Thursday, May 20, 2010

Do I Censor Myself?

There was an interesting essay by Emily Parker in the New York Times a few days back. The basic premise is that researchers who study China are increasingly censoring themselves so as not to lose access to the country and its resources. Here are some quotations from the article...

"It's just become so taken for granted that it isn't even recognized as self-censorship. Three or four times a month I get questions from students: How can I avoid getting on a blacklist like you?" This quotation comes from Perry Link, a Princeton University professor who has not been able to get a Chinese visa since the mid-1990s.

"There are writers I respect who don't choose certain subjects because they will engage them in controversy with China. Visa denials seem to be based on the subject matter more than what the individual says about the subject" (Jerome Cohen, New York University).

The idea that scholars "collectively are compromising our academic ideals in order to gain access to China offends people intellectually, but we all do it" (anonymous professor at a prestigious American university).

~Steve

PS: The excellent illustration that accompanied the essay is by Yarek Waszul.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Two Days In Beijing

If you're curious about what I'll be up to this summer in Beijing, check out the website for the 8th Chinese Internet Research Conference, which is now up and running. So far, there are summaries of the papers that are to be presented, as well as a variety of logistical ins and outs. Participant bios should be posted before too long. Given the theme of the conference, I'd love to see some Web 2.0 features incorporated into the site, before, during, and after the meeting itself. You know I'll be blogging from the scene!

~Steve

Monday, May 17, 2010

We Strutted Our Mutts To The Dragon Boat Festival

It was quite a day out there this past Saturday on the streets and rivers of the greater DC area. During the course of an afternoon ride from our house down to the National Mall, Julie, Z, and I (Desi was up in Jersey looking after her dad, who just had knee replacement surgery) kept bumping into some unusual happenings.

First, it was down at Bethesda Row. Emerging from the old train tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue, we hit the brakes when confronted with closed streets and dogs, dogs, dogs. We had stumbled right into the middle of "Strut Your Mutt," a dog-themed street festival. There were even dogs in the restaurant at Mamma Lucia where we stopped for a bite to eat.

Then, after a jaunt down the Capital Crescent Trail, right in the shadow of the Watergate complex, we had to jump off our bikes and walk through the throngs assembled for the DC Dragon Boat Festival. We lived in China for a year and did not witness a single dragon boat race. Who knew that we just had to pay attention to what was going on in our own backyard?

~Steve

PS: As a nice bonus, the three of us checked out the brand new Metropolitan Branch Trail,which runs north from Union Station through Northeast DC and into Silver Spring, MD.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Twentieth Century Life

Over the years, we have become increasingly fascinated with the lives of ordinary people who lived through the turbulent years of the middle of the twentieth century. From Europe to Asia, there are millions of stories of men and women who found themselves in the midst of impossible circumstances. Yet these people found ways to make heroic decisions. We ourselves literally owe our lives to the events that unfolded in Hungary in that fateful fall of 1956.

And so it was with great interest that we recently watched Karol: A Man Who Became Pope. In many senses, the life of Karol Wojtyla was not unusual. Here was a young man trying to find his way in a world gone crazy, living in Poland through the Nazi and Soviet periods. Sure, he would eventually leave an indelible mark on humanity the world over. In the beginning, though, all he wanted to do was take care of his father, perform live theater with his friends, and do what he could to keep Polish culture alive in the face of incredible odds. Just another extraordinary twentieth century life...

~Steve