chief Conference Interpreter of Chinese Language Division with the Hong Kong government, is one of the Interpreters/translators that I admire the most, and I am looking forward to pick up a copy of his 《不在香港的日子》.

For the English readers, here are two book chapters (in English) by Y.P, “Consecutive Interpretation: How to Use Your Symbols Intelligently” by Y.P. from Google Books (pg 11-17) and “Interpreting by Y. P. Cheng (pg 464-471)“. And an interesting article from the HK government website.

For Chinese readers, check out this blog entry “鄭仰平 Y. P. Cheng《不在香港的日子》” for two Chinese newspaper articles about Y.P.

Interview with Lixin Fan, director of “Last Train Home”

Wednesday, 24 March, 2010

Last week I reviewed the wonderfully made documentary “Last Train Home” and highly recommended it. To celebrate the film’s screening at the prestigious Hong Kong International Film Festival on March 26th & 29th, the following is my email interview with the film director Lixin Fan. My questions are in bold, follow by his answers.

1) From what I could tell, the film was filmed, at least, in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Was I right? How many trips did you make to China and how many hours of raw footage did you end up shooting? What equipment did you use to shoot the film?

We’ve done seven filming in China ranging from a few months to a few weeks in the course of three years. We have roughly 300 hr of raw footage shot over three different cameras – DVCPRO 50, and then small handheld HD cameras Panasonic HVX-200 and Sony EX-1

2) How did you come to select the Zhang family to feature? Did you know them before? Were you worry, at any point, that they might pull out from the documentary project? Tell me more please.

I traveled to city of Guangzhou for my research where I visited many factories. I strolled around these factory neighborhoods and talked to the workers I met. I didn’t know the Zhangs before. When I first met the them, they were cautious about discussing their family lives, but I revisited them many times in the following weeks and we became friends. I wanted to film with them because I think their story of migrating for nearly two decades. Their story represents the lives of millions and also touches upon many complicated social issues that China is experiencing.

3) The scene where the parents fought with Qin was very hard to watch but ultimately very important to tell the story. Can you tell me what you were thinking at the time? Was it tough for you and the sound person to keep shooting?

The moment the father hit the daughter, I as in another room, my cameraman was shooting. I heard the shouting and came to the scene, and went into the frame to calm everyone down. A that point, I asked myself, shall I put down the camera or shall I capture this emotional moment to give the film a stronger narrative to reach a larger audience and eventually create changes? In such a conflict of ethics versus professionalism, everyone is challenged to make a sensible decision. I chose the greater good, but very importantly, not at the cost of creating harms. The Chinese believe that the world in which we live is not a world of black and white. As the Taoism’s yin and yang philosophy explains: every action creates a counteraction as a natural and unavoidable movement. Also, as the Taoijitu diagram shows, there is black in white, and also white in black.

4) Have all the family members in the film seen the film yet? If you have, what were their reactions? In particular, what was Qin’s reaction? If not, do you plan to show it to them?

I went back to Guangzhong at end of last year to show the film in Guangzhong Documentary Film Festival. The couple still works in that city. My crew member and I visited the Zhang couple again and wanted to show them the film (Qin is working in another province and I didn’t meet her.) The Zhangs couple is quite happy to see us coming back to visit, but they preferred to watch the film by themselves. I respected their choice and gave them a DVD of the film. After watching the film, the father told me it made him sad to watch three years of their life on the screen; and the mother told me till this day she still couldn’t understand why Qin hates them so much.

5) I understand your film will be premiering in Hong Kong International Film Festival and you will be attending the March 29th screening (which is sold out).
If my memory serves me, HKIFF will be your film’s Asia premiere, how do you feel about your film screening in Hong Kong,China?

I think it is a great honor to have Last Train Home to be premiered in the prestigious HKIFF. As a special part of China, freedom and democracy are more generously allowed than in mainland. HK is a city known as the financial power house for Asia therefor. It’s an important link in the global trade chain. I’m curious to see how would the HK audience find the film in their own context.

6) Do you keep in touch with the Zhang family? In particular, Qin? The film certainly ended on a note that the audiences are worried about Qin. And knowing how slippery that the slope she was standing, I am worried about her. Do you have an update on Qin?

Yes, I still keep a close relationship with the Zhang family. I often call the couple to ask about the updates in life and at work. The couple went back to the New Year this time. The mother told me that Yang (the boy) got a number one in his class this year. Monther spent eight month at home caring the boy and fields. The father told me business in their factory is picking up since the economic is bettered from last year. So, once again, both the mother and father are about to leave home for work after the New Year.

The mother also told me Qin called to say happy new year but she didn’t came back home. Apparently she found work in a hotel at a small city in Hubei province. She’s 20 years of age this year, and I think she is definitely claiming her independence from her parents now.

7) I may have other followup questions, but I will start with the above questions for now. Thanks a lot for answering my questions.

If I may add one small thing in the end, I’m working on my next film which is on environmental issues in China. China is currently building a Wind Farm on Gobi desert and aim to complete the project in the next 10 years. The wind energy produced by the Wind Farm is going to be exceed that of Three Gorges Dam, and therefore, named “Three Gorges on Land.” Besides documenting China’s effort to focus on and implement green energies, I want to explore the balance between industrial development and nature sustainability through the philosophy of Taoism; for example, how much control human should place on nature; how far we can go in developing our society as the expense of exploiting the environment, etc

After Google.cn & Google.com.hk, What will Microsoft do in China?

Tuesday, 23 March, 2010

By now, you may have all heard or read about Google’s new approach to China. What we don’t know is what would other search engines in China will do?

In the editorial of one of the most widely read newspaper Apple Daily in Hong Kong “蘋論:好馬.聰明馬.草泥馬 – 李怡 – 2010年03月24日“, one sentence got my attention.

“此外,北京高官透露,中國已私下和微軟達成共識,只要微軟的搜索引擎 Bing遵守中國法律,中國將會扶持 Bing取代谷歌在中國的地位。”

Here is my English translation,

Furthermore, according to a senior Beijing government official, Chinese government has privately reached a consensus with Microsoft. As long as Microsoft’s search engine Bing abides by Chinese law, China will support Bing to replace Google in China.

If the above editorial report is correct, it shows Microsoft is willing to do anything for a few bucks. Borrowing the sentiment of the author of the Apple Daily editorial 蘋論, I want to say “草泥馬 “Grass Mud Horse”” to Microsoft.

P.S. For those that can read Chinese, I’ve reposted the full Apple Daily editorial at the bottom of this post.

“Last Train Home” Review – 130 million Chinese migrant workers making inexpensive “Made in China” goods possible

Thursday, 18 March, 2010

"Last Train Home" Review - pix 1

The 2010 Sundance & SXSW screened and award-winning documentary “Last Train Home” is starting its screenings at Calgary Globe theatre tomorrow Friday March 19, 2010. The film will also be screened in the HKIFF on March 26th & 29th.

To me, Last Train Home indirectly exposed to us the heart, soul & meaning of those inexpensive “Made in China” goods and the human cost/impact of these goods through the eyes of one Chinese migrant family. Last Train Home is a film that I greatly enjoyed and found extremely touching and insightful.

In the beginning of the film, the viewers are informed that,

There are over 130 million migrant workers in China. They go home only once a year, during Chinese New Year. This is the world’s largest human migration.

Last Train Home is the debut film by Chinese-Canadian director Lixin Fan and he has done a wonderful job in telling an emotionally engaging story and the film was beautifully shot. As a documentary filmmaker myself, I watched the film three times over different days before I write this review. And I enjoyed the film more as I watched it.

I came away with the intense feeling that it is the Chinese migrant workers’ rights to improve their living standards, no matter how harsh it may seem to us Westerners. Yes, it came with a price, sometimes the prices can be very high. But, as I get older, I am reluctant to be judgemental and pronounce the western ways are the “best” for Chinese or other citizens of the world. There isn’t a single way to pursue a better life.

A great documentary makes us think and want to talk about the various issues discussed or not discussed in the film and it will make us care about the people in the film. Using these yardsticks, Last Train Home has succeeded and is definitely a great documentary. By chance, the film included one of the worst winters in recent Chinese New Years where train and bus services were seriously disrupted. And that added some urgency into the film.

There is one scene (when the parents had an argument with their child) in the film that shaken and touched me at the same time. As a documentary filmmaker, I kept asking myself, what would I have done if I were filming in the same situation? I finally came to the “uneasy” but “responsible” rationale that supported my instinct. I would have done the same thing and kept filming like Lixin. There was a story to be told and because of the trusting relationship that was built over months, it was ok to keep shooting.

By the way, please see the bottom of this blog entry where you can read an excerpted analysis/discussion by my economist friend Dr. Zhaofeng Xue (薛兆丰) about the problems associated with the Chinese New Year transportation nightmares (“春运综合症”).

Here is an excerpt from the synopsis of the film,

Every spring, China’s cities are plunged into chaos, as all at once, a tidal wave of humanity attempts to return home by train. It is the Chinese New Year. The wave is made up of millions of migrant factory workers. The homes they seek are the rural villages and families they left behind to seek work in the booming coastal cities. It is an epic spectacle that tells us much about China, a country discarding traditional ways as it hurtles towards modernity and global economic dominance.

Last Train Home, an emotionally engaging and visually beautiful debut film from Chinese-Canadian director Lixin Fan, draws us into the fractured lives of a single migrant family caught up in this desperate annual migration.

Here is a trailer of the film for the famous SXSW,


Economics analysis/discussion re chaos with train transportations around the Chinese New Years (“春运综合症”)

My friend Dr. Zhaofeng Xue (薛兆丰) has written for more than 10 years about the problems associated with the Chinese New Year transportation nightmares. In Feb 2010, he wrote about this topic again in this Chinese blog entry, “火车票低价造成了举国浪费“. Very insightful stuff if you read Chinese. Here is an excerpt,

“[低票价造成举国浪费] 火车票价不够高,其经济之恶,是那些用于排长队、拨电话、托关系、找黄牛、扫黄牛所耗费的努力,数以千万人的精疲力竭的努力,从整个社会上看,是被白白消耗掉的。如果这些人这段时间的努力,是用于通过他们的专业技能来服务他人,然后再把赚到的钱用以竞争火车票,那么这些乘客在争得火车票的同时,其努力也造福了其他人,也转化成了社会的财富。但现在的情况是,火车票以低价销售,人们靠排队来竞争。这种分配方式,必然引发利己不利人的资源耗散,而这种资源耗散只有通过提高票价才能消除。应该认识到,讨论火车票价问题并非“你比较重视效率就赞成提价、我比较重视公平就反对提价”的主观问题,而是一个如何消除社会浪费的客观问题。”

Zhaofeng received his Phd from George Mason University and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Northwestern University School of Law. Here is a link to my congratulatory message to Zhaofeng when his book about antitrust was published in 2008.

"Last Train Home" Review - pix 2

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Has Lao Zi (老子) said this?

Sunday, 21 February, 2010

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”Lao Zi (老子) (???)

I love good quotes and I have posted a collection of quotes I love to share and new quotes are being added to it constantly.

I was going to add the above quote to my collection. But before I add it and since I can read and understand Chinese, I decided to check and do a bit of research to confirm.

Well, I found this translation and its cited source (Ch 27) at Wikiquote. After reading the Chinese source reference (Ch 27.01 “善行   無轍跡。”), I am starting to doubt if the translator got the translation right. In short, the translator may have gone too far so I am reluctant to go on a stretch with him.

So while

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”

sounds deep, cute, and even fit my temperament, I don’t think Lao Zi (老子) ever said it. And I am more incline to go with the translation of

Ch 27.01 “善行   無轍跡。”


Ch 27.01 “A good traveller leaves no traces.”

China’s Unnatural Disaster should win Oscar Documentary Short (My tears and The Tears of Sichuan Province flowed like a river)

Tuesday, 16 February, 2010

Oscar Documentary Short: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

Oscar Documentary Short: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

Oscar Documentary Short : China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province was nominated for Oscar Documentary Short and should win, if nothing other than allowing humanity a chance to bare witness of the pain the Sichuan parents suffered and still suffer in this unnatural disaster. The suffering is ongoing because all levels of Chinese governments have refused to conduct proper investigations and punish the government officials and business people who were responsible for “the deaths of many children, often due to the collapse of their shoddily constructed schools“.

Here is part of a LA Times review (emphasis added),

As all over Sichuan Province, schools filled with students collapsed while other buildings remained standing, grief-stricken parents demanded help from the government, help that never came. First emergency teams were routed away from smaller towns and villages where parents could hear children crying for help from beneath the debris. A fortunate few were able to actually dig their children out, others eventually found the corpses of their children (and were told to bury them themselves) but many were left with only the heaps of brick and dust to serve as a mass grave.

In life, there are horrific events that happened and it was too late or we are too remote to have anything influence, but if we are to progress as a human race, we have to at least bare witness to what had happened. To me, what I saw in the documentary counted as one of those moment.

To me, it is well-made and insightful documentaries like China’s Unnatural Disaster that give me the energy and inspiration to tell stories that are interesting/important to me.

By the way, someone has posted the program up. And I hope HBO will not take it down.

P.S. For people who think China has rule of law and their court cases can be adjudicated fairly, I want to remind them their protection under the law is as thin as how their cases are viewed by the “powerful” and if their cases are remotely related to any sensitive topics (including corrupt acts by government officials and business people).

Happy Chinese New Year of Tiger (Our Lunch & V-Day dinner)

Sunday, 14 February, 2010

Wishing everyone a happy Chinese New Year of Tiger.






2010 V-Day and Chinese New Year dinner

Banana & blueberry muffin


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