Sunday, April 29, 2007

300407

Xi Ning is having its annual ‘Tulip Festival!’ Thus, real flowers, and the not-so-real larger than life flowers everywhere! Yesterday, just a perfect day in this city 2,200M / 7,300ft. ASL.: clear, sunny but cool.

The following SMS message (via mobile) from a Chinese friend:

“In the spring crosses like this happily: Gives birth for the first time smiles (^o^) to rest (- _-) to be in a daze gently (*_*) to feel relieved (@_@) drunk naively every day joyful! Creates the miracle together!”

We spent the day getting Zhang faju’s (our new employee) bicycle ready (XTRicha’s Giant of old). She, who has never cycled much, is going with us on this 1,000K KM trip (around the lake). I admire her courage, a 28-year old Han Chinese woman (lucky no husband or children to look after).

But, we had a heck of a time getting the ‘old’ (10,000KM) Giant bicycle going right. It required a new ‘cassette’ and chain.

Also, at Wangguo_____ Cycling Club we met two Chinese men from Beijing and Shanghai wanting to cycle around the lake. So, they’re going with us. This trip should be interesting, as our first to ‘guide!’

Of course, the ‘real’ ‘Tulip Festival’ is in Holland, the largest flower market in the world!

I wonder if Holland, one of the cities, would like to become a ‘sister city’ to Xi Ning, China?

Today, we begin our one-week long vacation (May Day vacation week in China) cycling out to Qinghai Lake. I’m excited, as this is where I want to live! It’s up at 3,300M or almost 11,000ft. Above Sea Level!

In cities… We just ‘exist,’ running around chasing the dollar madly! When you get ‘out of the shit,’ you begin to ‘live!’

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

220407 (Sunday)

What a wonderful day ('Earth Day')! After rain yesterday, or was it the day before (I get lost…Where am I?), it dawned clear and cool… Sunday it was.

We cycled early to meet Yao Guo Hui and his group, as we'd been invited to cycle out to Qinghai University. The WCC (Wangguozhang Cycling Club) Bicycle Race is next Saturday (280307). Yao, needed to go for a 'dress rehearsal,' but no one had informed me (full of surprises the Chinese).

Here I was cycling with young men all of them on the latest, lightest, fastest bicycle, and me on a heavy Ms. Fiets. I'm forty years older than the oldest (Yao is 27-years old). But, although I brought up the rear most of the time, I managed to get there without holding anyone up too long. Yao, being kind, stopped several times to make sure the group knew which way to go (and see if the old guy was still with them).

At Q.U., we congregated at the basketball courts, while Yao had a meeting with University officials.

XTRicha played basketball with a group of students, so I decided to 'capture' (on video). At one point the ball came to me! Thus, I took the first 'shot' at the hoop in twenty years! Of course, I missed the entire backboard! What a strange feeling, the ball, 'shooting' at a metal rim ten-feet above the ground. Basketball was my sport in high school, but now the ball felt like a lead balloon!

Note: I've given up all sports except cycling and trekking.

Would you believe they were playing Enya over the loudspeakers! And I'm not talking about Tucson, Arizona, where I went to high school and played basketball, but Xi Ning, Qinghai Province, China! Sometimes the incongruity of it all overwhelms me! I feel like I'm living in the movie of my life!

Turns out the 22nd was 'Earth Day!' Thus, the square was full of student art commemorating the event.

And then after more discussion at the start/finish line, we were off around the 'race course!' Try riding a bicycle with fifty others one-handed, trying to get POV footage--'fengle' ('crazy' in Chinese: 疯狂). But, I didn't fall, and the course mostly lumpy, bumpy and sometimes muddy! One can only guess what the 'footage' looks like, as I haven't screened it yet.

After one lap (there are six in the race) I stopped at the start/finish line, to record the racers (mostly XTRicha) passing. But, some technical problem prevented this (had run out of tape). So, I took some 'stills.' And one was an image of the group (see in 'Gallery: 'Cycling in Qinghai, 2007').

Afterwards we followed Yao Guo Hei back into Xi Ning (some ten kilometers) for lunch. Of course, the kids raced back while I brought up the rear…again…taking my time. But, this time a nice Chinese kid wearing cycling shorts, with the skinniest legs stayed with me. Chinese youngsters are so respectful of age; they make you feel like some kind of celebrity.

Earlier while waiting for Yao and the meeting to conclude, a Chinese couple wanted a picture taken with me! For what reason did they want a photograph with me? Only because I'm an American! First, a photograph with the girl, and then her boyfriend. This is what makes me feel like you'll Paul Newman (in China)! But, only because I'm 'laowai' (foreigner), not because I'm a famous movie star. They assume I am 'Paul Newman!' I don't bother to tell them I'm 'not famous!'

Note: I learned this long ago, at the British Open Golf in… Where was it…? Maybe Prestwick, where kids would ask us for autographs (mistaking us for golfers). At first, I tried to explain to them, but then I realized this only disappointed. So, I just complied and signed my name when they asked.

Actually, I once worked with Paul Newman, a guy who's given many an autograph! As it were it wasn't a movie, but a segment for CBS Sports. And talk about crazy, this was another example of some of the weird things that happened to me in those days of network television.

I had met a guy through a girlfriend, a woman named Lee Arthur (the first woman sportscaster in America: KDKA/2 in Pittsburgh, 1973 -- another great tale!).

She had introduced me to an erstwhile producer from Florida we dubbed 'the orange cowboy!' Actually, he was a rich kid, whose 'daddy' was in real estate while son yearned for 'show biz!' But, he knew the owner of the Ferrari Dealership in Connecticut (his name will come to me).

Together the three of us concocted an idea where Paul, whose hobby was motorcar racing, would go for a speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Amazingly, it all came about in some incongruous way which I'll never understand (he risked his life for a record). For one thing Paul lives in a converted barn, in Connecticut (not far from the Ferrari Dealership). Who knows for another, as the ego is a powerful thing (we all want to be in some record book, even Paul Newman)?

So, there we were out in the middle of nowhere with Paul Newman, several Ferraris and a film crew. I've always been a fan of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and polygamy, but had time for neither on this 'shoot.' I remember Bud Morgan; an old ABC Sports colleague was along as the CBS producer (we were just the 'independent nobodies').

I remember Paul being 'deadly' serious about what he was doing, and rightly so, as the 'souped-up' Ferrari we brought would do 200MPH (at 16,000RMM). As it were, there was car trouble, and for some reason it never got above 150MPH (slow for a Ferrari), thus Paul didn't break any records! Nor, did he buy one as was hoped for. But, CBS got much publicity out of it, and the ratings were high!

TV is all about ratings, and money! It's a selling medium, not an entertainment medium.

Then there's the story about Lee Arthur and me, and working at KDKA in Pittsburgh.

Lee Arthur was originally from Indiana, I think…? She'd come to N.Y.C. to pursue a career in show biz! But, she was an avid sports fan, and had met a colleague of mine, Chet Forte who was a producer at ABC.

Chet and I couldn't have been more different! He was an Italian guy from New Jersey, who lived with his mother. Chet was a 'high-roller' a big gambler, who had the strangest habit of tearing up new clothing he'd just purchased. I remember this vividly the first time I ever witnessed in Madison, Wisconsin, where we were televising a football game.

Anyway, Chet and Lee was 'an item' for a long time. How I got involved, was interesting, as I was never attracted to her. I'd gone to a Knicks basketball game at the Garden. These, complimentary seats of course as ABC Sports commanded much in those days. Lo and behold when we got to our seats two women occupied them, Lee Arthur being one. We made them move! They moved right behind us, and after the game we went somewhere for a drink. The rest is history, as I ended up living with her in her penthouse apartment on E. 52nd Street (Sutton Place).

But, the strangest of all things during our 'relationship'… Whenever the Chairman of the Board, of Warner Pictures was in town, she was his 'date.' I wish I could remember his name…? I just thought of it amazing myself (I have actually an incredible memory!), Ted Ashley! I was jealous, as she'd disappear for several days!

Later, she took a job at KDKA/2 in Pittsburgh; the first female sportscaster in America! You have to remember (maybe you can't), but sports TV in those days (early 1970s) was dominated by males (very chauvinistic). Thus, for a woman to 'break through' she had to endure all kinds of abuse. Poor Lee, used to call me in tears!

One day she called me and asked if I like a job 'shooting news 'footage?' This intrigued me, as I never had, never had 'shot' any 16MM film before (in those days film not tape). Why would they hire me? Their cameramen had gone on strike, and they needed people, any people. Plus, Lee had built me up as being some kind of 'hot rock shooter,' from New York City! I remember calling my friend Michael McCallum, and asking him if he'd like to come along? He too had never 'shot' any 16MM film, much less 'shooting' news.

We decided to go and take a chance! ('Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all!' Helen Keller).

So, we arrive in Pittsburgh and were picked up at the airport. They put us up in a hotel, and fed us! We hadn’t done a thing! Somewhat apprehensive we formulate a plan—like, how are we going to pull this off?

The next morning we go into the station, to meet the News Director a guy named Bill Aber. We were warmly welcomed, as two of ‘New York’s finest!’ I asked him what kind of cameras they were using? CP-16s, the latest ‘single system’ (audio recorded on film mag. Strip). Haughty, we informed him, we ‘hadn’t used these for sometime, as in N.Y.C., news crews had gone to camcorders (video).’ Since ‘rusty,’ with film we’d need some help ‘remembering.’ A reasonable request, so off we went to examine the equipment.

Part of our plan was for each of us to learn different things, me how to load a magazine, and Michael, how to operate the camera. After Bill showed me how to load a magazine with used film (exposed), I stayed to practice for about an hour. Note, you have to load a film magazine in the dark, either a room, or on location in a ‘black bag.’ It’s by ‘feel.’

Back at the motel that night, I practiced loading in a ‘black bag,’ plus Michael filled me in on the camera. We had God knows how much equipment in the room, worth thousands, without even a signature. But, we weren’t there to steal it!

The next morning each of us got an assignment (you go with a reporter). I’ll never forget mine, an interview in an office requiring lights. Note, this film only had an ASA rating of 25 (reversal, not negative film). Thus, I had to ‘hump up,’ much lighting equipment (not like now, with lightweight digital camcorders).

Once exposed, of course, you have to have film processed. Thus, after the interview I took it to their lab, and did something no other photographer ever does… I waited! I was so anxious to see if there was any image. In those days, 30+ years ago, these ‘machines,’ were pretty amazing, as you fed the exposed film in one end, and out the other (25M distance), it came and into a glass box (drier), winding onto a spool—the entire process taking but one hour.

I waited with high anticipation, an ‘expectant mother,’ as this was the first 16MM film I’d ever ‘shot.’ And if it hadn’t come out right, I’d have to explain, and then one thing leads to another, and I could had my ‘shooting’ film career cut short.

In the drier (the glass box at the delivering end) the film winds up and down a meter or so, as the hot air dries it. So, there I was watching it, squatting and rising trying to follow the film on it’s up and down course! But, I can’t tell you the sense of joy and accomplishment I felt when I realized I’d pulled it off!

When Michael confirmed the same thing we went out to celebrate!

We ultimately became the ‘heroes’ of the ‘strike,’ and in the course, developing enough confidence to become professional cinematographers!

You have to take risks in life, if you want to gain confidence! In the case of KDKA we risked our reputations, to gain a little experience. But, after a few more of these kinds of situations, I let nothing stop me, including teaching myself how to write a screenplay (this took four years).

Today, at 67-years of age, I feel like I could do anything!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

180407

This has been a momentous week! www.haaqi.com was born officially on the 11th of April (2007)! We got the official documents and seal just yesterday, the 17th! This, after spending roughly 50,000RMB / $6,000U.S., and working on it for one year in China! Now, we can do business legally, but with the Chinese Government (like all) with one hand in our pockets!

This is the beginning of www.makemagictogether.com worldwide. First in China, then Europe, then who knows!

I always thought that China, because of its fast growing economy, would be the best country to launch in, but only time will tell. For, sure this is a different culture (way of thinking) than the West. Here they're into getting rich overnight, and that's just the opposite of our philosophy! Here young women get photographed naked, post these images on the Internet, and the following week get a lucrative contract to promote some product/corporation! They sell their souls to the Devil, without really understanding there will be a price to pay later! I'm afraid 'money has become God' everywhere in the world!

www.haaqi.com is all about helping people! Oh, how naïve we are! Our motto: 'We help realize your dreams!' We're all about 'giving,' rather than receiving! Oh, how naïve we are! 10% of our revenue (not profit) goes to benefit the less fortunate! Can we survive with this philosophy? Only time will tell!

Our next step is launching 'Haaqi's English Club,' these gatherings popular in China, as every young person wants to learn English (realizing it's the way to riches). Women can take off their clothes, men have to learn English!

These, and I've attended several in China, are informal gatherings where people speak English

Yesterday, we went with Chen Xing Zhi, a woman on our Board, to check out classrooms to rent. This at Qinghai Nationality University. This was the best place we're seen so far, a little campus, with modern and clean facilities for a reasonable price (small classroom 30RMB / $4.50U.S. per hour).

Departing Chen introduced us to a Chinese couple, the man speaking good English (studying for a Master's Degree). So, I immediately asked for his contact information as I'm looking for a good translator. (Wu Xue Peng went the way of chasing a woman!). His Chinese name is Yang hongxing. But, his English name is 'Adam.' Already I've sent him something to translate our first 'press release:'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE!

www.haaqi.com, a WEB-based talent-development business was registered in Xi Ning, Qinghai Province, this past week (11 April 2007)!

'We heeded president Hu's request to help develop the western part of China, so overlooked,' said F.A. Hutchison, an American with 50-years experience in the entertainment industry.

' www.haaqi.com, will offer the less fortunate access to the entertainment industry, by providing professional training and exposure. Our fees for our 'academy' will be low comparatively. For those who have no money at all we will offer scholarships. Talent knows no economic class, and many very talented people in China live in remote villages with no idea or access to the industry they might help to develop.'

'China's biggest economic challenge is jobs!' continued Hutchison. Last year five million graduated from a University in China. Only 30% got jobs! We intend to build the entertainment industry in the West, and make Xi Ning the 'Hong Kong' (or 'Shanghai') of western China! There is much talent here, in fact all over China!

'We discovered the next Chinese 'Shirley Temple,' named Ling Ling, in Qing Shiqui Village 100KM northwest of Xi Ning. We plan to feature her in a series of TV commercials about the degrading Chinese environment,' Hutchison summed up.

'We help realize your dreams!' the motto of www.haaqi.com!

For additional information contact:

Xu Tan ('XTRicha'):

email: txutan@gmail.com

mobile: 139-9706-0331

www.haaqi.com in Xi Ning: 0971+821-9706

So, if you want to call us from the U.S. dial (after getting the International dial tone) 086+0971+821-9706.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

130407 Shenzhen

The following from an 'International Herald Tribune' article about how Thailand has banned 'youtube.com'

"This is not the first time Google's popular video-sharing service has been blocked from an entire society. Tehran blocked YouTube over, among other things, Borat, failing to find anything funny in Sacha Baron Cohen's portrayal of Iran's neighbor, Kazakhstan. In March a Turkish court ordered YouTube blocked for carrying material deemed insulting to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish state. In January India contemplated similar action over a clip of a pole-dancing Mahatma Gandhi."

Note: Thank God that you don't live in Iran, Thailand, or Turkey!

Governments everywhere, all the same, however… Always trying to control content to manipulate the masses! But, I think how stupid! They only create the opposite by doing so. More control, more curiosity! More curiosity, more ways invented to find out!

They (governments) take things too seriously besides! '…a pole-dancing Mahatma Gandhi,' too funny! Even Gandhiji would appreciate such! But, governments, by and large, are made up of stupid and unconscious people! So, you have to expect stupid behavior!

Speaking of 'stupidness,' after spending the morning with the 'T-shirt people' and having a nice lunch we returned to the hotel. YGH informed me we were 'moving.' I didn't understand, so I asked why (staying only one more night). Seems the T-shirt people had intervened and we are to pay less for rooms (wish they had done this when we checked in yesterday). But, in order to get a lesser rate we had to move, first checking out, and then re-registering.

This is where Asia is different from the West… Rules! Too many rules that are never questioned!

So, I packed up and waited for the call. Downstairs was the usual wait, as many forms are exchanged and new signatures required. Then the surprise! We get the same rooms back! I uttered 'fungla,' to Yao, which means 'crazy!' All the effort 'por nada!'

But, Yao Guo Hui is a good guy, and has taken care of me well. He just doesn't, at 27-years old, have much traveling experience. Plus, 'This is China!'

Westerners, we would have found out more about the situation, and not moved until we had to. But, here the populous is even more 'sheep like,' and do what they are told to do! They rarely question the rules! I remember D. Hussein warning me that, 'This is China!'

Knowledge has to do with your survival (what you don't know may kill you)! Knowledge with experience amounts to 'wisdom,' and has to do with other people's survival (consciousness)!

'And so it goes,' as K.V. would say… But, to what end I ask?

If there is an 'end,' we are at the 'beginning!' If the goal is 'God consciousness,' then I know we're at the 'beginning,' as man still animal like! But, some of us know!

Now, the 14th of April and our day to return to Xi Ning. Our flight departs at 1230. YGHui said we'd meet at 0730 for breakfast, but when he didn't knock on my door, I went down to have my 'complimentary breakfast.' I'm guessing he stayed out late, and may want to sleep, thus I didn't disturb him. Chinese young people are particularly solicitous of older 'laowai!' In fact, when I left dinner early the night before he walked me back to the hotel (something I don't really need).

Chinese breakfast is different than Western breakfast, but here in the Century Garden Hotel/Shenzhen, somewhat similar. Eastern China, those cities are near Hong Kong, and are more 'British;' are more Western, because of the geographic proximity.

But, the traditional Chinese breakfast more like our 'lunch,' as no cereal or sweets. Here, however, in the Prince Century Café, they had eggs (any style; normally just hard boiled), and French toast, coffee. I ended up with fried rice and watermelon!

When I first came to China two years ago I was surprised to discover Chinese people love watermelon. I'm not a big fan of watermelon, because of the seeds… If they were seedless! I have the same problem with oranges, seeds! This one of my many idiosyncrasies, as I like to eat sunflower and sesame seeds!

I must speak out in favor of this hotel, The Century Garden Business Hotel, if you're ever in Shenzhen. It had the 'best shower in all of China,' (room #9016) I'm the 'Duncan Hines' of Chinese hotels having stayed in over one hundred (all over the country). And of course, the closer you are to Hong Kong and Shanghai, the more western and expensive they are. This one the most expensive I've ever paid (you get what you pay for, right?)-- $50U.S. per night. But, in the West, you'd pay 3X as much for the same.

Speaking of room #9016, yesterday afternoon I was taking a nap in a chair, next to the window. Suddenly a man appeared waking me up. He dangled from a rope (boson's chair), a window washer. And no safety devices, just one hemp rope (not even nylon). A water hose had been lowered so he could rinse, thus it was like a 'storm' for a moment, banging, and a shower from a garden hose.

Modern life all too weird for me!

But, it's happening in China! You can feel it. Last night eating dinner in the restaurant, for example. Next to us a video crew 'shooting' a documentary, while on the TV screen (they're everywhere, children watching one in the breakfast room in front of me) a variety show from Beijing. The hustle and bustle reminds me of N.Y. City in the Sixties! Everyone is out to get rich, and live the 'good life!' Little do they know!

But, I understand the mentality of Chinese people… Oppressed for so long, now the 'genie is out of the bottle,' and impossible to put back in (capitalism)! Having to do without for so long, Chinese people now they want everything, and fast!

Fast, big, and loud China is in 2007! They love noise, thus it's natural to talk as if yelling! Xu Tan says this is because of mobile telephone (441 million in China), but I think more a cultural thing. The reason the blow up firecrackers regularly, especially during 'Spring Festival,' to frighten Nian away, this the lore of old.

'Nian' was a monster who came down from the mountain, and carried off children. He was afraid of two things: loud noise and the color red! So, guess what? 'Red China!' Everything is red here!

In fact, in front of me red 'skirting' around the table the buffet table covered in red cloth. Everyone wears red during 'Spring Festival.' Chinese women fond of red panties when wanting to get pregnant! The chairs are red here. 'Red China,' I never understood until living here!

You have to live in a culture to understand it. You just can't come for two weeks.

Most tourists come to China on a tour and go to all the tourist sites: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, the 'Great Wall,' Xi'an, Qin Shi Huang's (the first Emperor's) buried terra cotta army. They walk on 'The Bund,' eat Beijing duck, and have they're photograph taken at the 'Great Wall.'

Qin Shi Huang's buried army has been turned into 'Disneyland.' I didn't like it. Same with the 'Great Wall,' outside of Beijing.

China, mistakingly, is going down the same road the West took: gross materialism. Mao would be shocked!

'So it goes…' said Kurt Vonnegut!

Friday, April 13, 2007

120407 Shenzhen

Day number two of our sojourn to get bicycle sponsors (in this industrial and commercial city next to Hong Kong). It was Deng Xiaopeng's idea, Shenzhen.

Last night I was in bed by 1900 hours, but up at 0400 this morning. It's now 0600, and time to get ready for the day. We meet at 0700.

But, I'm still not feeling very strong! No coffee this morning helped. At least I don't feel 'strange,' just weak! However, I'll be happier when we've returned to Xi Ning.

Good news regarding www.haaqi.com from Xi Ning, looks like all the little problems have been solved, and we become 'real' this week! Gosh, after one year of trying!

I have a fatal amount of ambition! Silly boy! I want to start www.makemagictogether.com (www.haaqi.com the Chinese flavor) all over the world! How futile! But, I guess I could spend my time in worse ways! Actually, I'd rather ride my bike around the world! Plan to!

In the meantime, YGH shows up at 0700 only to tell me there's been a delay until 'later.' He invites me to go with him for breakfast. He eats chicken feet at 'Great Chicken,' restaurant, while I sip tea (definitely not into chicken feet).

We return to the hotel across the street after he buys me a can of herbal tea. Later I discover this is the latest Chinese version of sugar water.

Back at the hotel he informs me we're moving hotels. I return to my room to pack and go (the story of my life). Off we go to the Aragon Bicycle Company.

Note, I've kinda figured out where we are vis a vis Shenzhen as I have a good sense of location. We drive south and nearer the Pearl River Bay. But, I don't know really where we are… Just going with the flow…

On the seventh floor across from a 'Net Bar,' we meet the 'leader' (manager) another nice guy whose name I don't know (get cards but always in Chinese). YGH and he hit it off, having a long discussion (I can only guess what it's about). Occasionally, when I hear my name and they look at me, I know the subject. But, I sit quietly eat an apple, trying to act like I'm interested.

At one point, YGH thanks me and shakes my hand! I can only assume my presence has helped close the 'deal.'

After about an hour we move to the display room where I discover some unusual bicycles. Hollow carbon frames are 'in,' the bicycle business booming with a variety of new technology.

One bicycle I'm particularly interested in is a full-suspension bike with smaller wheels and only a rear derailleur (most have front and rear, like 'Ms. Fiets').

This guy, originally from Taiwan, turns out to be a distributor of German and Italian stuff, the one I’m interested in called 'Reach'(also the name 'Pacific Cycling' on the frame). I ask the price: 7,000RMB / 700 Euro / $850U.S. He also shows us a 'Birdy,' that folds completely up in a unique way. This costs around 5,000RMB / 500 Euro / $650U.S.

But, never you mind 'Ms. Fiets,' we'll be married forever! I only have eyes for you!

In the showroom there are all kinds of bicycle parts and equipment, and I happen to be examining a headlamp when Mr. Taiwan appears. The next thing I know he's giving this and a rear light to me as a gift! Now, these are two items I need and will use. He must be a mind reader. He also gives us (YGH and me) two Orbeca (Spanish bicycle) caps.

Back in the office, more talk, looking at WEB sites on his Acer laptop and brochures to take back to Xi Ning. I note how this guy's office is so clean and organized.

YGH tells me that this is a company run like a 'family,' The employees living and eating on the premises. I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not… Maybe O.K. for Asians, but not for Westerners. It, for me at least, would be like living in the 'Army!'

Asians are 'group' oriented, and westerners 'individually' oriented. I value my privacy which Du Kuan Liang, my landlord, doesn't understand (he barges right into my bedroom with the door closed).

I've discovered a 'connection' between China and Italy, one that doesn't take a genius to figure out! Marco Polo came to what is now called China in the 12th Century. I think he brought two things with him… Pasta (Chinese call noodles), and some language. I need to research both, but hear me out. I wonder when and how they started eating (loving) wheat noodles--that would resolve the first idea?

And the way they speak their languages is similar (loudly and with drama): The Chinese always add a vowel sound at the end of words! It's not Hutch, but Haqi. It's not Chin, but China. And a question is always with 'ma' at the end. If you listen to Chinese speak there are many: mas, das, las, bas, at the end of sentences. The Italians speak the same way with vowels at the end of words. Also, loudly and demonstratively! Therefore, I wonder if my second proposition is correct?

In America, Kurt Vonnegut died at the age of 84. I loved his writing, as unfettered as any in recent American history, no doubt using drugs (to free himself from convention):

"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies — 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.' "

"He also shared with Twain a profound pessimism. "Mark Twain," Vonnegut wrote in his 1991 book, "Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage," "finally stopped laughing at his own agony and that of those around him. He denounced life on this planet as a crock. He died."

And so I asked recently, 'why live? Why do we have a body?'

I know that 'the Garden' (Christian myth) symbolizes the birth of ego consciousness (distinction, duality, etc. the 'I'). But, why? To know God exists! But, then what? The idea is to develop to gain 'God consciousness,' the union of compassion and wisdom, unconditional love! Why? To overcome ourselves! To progress to a higher level! Right now, we're at the very beginning of this, of this development! But, Nature, God, the Tao know no time!

So, instead of grasping for more (of whatever) you might try going within, as this is the 'starting point' of the 'adventure' that leads to enlightenment. Knowing thyself! Few understand or dare!

Be different!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

100407

It’s a crazy world! Here we are at 30,000ft., between Xi’an and Shenzhen (China), and I’m composing this (on my battery operated Apple MacBook). Around me in this ‘Airbus A318’ (Shenzhen Airlines) a hundred plus Chinese people, eating, reading, talking, and watching a movie! I’m the only foreigner. Thus, I thought the aircraft a Boeing 737, but new and just looking like. There was the ‘clue,’ ‘new!’ There are probably no ‘new’ Boeing 737s!

China buys ‘Europe’ rather than ‘America,’ and maybe we should complain, as we buy everything Chinese! Note; there’s a huge trade deficit!

I sit across the aisle from two T. Buddhist monks, and say ‘Tashi Delek!’ to them! Ah, T. Buddhist monks beg on the streets of Xi Ning, then fly to Shenzhen in comfort! We live in a crazy world.

I’m traveling with Yao Guo Hui, a new Chinese friend who operates the Wangguozhang Cycling club in Xi Ning. We’re on our way to Shenzhen to meet four potential sponsors of ‘our’ June bicycle race. I came along to help.

In Xi’an we get out of the aircraft, take a bus to the terminal, and sit for an hour waiting (I use the toilet). YGH talks to his ‘seat partner,’ a Chinese woman who turns out to be a doctor.

The entire trip from #242 (our flat in Xi Ning) to bed in the Shenzhen hotel takes eight hours! Of course, on the train this would have taken 48 hours, and cycling would have taken at least one month (some 4,000KM)! I prefer to cycle! But, this is one of those short and fast business trips, so you fly!

This is the third time I’ve flown within China, and the first time on Shenzhen Airlines. All in all, the service is good; the security tight--although not as ‘degrading’ in the U.S. (you don’t have to take off your clothing). Best of all, there were few people in the terminal at Xi Ning.

At the Shenzhen airport we wait for YGH’s friend who’s picking us up. Here there are many more people! Yao must call, using his PDA, at least six times to locate the man/car picking us up!

I notice all the Chinese their eyes glued to their little screens. I wonder, what did we do before we had such technology? And I wonder what would happen if they suddenly didn’t work? Chaos!

We get off the Expressway (heading for ‘Zentral’ Shenzhen), and ‘snake’ our way through much construction (road and buildings). God knows where we are, this the ‘back way’ to wherever! I’m thinking I’d have a tough time finding my way ‘out of here!’ We traverse some bumpy dirt road, around buildings, and I’m living in a ‘movie!’ I have no idea where I am! Only, Planet Earth!

Oh, what a crazy world we have created!

Now (the next morning), I’m sitting in my #511 hotel room somewhere in Shenzhen, having coffee and chocolate (thanks Rotraut)! The ‘honking madness’ of Chinese streets below!

At 0900 I meet YGHui and we’re off to do the ‘shuck and jive!’

We are driven to the Xidesheng Bicycle Company. There we talk to the ‘leader’ (manager) for almost 90 minutes. I’m not feeling very well because of air travel and little sleep (if the truth be known cycling is a healthier way of moving through space). Additionally, I drank coffee in the morning (none of my special green herbal tea), and for some reason it’s not agreeing with me (feel weirdly weak). This ever since I was ill with the flu in January (weakened adrenal glands I’m guessing).

So, several times I’m drifting off into never-never land, trying to act interested in the endless Chinese conversation (boy, Chinese people are veritable talking machines). But, just being a ‘prop’ I feel like I’m helping the cause, the cycling ‘laowai!’

While I’m sitting there I get an idea for a movie script: a sex-comedy, involving two, an American and a Chinese person who trade ‘mouths!’ Thus, the American can speak Chinese like one, and the Chinese person sounds like s/he was born and raised in St. Louis. Since they both are in an intimate relationship, you can imagine the comedy from certain situations:

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT

Naked in bed after sex they (Chinese man and American woman) stare at each other in amazement.



American woman

(with Chinese mouth/accent)

The best ever!

Chinese man

(with American mouth)

American women are the best!

American woman

Hardly! Something has happened to me?

Chinese man

What?

American woman

This?

(pointing to her mouth)

I've become Chinese!

Chinese man

Magic!

American woman

(grabbing onto him)

It's you!

Chinese man

(trying to answer as she arouses him)

Don’t… you remember, oh… Don't… Stop?

American woman

The Monastery…

Chinese man

You wished…

American woman

The secret of…

(his mobile rings)

Chinese man

(it rings many times as he fumbles to locate, finally:)

'Hui ni hao!'

Daughter (of Chinese man)

(confused in Chinese)

Dad…?

Chinese man

(in Chinese with American accent)

Yes, it’s your father!

Daughter

C’mon, this is some joke! Put my father on!

Chinese man

(handing the mobile to the woman)

Talk to my daughter, she will believe you!

American woman

(with authentic Chinese accent)

Your father is here with me!

Daughter

So, may I talk with him?

American woman

(speaking Chinese)

Eh… We… We're in bed…

(trying to find a way to explain)

He, we… just had…

Daughter

(understanding)

Maybe this is not a good time…?

American woman

…No…

Anyway, that should give you some idea of the circumstances… A Chinese and American have exchanged 'mouths,' (able to speak the other's language like a native) by a strange set of circumstances (an ancient wish fulfilled in a Tibetan Monastery). I believe this might make an interesting cross-cultural 'sex comedy,' if only I can write. But, I'll no doubt need to collaborate with a Chinese writer.

The best part of today was lunch (this the highlight of your day when older)! The Xidesheng man took us and three others out to a western-style restaurant where they had quite a buffet. It was wonderful (even olives)!

I can tell you from having experience with restaurants all over the world, that the best are Chinese (the ones in China)! The only culture that might rival is France (but so expensive).

In China there are an 'army' of people to wait on you, and today it was particularly good (the service). The waitresses (hardly any waiters in China) don't even receive 'tips!' I should have left some money, as my lunch paid for, but I'm careful not to embarrass my host (it's not the custom to 'tip' here in China).

Speaking of 'armies,' next the Xidesheng man took us for a tour of their factory. Whereas in the West you might see a few equipment operators, here are hundreds of people doing things by hand! We observed how a carbon (material) bicycle frame is manufactured. I read later the company's brochure: they have 2,000 employees!

Here is an example of China's colossal manufacturing capacity in operation! I'd wanted to see it 'up close and personal,' and had the opportunity today. On the wall a poster which read in both Chinese and English:

'All Staff participation!

Strengthen management!

Pursue perfection!

Improve quality!'

I think maybe China is learning what Japan learned… Quality sells!

Then we went to their 'exhibition hall,' where all their bicycles are displayed (showcased). What's amazing is all the different models, types, and styles. There must have been over fifty different kinds of bicycles (including the kind that fold-up for travel).

In the showroom I had a nice conversation with the Chinese woman (Chelsea Gao) who lives in Switzerland, or did (now has moved back to Guangzhou to care for her aging parents). She and her husband live in Luzerne. What I wouldn't give to live in Luzerne, Switzerland! But, Switzerland so expensive! Maybe someday!

Later at their 'store,' (on the street) I discovered they even manufacture electric bicycle and all their own tires. This is called 'vertical integration.' They might even own rubber-tree plantations in southern China, for all I know.

The most expensive of all their 'regularl' bicycles was a 'mountain' bike for 5,500RMB / $700 U.S. In comparison, we paid 7,400RMB / $900 U.S. for Richa's custom built (mostly XTR Shimano) in Shanghai.

Yao Guo Hui was happy with our effort today! He seemed pleased about his contact with Xidesheng, and possibly their sponsorship (of our bicycle race). 'Gan de hao!' I told him, or 'Good job!' People need to hear when they do a good job!

And yet another day in the life of 'Haqi,' spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety!

Friday, April 06, 2007

060407 Xi Ning, Qinghai Province, China

Interesting, one of the most ‘influential’ persons in China is from the entertainment industry!


From: CHINA VIEW

April 02, 2007 14:02 Beijing Time


“Zhang Ziyi, a Chinese actress, "’lucky’ to be among most influential Chinese,” she says.


“HONG KONG, April 1 -- Upon returning home after completing a Hollywood production, Zhang Ziyi receives the news that she is nominated for "Most Influential Chinese in 2006" by ten major Chinese media sources.


"It's a great honor to me, but I have never thought of myself anything particularly outstanding," the actress, who starred in " Memoirs of a Geisha", told Phoenix TV recently.


In her mind, real heroes are those like scientific research workers who make great contributions to the world but remain unknown to the public. "For me, I just luckily live in a good time and have participated in many excellent productions. I'm growing up in those films," she said.


Many attribute her success to good luck. "Yes, that's true. My first role was offered by Zhang Yimou (in the film "The Road Home") , and Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" brought me world fame," she said. "But I cherish each chance and finish each piece of work with all my heart, so am I today. I don't think there is a shortcut to success, not at all."


After "Horsemen", her next film will again be a Hollywood produce, a Western love story in the 1960s. In that film, she will star opposite Korean actor Dong-Kun Jang and work with "The Lord of the Rings" team.


Why so many Hollywood directors are eager to work with her? Even she herself could not tell. Actually, she does not care much about whether it is a Hollywood produce or not. "The key is if it is attractive to me and if I have confidence and passion to do it," she said.


Zhang is much more careful when choosing a script now. A few days ago, she was offered a role of an immigration bureau interpreter. "The script is pretty interesting, but includes some racial discrimination information." She rejected immediately. "As a Chinese, I could not lose dignity."


When talking about the three most important Chinese directors in her life, Zhang said she has quite different feelings about each of them.


For Feng Xiaogang, director of "The Banquet", "he makes me a friend," she said. "He even tells me about his unhappiness. I like his directness, his personality, and he always gives me beautiful confirmation."


For Ang Lee, she said "he could be my life-long friend. It is not only because of the film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", which brought me fame and wealth, but more importantly, he let me know how to overcome difficulties."


As for Zhang Yimou, "we are buddies," she laughed.


When asked if the God would take away everything she possesses now - youth, beauty, wealth, health, love and family affection but let her keep one of them, which one will she keep?


"May I choose two of them love and family affection? " she asked. "If you can die in the arms of someone who loves you so dearly, isn't it another kind of happiness?"


I would say to Zhang Ziyi, when she includes ‘family affection,’ as one of the good things to possess, that this should be the ‘family of man’s affection!’


Do you know that the earth, and you on it, travel, almost 4.5KM / 3 million miles in a 24-hour period? Talk about movement… The earth is spinning at 1,000 MPH / 1,600KMPH (at the equator), plus the 3-million miles per day, spinning in a Galaxy at an unfathomable speed! And you think you’re stationary! No wonder we’re apt to get dizzy!


I watched ‘Hotel Rwanda,’ last night about the 1994 civil war between the Tutsis and the Hutu tribes in the African country where the Mountain Gorilla lives. Genocide, it helps to keep world population down!

Some history:


“For generations there has been polarity and rivalry between the two main ethnic groups of Rwanda: the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis. In the ultimate example of divide and rule, the Belgian colonists (1916-1962) treated the Tutsis as superior to the Hutus. From the late-1950s onwards, however, Hutus started taking over many of the former positions of Tutsis and enjoyed better jobs, social status and educational opportunities. Animosity and inter-ethnic conflict grew over subsequent decades resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and a huge exodus of Rwandans (primarily Tutsis) to neighbouring states.


“Recurrent ethnic tensions, compounded by a variety of political and socio-economic factors, created the tinderbox in which Hutu extremists were able to unleash the catastrophic genocide. Between April and July 1994, at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were brutally murdered in well-planned and coordinated attacks by what was one of the most efficient killing machines in history. In the absence of an effective UN force, the atrocities were finally ended by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a force comprised of Tutsi exiles and led by the current President, Paul Kagame.”


The movie itself… Not too bad either, the story about a Hutu man who helped saved many Tutsis lives. This after the ‘white man’ (Belgians), who caused it in the first place, abandoned the black people!


The white man (in suits), the worse human being ever ‘invented!’ But, there will come a day…

Sunday, April 01, 2007

020407

I thought these two (following articles) interesting enough to include here:’ Why? They’re both about sex, and the first about sex with animals—the preoccupation of sex in the modern world!

“’ZOO,’ the new film by the Seattle director Robinson Devor, arrived at this year’s Sundance Film Festival better known as “the horse sex documentary.” But as festival audiences discovered, this description, while not incorrect, was also misleading. The film revisits the true story of a man who died in July 2005 after a sexual encounter with a horse in rural Washington State but does so with a lyricism startlingly at odds with the sensational content.

“This topic is not something people want to think about,” Mr. Devor said in an interview at Sundance, summing up both the challenge of marketing the film and the reason he and his writing partner, Charles Mudede, were compelled to make it.

Speaking at the premiere Mr. Mudede called “Zoo” a “thought experiment.” He added, “If someone can go there physically, I can go there mentally.”

Contemplating an unorthodox merging of man and beast, “Zoo” (which is set to open in New York on April 25) is itself an exotic hybrid: a fact-based film combining audio testimony with speculative re-enactments that feature a mix of actors and actual subjects. (The title is the sub cultural term for a zoophile, a person whose affinity for animals sometimes extends to the carnal.)

“Zoo” obliquely recreates the events of the fateful night that caused a media frenzy in the Seattle area two summers ago. Shortly after being dropped off at an emergency room in Enumclaw, Wash., a 45-year-old Boeing engineer named Kenneth Pinyan — known in the film only by his Internet handle, Mr. Hands — died of internal injuries resulting from a perforated colon. The police investigation led to a farm and turned up videotapes and DVDs that showed several men engaging in sexual acts with the resident Arabian stallions. Bestiality was not illegal in Washington at the time, but in response to the Pinyan incident the State Senate voted last year to criminalize it.

Mr. Devor and Mr. Mudede, a columnist for the Seattle weekly The Stranger, noticed a disturbing uniformity in news coverage and public opinion surrounding the case.

“There seemed to be two responses: repulsion or laughter,” Mr. Mudede said. “People didn’t want to have any connection or identification with these men. Early on Rob and I said to each other, ‘We’re going to revive their humanity.’ ”

“Zoo” strives to liberate Mr. Hands from his posthumous fate as tabloid punch line. It allows the friends of the dead man a means for disclosure and dares to find, in their candid accounts of their desires and the hidden worlds where they were fulfilled, something strangely beautiful and even recognizable.

“It was fascinating that there was a community of close friends, that there were basic human interactions happening alongside things that seemed completely alien,” Mr. Mudede said. “Zoo” minimizes its freak show aspect by emphasizing the coexistence of the mundane and the bizarre, a strategy it shares with the pair’s 2005 Sundance entry, “Police Beat,” an enigmatic reverie inspired by Mr. Mudede’s crime-blotter column. What emerges here is a sad, even tender portrait of a group of men who met from time to time at a farm, where they would drink slushy cocktails, watch some television and repair to the barn to have sex with horses.

The film’s nonzoophile perspective is provided by Jenny Edwards, the founder of a local rescue organization called Hope for Horses, who helped investigate potential animal abuse in the Enumclaw case. “I don’t yet quite know how I feel about that,” she says in the film, referring to the intense feelings that zoophiles claim to have for animals, “but I’m right at the edge of being able to understand it.”

“Zoo” invites the viewer out onto that ledge of near comprehension. That it does so with neither squeamishness nor prurience owes much to Mr. Devor’s sidelong approach, one that was born of necessity. The story’s central figure was dead, and his family wanted nothing to do with the film. Only one of the three zoophiles interviewed agreed to appear in the re-enactments. All are identified simply by their online names: Coyote, H and the Happy Horseman.

“I’m glad we weren’t able to depend on the talking-head approach,” Mr. Devor said. Mr. Mudede concurred. “It was a chance to really make a film instead of a ‘60 Minutes’-style documentary,” he said.

Driving for the first time into Enumclaw, a town at the base of snow-capped Mount Rainier, the filmmakers immediately grasped the cinematic potential. “Talk about a mythic place,” Mr. Devor said. “This happened in the shadow of a volcano, in these verdant fields. You had beautiful animals, private gatherings, secret societies.”

(Page 2 of 2)

“Zoo” makes the most of its Edenic setting. Sean Kirby’s Super-16 cinematography reinforces the sense of a prelapsarian idyll, with lush images of rhododendrons in bloom, Mount Rainier perfectly framed in a picture window, men walking through the woods at night in dreamy slow motion.

Unabashed aesthetes, Mr. Devor and Mr. Mudede are anomalies in the grungy landscape of American indie film. Given the off-putting subject matter “Zoo” might even be accused of using beauty as a salve, as some reviewers grumbled at Sundance.

Responding to this critique Mr. Mudede said: “I don’t think the aesthetic element is deceiving. It’s not that we’re making something difficult more accessible through beauty. That’s exactly the situation in which these men experienced their friendship.”

But he added, laughing, “I admit if this had happened on an ugly pig farm we wouldn’t have made the film.”

Mr. Devor said it was tricky trying to communicate the movie he had in mind to his wary subjects: “They would be like, ‘What do you mean impressionistic images?’ ”

As it happened, it was a zoo, as the participants call themselves, who initiated contact, sending an e-mail message to Mr. Mudede in response to an article he had written about the case. “I think there was a desperate need to talk,” Mr. Mudede said.

Coyote, the only zoo who appears in the film, said in a recent e-mail interview that he came to trust Mr. Devor after meeting him a few times. “I felt in my gut he was not going to make an exploitive type of movie,” he wrote.

Despite an instinctive suspicion of publicity, it was evidently important to the zoos that their stories be heard. H, the farmhand who was the host of the get-togethers, called Mr. Devor in mid-December after “Zoo” had been selected for Sundance and consented to an audio interview (leaving Mr. Devor just a few weeks to frantically re-edit the film).

Coyote, for his part, remains conflicted about his involvement. “I do not think a higher profile is good at all,” he said. “We have no torch to bear or cause to defend. We just want to be.”

According to Mr. Devor the biggest challenge was not getting the zoos to talk but finding a location to shoot the film.

“We went to every single horse farm within two hours of Seattle and came up empty,” he said. “Owners would say things like: ‘We have Microsoft picnics here. They’re going to think it happened in my barn.’ ” He finally found a sympathetic farmer in Canada, who helped pull some strings with a landowner in Washington.

The overwhelming aversion to zoophilia is bound up in established taboos and moral codes. The debate, if it would come to that, tends to concern the welfare of the animal and the murky issue of consent. The men in “Zoo” attest to the fulfilling completeness of zoophile relationships and claim not to resort to coercion. On the latter count they have an unlikely ally in Rush Limbaugh, who can be heard in the film weighing in on Mr. Pinyan’s death: “How in the world could this happen without consent?”

But the apparent arousal of the horses is beside the point for many animal advocates, including Ms. Edwards. “Horses have an incredible sense memory and are unbelievably willing to learn,” she said in an e-mail message. “They want to do what is asked of them. But I’m not convinced they want to have sex with us.”

Mr. Devor interviewed the zoos and is more inclined to term the sex consensual. He spoke to them one-on-one, in hotel rooms, and his subjects sometimes illustrated their points by showing him homemade pornography. “It was in my face, really graphic stuff,” he said. “It’s a strange way to get to know someone.” But some of what he saw did change his outlook.

The sex in “Zoo” is merely glimpsed and barely discernible in a few seconds of a video that the police had confiscated and that was circulated on the Internet after Mr. Pinyan’s death.

“The film is extreme more in its formalism than in terms of graphic content,” said Mark Urman, an executive producer of “Zoo” and the head of theatrical releasing at Think Film, which is distributing it. “One really worries if there’s a significant population looking for the tabloid version.”

But Mr. Devor has detected among audiences a curiosity, if not an appetite, to see more. “So many people have said to me there’s not enough sex,” he said. “I think there’s a need to see the mechanics.”

Those viewers should be careful what they wish for. “Maybe we can find some things to put on the DVD,” Mr. Devor said.”

I’m sure by now the more aberrant and graphic parts of this ‘movie,’ are on some video-sharing site like youtube.com

The next article about a woman who becomes an actress, and what she goes through to achieve ‘success’ (recognition to her):



“THE last time Molly Shannon put on a show that wasn’t for laughs was when, on a dare from her father, she stowed away on a People Express flight to New York City from Cleveland. She was 12.

Just before takeoff, Ms. Shannon and her best friend from Shaker Heights, Ohio, dashed aboard wearing pink leotards and tights, assuring a stewardess that they were just saying goodbye to their sister. “I tried my best to come off as sweet and innocent,” she said. “But my heart was pounding so loud I could hardly hear.”

Ms. Shannon and her pal ducked into a seat. Waved off the plane on arrival, they took a subway to Rockefeller Center, where Ms. Shannon would one day make her name as a geek goddess on “Saturday Night Live.”

“If my friend and I hadn’t sneaked on that plane, we had a fallback plan,” she said. “We would have hopped on a bus and gone to ballet practice.”

Thirty years later Ms. Shannon is about to play it almost straight again in “Year of the Dog,” a film that Mike White, its writer and a first-time director, describes as “a comedy that’s not very funny.” In “Year of the Dog,” which opens Friday, she plays a shy, chirpy secretary named Peggy who literally goes to the dogs when her beloved beagle, Pencil, dies.

The aggrieved Peggy renounces humanity, adopts every condemned pooch at the pound and becomes such a militant animal-rights advocate that she drowns her sister-in-law’s furs in a bathtub.

Watching Ms. Shannon in “Year of the Dog” may be unsettling for viewers who know her as Mary Katherine Gallagher, the most popular of the manic misfits she created during her six seasons on “SNL.” Under duress Ms. Shannon’s hapless Catholic schoolgirl — the epitome of excruciating adolescence — would hook her fingers under her armpits, then sniff them.

Mary Katherine reached the height of her white cotton Carter’s underpants-flashing fame in “Superstar” (1999), another “SNL” skit turned into a toothless feature-length film, in which she French-kissed a tree. Of her budding breasts, she observes in the movie: “This one is bigger than this one ’cause this is the mommy and that’s the baby. And this one is very nice to this one, and they hold hands because they’re friends.”

The pratfall-heavy “Superstar” and nearly every other movie Ms. Shannon has made since graduating from New York University in 1987 have showcased her exuberance and gift for physical mayhem. She has been a homeless woman (“Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace”), a Who (“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) and a lusty drunk (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”).

Nothing about Ms. Shannon’s previous film work hinted that she could handle Peggy’s neediness and lunging desperation.

“The comedy, I was expecting,” one of her co-stars, Josh Pais, said in a recent telephone interview. “What I didn’t anticipate was the level of pain Molly brought to the role. She perfectly captures a woman who has lost everything she identifies with and is left with nothing. You feel her misery, but it never becomes melodramatic or squashes the comedy.”

John C. Reilly, who plays Peggy’s trigger-happy neighbor, says Ms. Shannon brings the same intensity and chaotic commitment to drama that she does to slapstick. “As funny as Molly is,” Mr. Reilly said, “she has the heart of a real actor.”

Mr. Reilly previously worked with Ms. Shannon in “Never Been Kissed” (1999) and “Talladega Nights” (2006). “She doesn’t just joke it the way most comedians do,” he said. “I haven’t met another actress who can be broad and clownish and yet is so unafraid to be deadly serious.”

Mr. Pais said that whenever Ms. Shannon was asked to give an alternate take of an anguished scene, she would say, “Just give me a minute,” and then step away from the camera. “Molly’s face would crinkle like balled-up paper,” he said. “As she took a breath, you could almost see her draw from some dark well of emotion from her past.”

It’s a deep well. “I can relate to the part of Peggy that doesn’t want to feel her devastation,” Ms. Shannon offered. She was saying this in a restaurant near the meatpacking district loft she shares with her two toddlers and husband, the photorealist painter Fritz Chesnut. While lunching on sausage and eggs — a dish the vegan Peggy wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot fork — she projected a childlike excitement that verged on giddiness.

“I like the fact that Peggy struggles through something to get to a better place,” Ms. Shannon said.

She did. Her childhood sounds like a cross between “Ponette” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” At 4 she was in a car crash that killed her mother, a cousin and her younger sister. Though Ms. Shannon was unharmed, her father was maimed. “His legs were crushed,” she said. “He wore a brace for the rest of his life.”

While her father, James, was laid up in intensive care, Ms. Shannon and her older sister, Mary, stayed with their Aunt Bernie in Cleveland Heights. “I’d ask where my dad was, and no one would tell me,” she said. “For a long time after that I had trouble trusting people.” She later incorporated her anxiety about life into Mary Katherine and other uneasy characters.

After the accident Mr. Shannon quit his job as a sales manager and stayed home to raise Molly and Mary. “My dad was a bohemian who hated rules,” Ms. Shannon recalled. He encouraged her after-school high jinks — crashing around candy stores as if she were blind, undressing department store mannequins and posing them suggestively. “He liked wild and crazy stuff,” Ms. Shannon said.

The wildest and craziest was her stowaway stunt. Ms. Shannon waited until she and her friend got to Manhattan before phoning her father. “He was really excited to hear that we’d succeeded,” she said.

When Ms. Shannon asked what they should do for an encore, Mr. Shannon suggested stowing their way back. After they tried and failed, he arranged for two return tickets. The stowaways paid him back from baby-sitting. “Years of baby-sitting,” Ms. Shannon allowed.

A gig singing telegrams at stag parties was followed by drama school at New York University, an improv comedy show in Los Angeles and, in 1995, “Saturday Night Live.” Nine years later she was cast in Mr. White’s Fox sitcom “Cracking Up.” Ms. Shannon described her character as a “typical alcoholic, bipolar, self-involved, pill-popping Beverly Hills housewife.”

“Cracking Up” was canceled after only a handful of episodes. “Fighting the network every step of the way was a terrible experience,” said Mr. White, whose screenwriting credits include “School of Rock,” “Nacho Libre” and “The Good Girl.” “But Molly was terrific and, as a personal creative exorcism, I decided to write a movie for her.”

That movie turned out to be “Year of the Dog.” If it should turn out to be the dog of the year, Ms. Shannon has a couple of fallbacks. Next month she’ll be seen in “Sing Now or Forever Hold Your Peace,” Bruce Leddy’s low-budget manifesto about a singing group that reunites at a wedding. This summer she’ll pop up as a real estate agent in “Evan Almighty,” the sequel to the 2003 hit “Bruce Almighty.” And Ms. Shannon just completed the pilot for “The Mastersons of Manhattan,” a comic soap opera in which she and Natasha Richardson play socialite sisters.

Pet grooming is apparently not a career option. During a preproduction photo shoot for Ms. Shannon’s new film, a canine co-star licked her cheeks, causing them to erupt in red welts. “I was horrified,” Mr. White said. “Molly looked like a Chernobyl victim.”

It was only then that Ms. Shannon admitted she’s allergic to dogs.”

Note: If you want to become an actor, you must get creative in an unusual way, and be willing to sacrifice all for your career! You basically ‘sell your soul to the Devil!’

Here in China:

Yesterday was April 1st (like fools we saved electricity for one hour, by having all off!). Earlier…

We went cycling to a Tibetan Rug Fair, about 10KM south of Xi Ning. This was Du Kuan Liang’s (our cycling landlord) idea (he likes to shop for bargains). At first there was the three of us. Then we invited Ma Xiao Juan (our 14-year old female helper) along. Then Wang Qing He wanted to join us.

So, we all met at the Wangguozhang Cycling Club. But, on the way ‘Ma,’ fell when colliding with some disembarking bus passengers. Luckily, it was nothing serious and Richa was there to help. Plus, we’d made her wear a helmet. Later she quoted me saying, ‘Pain, the greatest teacher!’ Actually, little accidents are good, as they wake people up! Cycling on the streets and highways of China is dangerous!

At the GCC I bought ‘Ma’ a pair of cycling gloves, and offered to rent Mr. Du a better bicycle. His old Chinese bicycle had been stolen, although he had acquired another. But, being ‘locked’ into a Chinese mindset he doesn’t seem to be able to change. So, he rode his ‘falling-apart’ one-speed, while ‘Ma,’ had Elia’s multi-geared Giant (Tom’s nee Richa before the current best) and he could barely keep up with us (as when cycling to Huzhu last week). He also refuses to wear a helmet.

But, we couldn’t keep up with Qing He and his younger friend training for the upcoming race. They passed us up like motor vehicles, Qing He’s young buddy actually keeping up with a bus! So, there’s always someone ‘faster, higher, and stronger,’ than you!

I wish you could have been with us at the Tibetan Rug Fair! Amazing! This held in a huge and modern exhibition ‘hall,’ with all the amenities including a coffee bar. If you think China as primitive, you’ll be shocked when you experience it.

The rugs, in hundreds of stalls… Gosh, if I was rich, I would have spent several thousand U.S. dollars and bought many (as the prices so incredibly low)!

There were also ‘Thangkas,’ or ‘Buddhist embroidery depictions’ of Buddha in all forms (to hang on the wall)! One, was a depiction of ‘Demchod,’ the Bon demi god in union with Dorje Phamo. Since I’m a practitioner of ‘Shakti Yoga,’ I would have bought as it was only 10,000RMB, or $1,200U.S. You probably think this ‘spendy!’ But, if I could get it to the U.S., it would fetch 10X as much! But, actually I would never sell such as has meaning to me!

I did buy three items, two for us, and one for the Liu’s daughter (as her birthday).

I bought a small rug to put next to my bed, and a wall hanging (colorful depiction of a Tu or Tibetan woman in native dress). We bought the Liu’s daughter a jade bracelet for 70RMB, or $9U.S. dollars.

I had first not wanted to go inside (don’t like to shop or be inside), but finally decided to, and glad I did. Not only was I enlightened about rugs, but we met some potential ‘clients,’ and passed out our business cards!

One the way back to Xi Ning we cranked into a cold Baifung (north wind)! Winter is still here at 7,300ft. ASL. I was glad I had both protective glasses and my scarf (pulled up over my nose).

But, the sun shines here, as much as in Colorado!

At home we turned off all electricity for ‘Earth Hour!’ This between 1930 and 2030 hours. Richa went to dinner, but when he returned we sat on the couch and I told him the story about experiencing about the famous ‘blackout’ in New York City in 1966. Forty-one years ago!

One day you’re 26-years old, the next, 67!

310307 (tomorrow April Fool’s Day)

Today, however, no fooling around, as ‘Earth Hour,’ an event designed to make us more aware of saving electrical power (how to do without). This devised by a group of environmentally conscious people in Australia. We’re supposed to do without for one hour 1930-2030 hours (in whatever time zone). They gave some statistics, like if one million people, around the world, did this, we’d save enough to power the country of Nepal for one month! So, please (I hope you did!) join us!

The old word for this was conservation! Seems to me a good idea, as the earth can’t continue to support an unlimited amount of people! We’re basically consuming it (ourselves in the process). We’re so stupid as a species we’re actually, not only ‘soiling our nest,’ but destroying it! How smart is this…?

I’ve been watching movies every night, as you know (if you read our BLOG regularly). A couple nights ago it was, ‘American Beauty,’ (Did I discuss this already?).

Themes (what movies and plays are about) are important to know and understand. Most people don’t know why they like or don’t like a movie, or what it’s about. But, trust me, having written movies, writers don’t just write for money. They write to express an idea, what is called the ‘theme.’

What is the theme of ‘American Beauty?’ It might be Taoist in nature: ‘enantiodromia!’ Or, ‘no bad; no good?’ I’d love to ask the director, Sam Mendes. Maybe the ‘theme’ is something like: through travail family members make discoveries, and ultimately overcome cultural limitations.

As, maybe I mentioned before, I was expecting a ‘fluff piece’ (we call it in the trade) because of Annette Bening being cast, plus the title mislead me. So, I avoided it for a long time. Now, I’m glad I watched it, as it has some depth!

Last night I made the mistake of watching, ‘Desperado,’ with Antonio Banderas! Oh, God what a piece of shit! Gratuitously violent, it has all the commercial elements to titillate the mass audience (obligatory sex scene between two pretty people, etc.). So, if you like stupid movies, violence/blood and naked bodies, this is for you! The only plus is a soundtrack by the group ‘Los Lobos!’

In the afternoon we cycled with Wang Qing He to Qinghai University. Qinghai University is about 15KM north of Xi Ning proper. He wanted to check out the course for a race in April.

Wang Qing He is the first person we met when we were through Xi Ning last November. He’s an avid cyclist so guess where we met? Back in November he helped find us a hotel. Since, we’ve become good friends and he’s now a part of www.haaqi.com Come to find out this big, strong, ex-Army guy took a modeling course in Xi’an (I was surprised to discover). So, we’ll find out if he might be qualified to be our modeling instructor.

We had cycled out to Qinghai University in November. But, with him along we took a ‘short cut.’ I’m always happy to discover new routes, this off the main highway, and more desirable as lined by trees and planted fields (of wheat).

‘He’ (literally) and Richa are so fast compared to me, they out in front all the way. We had stopped at Homey’s (Supermarket) for me to buy some ‘Smoothie’ drink (30% juice no less) in plastic bottles (I’m not a water drinker! But, that’s the only thing that slowed them down.

Out at Q.U. we discovered this is where had Qing He (this his first name) worked as a bus driver. I lay out to rest on some grass, rather than stay in the dark, concrete office with constant Chinese chatter.

Then we took off on the ‘race course,’ all dirt it turned out to be. I’d asked about this, as my tires/’Ms. Fiets’ not really for ‘off road.’ They said 2KM, but it turned out to be 4KM (I get so much bad information in China). Qing He was half-way round before Richa and I made the first turn. And I had no problem outside of some mud. I like getting on dirt, as so much concrete, wherever you are in China.

Then we headed ‘home.’ I had told them I had more shopping at Homey’s and to go ahead, not worry about me. But, they stayed behind as each riding (trying out) the other’s bicycle. I wasn’t 2KM, however, before they went ‘zooming,’ by me.

I stopped at a ‘car wash,’ you’d call it in the west to ‘blast’ the mud off Ms. Fiets. Actually, there are many of these, sometimes just a water tank/compressor and hose/nozzle on dirt. But, for a ‘blast’ of water (if doesn’t take long) I pay them 2 or 3RMB, which amounts to all of .25 to .30 cents.

Then to Homey’s this ‘Carrefour-like,’ (French chain in China) supermarket. I was looking to purchase some shorts (warm weather being here) and some long-sleeve t-shirts, plus the usual bottled water and dry milk power. I did buy one t-shirt, but ended up giving it to Richa.

I was outside loading up Ms. Fiets with 4 bottles (1.5 liter) of water, when a little Chinese girl walked up to me and started talking (in Chinese). I finally said to her, as earnest, ‘Wo bu ming bai!’ meaning ‘I don’t understand you!’ But, this didn’t stop her (many times with my pronunciation they don’t understand my Chinese). But, that didn’t stop her. She handed me a flower she was holding. So, I reciprocated with a piece of candy, which earned me another flower. These kinds of moments warm my heart!