Saturday, March 12, 2011

Various Pieces of Unsettling News

  1. You may have heard of the Great Firewall of China, a collection of various web-filtering technologies which prevents me from accessing such internet time-wasters as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and pornography. It is one of the great centerpieces of China’s information control and surveillance apparatus which hangs over all public discourse in China. It’s also a pain in my ass.

    There are, fortunately, certain technologies which can be used to circumvent the law, so that the great firewall generally presents no more difficulty to me than the real Great Wall poses to Shan Yu. (That’s the primary antagonist of Mulan, for those of you not intimately familiar with the characters of late-90’s Disney films, except for the ones voiced by Eddie Murphy, because everyone remembers him.)

    Unfortunately, China seems to have stepped up its game over the past few days, and so my access to the above websites has been as inconsistent as Captain Li Shang’s feelings towards the soldiers under his command. (See above.) I have found a fix that allows me to access my favorite American sites, but I do not know how long that will last. I only have four more months in China, but I really hope that I manage to stay one step ahead of the Chinese censors, if only because my students keep inviting me to play Crime City and I hate to disappoint them.

  2. My students seem to think that I’ve gotten dumber. That is the impression I got from their response to my attempt to write a Chinese character during class yesterday. One of the teams in a game we were playing wanted to change their name from Team 2 (heaven knows why) to Team èr, that is, the Chinese word for “two”. So I erased the numeral two and wrote 二 in it’s place. The students responded with applause.

    Now, it should be obvious to you that 二 means “two”. Obvious because 二 is literally the second-easiest character in the book (i.e. the dictionary). So, my students, some of whom have seen me speak Chinese on occasion, now believe that writing 二 is an applause-worthy feat. Perhaps they fear my brain has been addled by my moustache.

  3. I scheduled a meeting with a student for this weekend, and after confirming the location and time, she texted me, “OK! I hope it will not be disturbing!”

    I also hope not. Unless she’s planning a surreal Lynchian spectacle in place of the TOEFL prep I was anticipating, my sense is that we’ll probably be fine.