Poem of the Week

In the utter silence
Of a temple,
A cicada’s voice alone
Penetrates the rocks.

Haiku by Basho

Since my friend Sandra has been posting photos of cicadas on her Facebook page all weekend, and since we had cicadas for dinner last week, I thought this apropos.

About these ads

Keys of the Kingdom


In Keys of the Kingdom, Gregory Peck plays Father Chisolm, a young, humble, authentic priest who is sent to China after a lack of success in his home of Scotland. His mentor, a bishop feels Fr. Chisolm will thrive in China.

The story’s told in flashback. It begins with an old Fr. Chisolm getting reprimanded and told his unorthodox teachings are forcing him to be removed from his hometown parish. The bishop who makes this threat is staying at Chisolm’s rectory. Before he goes to sleep, he picks up Fr. Chisolm’s memoirs and reads of his extraordinary life.

Chisolm’s father and mother were killed in a riot against Catholics. He’s brought up by and aunt and almost marries as a young adult but circumstances lead him to stick with his choice of the priesthood. As a young priest, his parishioners don’t appreciate his questioning and some of his theology. His mentor has a hunch that Fr. Chisolm would be right for a deserted mission in China.

When Fr. Chisolm arrives in rural China, every believer has left as they really only came for the free rice. The church is in ruins. Slowly, Fr. Chisolm rebuilds and stays true to his principles and beliefs even if it means losing the church or being treated like an inferior by a haughty former classmate.

At one point the political climate in China shifts and warlords threaten the mission.

I found the movie compelling and was better than average for avoiding the stereotypes so common in the 1940s. His performance is carries the film and I would never have guessed it was Peck’s second film. It seemed like a biography, but apparently it’s based on a novel, not a real life.

My only complaint is I wish they hadn’t skipped through the years of turmoil and war in China. They show early 20th century violence, but explain and show little of the revolution that erupted. The film jumps from one attack when Fr. Chisolm was probably in his late 30s to Chisolm as an old man. By weaving in Fr. Chisolm’s ecumenical beliefs and his strong friendship with an atheist, the film feels modern.

Gosford Park, No Downton Abbey


I began watching Julien Fellows’ Gosford Park with high hopes. After all, I love Downton Abbey and Fellows won the Oscar for this screenplay.

I was disappointed. Sorely. Despite an all star cast, Gosford Park lacked a single character I found charming or likable. There was one Scottish maid who seemed mousy but nice. She wasn’t enough to carry a film of this length. The characters all came off as cold, greedy and indolent. The upperclass people spent money like water and had nothing but disdain for each other and got no joy from their money.

The downstairs servants weren’t much better. Though not as spoiled they were all out for themselves in a different way. No warmth at all. They just wanted to get their work done with as little fuss as possible. Anyone who upset their system was glared and scoffed at.

One theme that rose was how the servants felt overshadowed by their employers. I can see that, but the grass isn’t always greener. If they worked in offices, their lives would also be precarious and as one of my new colleagues asserts if you work for one company for a long time, that company forms your identity to a great extent. So if they traded their apron for a factory uniform it’s not sure that they’d be happier or more secure.

Sexual harassment was rampant as the lord of the manor couldn’t keep his hands to himself, but in a store, office or factory women run into that too.

For the first 75 minutes we see rich people bicker, whinge and finagle for money. Then the plot picks up when the lord who’s a churl gets murdered. Yet the investigation is so incompetently carried out that I just couldn’t buy it. In the end we do learn who did it, but by then I barely cared.

Fellows sure deepened his understanding about character and plot by the time he started Downton Abbey.

Theme Day: Ruined and Rusty


Rusty indeed.

Originally posted on Beijing Daily Photo 2:

National Museum

National Museum

Each month City Daily Photo bloggers post a photo that’s inspired by the group’s theme. This September the theme is Rusted and Ruined. The bronze above certainly is rusted. Some might argue that it’s not ruined, but I wouldn’t use it. It’s a ceremonial vessel called a ding.

If you’d like to see more rusted and ruined photos, click here.

View original

Silent Sunday

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 10.48.38 PM

Siberling Mansion Kokomo Indiana

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialog

Thai temple, Buddhist guardian

Thai temple, Buddhist guardian

At Chion Temple, Kyoto Japan

At Chion Temple, Kyoto Japan

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced. 2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag. 3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Other great photos:

Related articles

If You Come to China

Remember to always look at the pavement, since so much of it is uneven or broken. If you don’t you might sprain your ankle as I did Thurs.

Now you also have to constantly keep your eyes peeled for electric bikes, regular bikes and cars that are driving where they shouldn’t. It’s a wonder this is the first time I’ve injured myself.

I’ve been hoping around a lot and trying to stay off it. My student assistant was busy so she arranged, as she seems to always do, for my previous student assistant to help me communicate at the clinic. There the doctor said to get an “atomizer” and and ace bandage. The nearest pharmacy didn’t have ace bandages or anything like that. The box for the atomizer seemed odd so I didn’t bother with that. I did get some hot pads, which have helped and Annie, my former student assistant, came by with an “atomizer,” which is a spray that seems more of a placebo than anything else. It’s a spray with a very medicinal odor. It doesn’t seem to numb the pain, which is subsiding with time anyway.

I’ll be fine. I can’t walk around much for the time being though. The doctor said that it should take 100 days to heal. I’m hoping it’s a couple weeks at most. A hundred days seems like folk medicine.

More on the Desks

When I contacted Foreign Affairs about the desks and the tradition I got this response:

It is wrong to write on the desks, and it has nothing to do with any tradition.
I’ve forwarded your two emails to Ms. Wu, and she has talked about it with the related administrator. About the photos you sent me in previous email, we were told that these desks were sorted out from old classrooms, the writings were there before the classroom was painted. But they’re going to erase them from the desks.

You are completely right. It is every teacher’s responsibility to stop this bad habit and educate the students involved. All students should be told to keep their classrooms clean and tidy. Thank you for helping us supervise and correct this behavior.

I don’t doubt my friend’s explanation about Mr. Xun’s writing, I just think China’s moved past this and that most people realize that it’s nice to have a clean, well kept work environment.

If you want to doodle, get some paper.

All About Eve


Starring Bette Davis, All About Eve is a classic, yet I’d never seen it — till now. It’s a captivating film about a veteran actress and her circle of theater friends. They’re a jaunty bunch, witty and rather insular. I doubt they know anyone who isn’t in the theater. It’s a happy group though till Eve, a young fan of Margo Channing, the big star, is spotted near the stage door. Margo’s friend is struck by Eve’s persistence and apparent innocence. Before you know it, the group takes Eve into their circle as an adoring fan cum servant.

The problem is Eve’s rather obsessive and driven, she plots to take Margo’s place in the stars, to supplant her favorite actress both professionally and romantically by stealing Margo’s boyfriend. Eve’s psychopathic and manipulative managing for a time to fool everyone but Margo. Eve was wooden and scary. It’s troubling that she got the success she got. The dialog’s snappy and the acting good. Thus even though there weren’t any characters I’d like to know, the film kept my attention from start to finish.

About the Defaced Desks

Earlier this week I wrote about how some students wrote all over their desks with markers or pens and how upsetting I found that. A Chinese friend, who’s sympathetic to my outlook responded with this explanation:

I’m not surprised by what those kids did, but still I feel really angry at their behaviour.

Literally in Chinese we name these students’ daubs and drawings on desks as student desks culture. You can see this nearly on every school, from elementary schools to universities. I guess many students develop this kind of bad habit when they’re learning at elementary schools. There used to be an article in our elementary textbook, describing a story about a famous writer in China named Lu Xun. It said that Lu Xun once went late for his class, and he got criticized by his lecturer. Then Lu Xun carved a character 早 on his desk, which means ‘early’ in Chinese. From then on, Lu Xun never got late for school. This story intends to make pupils learn the importance of being punctual, but it turns out many students learnt the other thing instead.

Influenced by this story, many students carved 早 on their own desks, and this is the beginning of student desks culture. When the students go to high school, they might feel it’s too naive to carve just one character on their desks, so they start to present more creation. And this continues in universities.

I just searched on the internet and found out that the story about Lu Xun are no longer available in elementary textbooks. However, it seems this story is still very popular, and many teachers encourage their students to read this story. Then, still I guess many kids learn from their elder brothers and sisters, defacing desks in schools. It seems that this has become a tradition for many students, and that’s why the student desks culture are so popular in China. But I feel this is a real great shame.

I don’t think there is much we can do. I just hope many students can realize later that their behaviour isn’t moral. Student desks culture cannot be changed in one day.

Hmm. I never dreamed this would be ingrained behavior from a famous person. I wish they’d emulate people who were extra tidy or generous.

Previous Older Entries


Dear Fellows, The State Department has requested that any Fellows who maintain their own blog or website please post the following disclaimer on your site: "This website is not an official U.S. Department of State website. The views and information presented are the English Language Fellows' own and do not represent the English Language Fellow Program or the U.S. Department of State." We appreciate your cooperation. Site Meter

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 792 other followers

%d bloggers like this: