Thursday, March 22, 2012

Banning The "F" Word In China

Yes, the word "Ferrari" is apparently blocked these days, if you are searching for it from the Mainland.

Why would that be, when China is the world's second biggest market for Ferrari sales?

A couple of days ago, on a snowy early morning (around 4 am), a black Ferrari was involved in a horrific single-car accident that took the life of the driver and injured two passengers. This tragedy occurred eastbound on the North 4th Ring Road, at Baofusi Bridge, which is right in the neck of the woods where we have been living the last few years.

It turns out, rumor has it, that the driver was the son of a very high ranking government official. And so, in an effort to stave off further discontent on the part of laobaixing (everyday people), reporting on the story has apparently been cut off. I say "further" discontent in light of the fact that there has been a series of incidents over the past several years in which the privileged children of China's elites have behaved very badly, flaunting their wealth and taking advantage of their status out on the streets.

Here is an archetypal example of this bad behavior, also from Beijing...

In September 2011, the 15-year-old son of a very famous singer made the front pages for a road rage incident. Li Tianyi was driving a black Audi A6, another car that is a symbol for the rich, with an 18-year-old buddy trailing him in a black BMW without plates. Reports are that a couple ahead of them in a Buick were driving too slow for their tastes. The two young men got out of their cars, got the couple out of the Buick and proceeded to beat them while their young child watched, wailing, from the back seat.

And so "Ferrari" is now a banned search term, turning a terrible tragedy into a politically sensitive matter. Not that I would have ever dreamed of searching for the "F" word while in China...or the United States for that matter. Now, "Dodge Caravan"...that's another story...


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown

And once again the end of another great show comes around and the cast of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown finds itself full of post-show emotions. It is rare that one gets to work with a group of people in such harmony, but this cast was the closest I have been a part of yet! And that's not even to mention the extraordinary talent that each of the actors in the cast possesses! It was a piece of my life that I know I will carry into whatever I pursue next.

But the experience would not be complete without a little bit of reflection and evaluation...

I would be lying if I said that this was what I had planned on doing with my spring semester. And yet, like always, I was brought back to my favorite theatre in the world to play Linus van Pelt in the Academy of the Holy Cross's production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. But it was only with some serious convincing, particularly from our music director, that I decided to take a risk and jump into my first major role in a musical.

This show taught me so much about my own self-confidence and desire to try out things that might be out of my comfort zone. But even more than that, it taught me how to use the stage as a place for experimentation. I know that I won't get anywhere by hiding away, and playing a child was a very effective way to learn this lesson. The more I thought about my characterization and watched those around me delve into theirs, the more important the simplicity of childhood became in our telling of Charlie Brown's story. Little kids have no problem speaking their minds, or playing the games they want to, or even sounding a little silly sometimes. And while this was what Linus was experiencing on the stage, it was also what I was realizing inside. You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown is full of these kinds of lessons and I hope the audiences could sense how important they really are.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Politics Of The Torch

After the 2008 Olympic torch relay became a flashpoint for international human rights and Chinese nationalism, the International Olympic Committee has restricted this year's relay to the host country (with the brief exception of a visit to Dublin).

Having attended the relays in the run-ups to the Atlanta and Salt Lake City Olympics (at the Lincoln Memorial and on Capitol Hill, respectively), I had never even conceived that there were a politics of the torch (Nazi origins notwithstanding).

But, once again, China changes everything...