Good tune, good theme, good images…

I watched Hollywood’s big favorite “La La Land” TWICE early this year. Can you believe I watched the same movie twice in such a short span of time?

I seldom read the same book twice or more, nor do I watch the same movie more than once.  But for La La Land, I made an exception. The music is just repeat over and over and over on my mind for weeks. Perhaps I am a dreamer, too. I am not a performer. But I am surely a writer, a wannabe artist of words,  who dreams someday my work will be recognized. So when I saw Mia in the movie went to a number of audition and got out with big disappointment. I couldn’t help parallel my hundreds of rejection letters from publishers to the protagonist’s failure. There are so many unsung heroes in our society. As are so many unrecognized writers, performers, musicians and on and on.

I was moved when Mia got her acting dream come true in the end. That scene when the star walked into that very cafe where she used to work as a barista book-ended the flick nicely. What comes around goes around. I sincerely wish all creators for arts who work hard to realize their dreams will succeed at last.

The cinematography is super. That silhouette scene setting with stars in the backdrop and the characters dancing in the space is eternal. Ok, enough for praises. If you have not heard the OST (original soundtrack), I strongly recommend you to listen to it. I love jazz. So you know how mesmerized I was by the real jazz performance on the screen. Give me more!

Solute to everyone’s La La Land.

(Next, I shall learn from the actor to play the tune on keyboard by rote.)

http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-38593897

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Aha, so alike!

Last week the White House made a press statement over the crowd size of President Dump*’s inauguration. Then, President Dump* announced the building of a border wall.

In the years that I live in America, this is the time I feel the U.S. is having the most commonalities with my birth country China. The state media in China is the mouthpiece of the Communist Party. Hardly any credibility do the government announcements have. This is a fact to all people, at home and abroad.

Dump imports CN media

Now President Dump*’s cabinet seems doing propaganda press release in the same fashion. It is catching up in a lightning speed, drawing fierce criticism from the U.S. mainstream media. Time will tell if he is leading the U.S. like an authoritarian ruler.

President Dump* also wants to build a Great Wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Aha, China has one Great Wall geographically to fend off the Mongols, and another Great Wall virtually to censor internet information. If this border wall will ever get built, the U.S. will have a new attraction. Perhaps it is an attraction more for protesters than for tourists.

I remember in my last entry I mentioned about the White House petition website under the Obama administration. When President Dump* said in the press conference that nobody cares about his tax returns but only the reporters. I was thinking about creating a petition on the White House petition website. Aha, without me doing so, after the inauguration, there is already a petition about this grievance. And it has reached four times more than the goal number of signatures. Today I signed it anyway.

WH petition

This is a tumultuous year.  I cannot help comparing Washington DC to Hong Kong where an unpopular leader is now running the city. HongKongers are so unhappy about Beijing’s intervention into local politics and judicial independence. Every weekend there are some sort of protests and rallies on the streets in Hong Kong. Now a week after President Dump*’s administration begins, protesters already rallied on the streets outside the White House. There will be more protests if President Dump* becomes 100%  destroyer in chief. All hell breaks loose.

Pray for 2017

Welcome to 2017, a tough year that begins with controversy and uncertainty. This entry is long overdue. When I was still, as the people say, “licking our wounds” after the night of Nov 8 last year, just a week before the Christmas holiday, my encounter with two kind strangers at a gas station on one night lifted my spirit.

Long story short. It was my first time to pump air into my auto tires as their pressure were low in wintertime. At a gas station where the free air pump stood, I watched a middle-aged woman and her daughter doing the drill–the mother was pumping air into the tire, and the daughter was monitoring the pressure number shown on a screen. The were experienced I could tell, at least the mother was. After a good 15 minutes, they were done. Just before they was about to leave, the mother came to me and asked, “Do you know how to do it?” I said frankly, “I have no idea.” Well, she began to tell me how–

Check the car manual in your car, you’ll find the tire air pressure reference there. Press the button on the pump for the desired level; give one number higher as it’ll give enough pressure to your tires.

She turned on her cell phone flashlight and helped me to check the magic number. Then off they went. Just as I was about to finish, I lost the cap that cover the air hole of an auto tire. My surrounding was poorly lit. So it was my turn to turn on my cell phone flashlight to search for the tiny black cap. It was like finding a needle in a haystack. Then another SUV approached me. The driver was so thoughtful that he turned on the high beam toward me. At first, I misunderstood it was a signal for asking me to go away. So I hurried to turn away. He jumped out of his car and asked me what I was looking for. He explained that he was hoping the high beam light could help me find what I was looking for. Aha, I found it!

I thanked him cheerfully and excused myself from standing on the very spot that he was about to park his car. On one night, I was helped twice. What are the odds? I thought this country is divided profoundly especially after the presidential election. I thought this country that I call mine for two years would be now filled with hatred and selfishness. But that night, I was helped by two warm-hearted strangers. Perhaps America is not as cruel to immigrants as some pundits believe.

President-elect Trump said only the reporters are interested in his tax returns, the public don’t care. WRONG! If only the White House under his administration would be open for public petitions like President Obama, I would create a petition for “Releasing President Trump’s tax returns for the past 10 years”. Sadly, like millions of Americans, we have to say goodbye to the very popular website We the People (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/).

The federal government makes Jan 20, 2017 a federal holiday because of the fanfare of welcoming a new, unpopular president. I told myself, perhaps this is the few benefits given by President-elect Trump to the people–a day off. In my wildest dream, I do hope there will be another public holiday in less than four years to celebrate another Inauguration Day. Deal me in!

A thought-provoking article:

https://www.georgesoros.com/essays/open-society-needs-defending/

Photo taken on a DC street a week before Inauguration Day. The ad is posted everywhere on my way to work. I’m sure this won’t be the first time in the coming years to show people’s attitude on the streets.

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I was surprised to catch this mention of my alma mater on a DC metro paper.  I posted it on my Facebook immediately. #ChathamUniversityRocks

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In God We Trust. Pray for 2017!

Letters to the editor at the Economist

I sent out two opinions to the editor at the Economist today. I doubt they will be published in the print version. Anyway, this is really what I think:

Dear Editor,

Your article on plebiscites in Europe (Referendumania, May 21, 2016) was spot-on. The reason for initiating an EU referendum in the UK and for its decision on Jun 23 to leave the EU is more political than economic. It’s saddening to see the EU, which was build on postwar economic cooperation and the integration of Europe, lose its key member the United Kingdom, whose majority of young voters in fact voted to remain in the EU. If the future is now and the voices of Britain’s future have spoken, how will Westminster react to it? Alas, the future of the UK is so uncertain that even the passionate “Vote Leave” campaigners are dodging questions about how to steer the ship of Britain’s future without EU membership.

Your description of the ritual that follows a mass shooting in America (Guns in America: Control, alt, delete, Jun 25, 2016) cannot be more apt. If the gun lovers in America see the Second Amendment as their mantra, they should know with fundamental understanding that the prerequisites for the people who keep and bear arms must be “well regulated” and in a “militia”. In none of the recent deadly mass shootings, from Sandy Hook to Orlando, did the gunman meet the prerequisites as “well regulated” and being a non-professional soldier to defend “the security of a free State”. If only a complete U.S. Supreme Court will revisit the controversial Second Amendment  and the last majority opinion written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

A Belated/Advanced New Year Greeting of 2016

(This message should have sent to you last year. Sorry for the delay.)

When I stepped out of the immigration lobby in Dulles Airport four days before last Christmas, I was greeted with festive holiday wreaths and colorful lights in the arrival hall. There did I realize I had been away for quite some time. Precisely, I was in a more dismal state for more than a month. (Read on, you’ll know why.) Dragging my weary body as heavy as my backpack and suitcase on the handcart, I was immersed in the joyous scenes of reunion at the airport. I had my own warm homecoming as well. An affectionate hug from Arnold and then as soon as our car pulled in the turn of our house, I saw beautiful lights lit up the front of my neighbor’s and our houses. A huge thank-you to our very thoughtful neighbor Winnie. The lights had brightened me after a day’s non-sleep air travel. Inside the house, Arnold had decorated almost every corner that could strike my attention with Welcome Home banners and balloons. Presents were lying on the table awaiting to be uncovered. Then in the following days, greetings cards from everywhere, by postal or by email, flew like snowflakes in our mailbox. And one of the greetings is from you!

Thank you so much for thinking of me (us). Your holiday wishes have warmed my heart.

I hate to begin my greeting with an apology for being unresponsive either in person or online in the past few months. I am sorry for having made some of you misunderstand me for snubbing you. If you don’t have time to read on, I just want to tell you that I am doing fine. And I cherish our friendship dearly.

I am still working full time in Washington, DC and spicing up my life with reading, movie-going, housework, yard work, and excursions with Arnold. He’s such a remarkable driver that other than flying to London for last Labor Day weekend, to Japan last November where my father joined us and then to China for a family visit, we (actually he did!) drove 99 out of 100 times domestically. In China I used to rely on air travel to my destinations. Here in America I am more of a frequent rider than a frequent flyer. I like to be driven. If only I have the stamina to sit behind the wheel!

This is a belated newsletter for 2015, although by the Chinese lunar calendar we are still in the Year of Sheep until Feb 8, 2016 when the Year of Monkey arrives. Last year, in addition to at least 25 movies I watched in theatres (Hollywood should send me a reward for my contribution to the box office), we traveled to the neighboring wild and wonderful West Virginia, the familiar and yet fascinating northern Virginia, and of course, the enchanting Finger Lakes that we loved so much that we visited twice. We also visited Saratoga, NY and NYC for family get-together. As a compromise for having a pet in the house, we planted a tree on the front lawn. So do come and visit in the new year! (despite the fact that our lilac tree is not on Google Map yet.)

2015 was eventful. My column “Karen in America” for a Chinese/English bilingual magazine said farewell last December, due to the restructuring of the magazine. My writing was mostly work-related. My literary writing is unfortunately slack. I tried to self publish my memoir but in the end even the printing service turned its back on me. Just like those hundreds of rejection letters to agents and indie presses, none of them explained why and why not. Is this the American way of doing business? No response, no follow-up and no manners. When I said my writing was work-related, I mean at work I go through global news headlines daily and write a news summary. I am working as an administrator for a news media company. So the perk of my job is to tune into current affairs closely. With today’s new media, it becomes too easy to obtain information, just almost instantly as it happens. Overall, I managed the tough times at work. So did I in dealing with my father’s health issue.

Some of you may know that my father was diagnosed with advanced tongue cancer. After a week’s visit in Japan with my father, I accompanied him to the hospital in Guangzhou, China for a checkup for an aching growth on his neck. From then on, the situation changed quicker than the volatile Chinese stock markets. My father was immediately admitted to the hospital and underwent an operation the following week. The surgery that lasted almost eight hours went well. The malignant cancer in my father’s mouth and neck was removed. He was in ICU for two nights and another three weeks hospitalized in a regular ward. I extended my visit in China and cared for him all the way until he was discharged from the hospital. When I left him for America four days before last Christmas, my father was getting ready for radiotherapy with the care of his brother and a live-in caretaker.

Long story short. My father is doing ok and I will travel to see him next month after his course of treatment. I am very thankful to families and friends from the US and Guangzhou for your concern and care and suggestion during this difficult time. While encouraging my father to live on every day in his bout with cancer, I am fighting against time, anxiety, uncertainty, fear and frustration in the face of adversity. And yet I draw on my experience with my care for my late mother. (Do read my memoir someday!) Please don’t worry about me and my father. This obstacle will prove how strong both of us can be and how close we are as family.

At last, wishing you a healthy, prosperous and happy life in the upcoming Year of Monkey!! We may be far apart by geographical distance, but not in mind. Stay in touch!

I’m ending with an excerpt of the new year letter from Arnold in case that you may be interested in seeing our life from a different perspective:

No fancy online cards or moving pictures and cartoons here, folks, just a simple wish that all have a happy, fruitful new year, despite the apprehension that 2016 will be bloodier, more chaotic and, perhaps, more significant than 2015.

Karen and I saw the peanuts cartoon movie, starring Charlie Brown, the other night. Toward the end, Charlie Brown with hope tries to kick the football that his nemesis, Lucy, is holding for him. As usual, she drops it just as he tries.

At new year’s time, we’re all so much like Charlie Brown, hoping to kick our football and wishing everybody the peaceful, prosperous new year that doesn’t quite ever happen. Enough of pop philosophy!

Our plans for the new year are uncertain. We’re just back from a lengthy visit to Guangzhou, China. As some of you already know, while we were there, wife Karen’s dad underwent an emergency, eight-hour surgery to remove cancerous tissue from his tongue and jaw. As a result, we extended our visit so Karen could help with his care.

We are back in Virginia. He is out of the hospital in Guangzhou and starting with an intensive course of out-patient radiation therapy. Depending on what leave arrangement she can make at her work in DC, Karen may soon return to continued assisting his recovery.

We had hopes of taking Karen’s dad on a tour of the U.S. West Coast in the new year. That was before his surgery. Now that hope is on hold. However, there is an increased chance we’ll see her friends in Guangzhou during the new year.