Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This Made Me Laugh This Morning...

Charles Rangel is a powerful member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York City.

He is currently in hot water for using House stationery to solicit corporate donations for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. Rangel has also drawn criticism for obtaining a $1.9 million earmark to help start the center. (He needs $30 million altogether, so open up your checkbooks...)

Rangel's reaction? (This is the part that had me chuckling on the Metro...)

"If it was an ethical problem, I wouldn't do it."

Well, that clears it up, doesn't it?!

And one wonders why Congress's approval rating is 23 percent (lower than President Bush's!)...


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Wow! Man That Really Hurts!"

Steve's now "famous" first words after sprinting to the finish of his second triathlon...

While his recovery was fast -- within 10 minutes Steve was telling stories about the race and an hour later we were eating lunch at the Golden Corral -- some of the other participants may not have been so fortunate.

As a spectator at an event like this (we all need a role and this one is my personal preference) you get to see a lot. Most of it isn't pretty. Blood, sweat and tears are common to this scene. My particular favorites were as follows:

#1: The guy who made his way to the transition area during the final 100 yards of the biking leg. With officials yelling, "slow down, slow down...dismount before the green rug" as they did to all participants since this area was on a down-hill and everyone was arriving at top speed, he slowed down with a dazed look on his face, tipped to the side and fell over -- he fell to the ground! Did he faint? I'm not sure, but the fall certainly brought him "back down to earth," literally! In any case, he jumped back on his bike and off he went...

#2: The guy who sprinted through the finish line, doubled over and started, shall we say, spilling his guts. The worst part of this, though, was that a triathlon official who was adamant about retrieving the timing chip (a monitor that is banded to each participant's ankle so their accurate times can be kept) did so by cutting it off the poor guy while he was in the throws...of throwing up. How about giving the guy a minute before coming at him with those scissors?

In all, this was a very exciting event to watch. The "tri" aspect is great because there is always something going on. Start-Swim-Transition-Bike-Transition-Run-Finish. We were happy to be a part, if only to cheer, "Jia you, jia you" (add oil, add oil). We 're really proud of our "Tri-Guy!"


Sunday, July 13, 2008

大江 (The "Great River")

Here's a multimedia summer project for you...

First read Peter Hessler's River Town, a phenomenal account of life in Fuling, a small city (by Chinese standards, that is) along the Yangtze River. The city was about to change forever, due to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam and the resulting lake (hundreds of miles long and hundreds of feet deep) that was going to flood portions of Fuling.

Then go check out Up the Yangtze, a gripping documentary film by Yung Chang that in effect provides the visual accompaniment to Hessler's text. The movie visits many of the same locations that the book talks about, including the city of Fengdu, which is built anew, higher up on the opposite bank of the great river.

This is such a complex issue and both River Town and Up the Yangtze do a good job of avoiding the trap of totally villainizing (or heroizing, for that matter) the Three Gorges project. For sure, there are moments that enrage or fill one with sadness (like when the peasant family's home is finally flooded and washed away forever by the rising lake). But then you see all of the Western tourists and realize that we ourselves are not disconnected from the larger political and economic forces that have pushed China and the Yangtze River to this historic moment...