Some Chinese America-watchers seem to think the actor's oddball speech went quite well, but others are simply using it to practice their foreign language skills.
Left, Clint Eastwood scolds an empty chair where he imagines President Obama is sitting. Right, a Chinese site uses the speech to teach English. (AP)
Whatever the domestic impact of actor-director Clint Eastwood's speech endorsing Romney at the Republic National Convention last night, it's having a surprisingly robust international life. After bouncing around Iranian Facebook communities, which treated it with suspicious befuddlement, the Chinese Internet is putting the speech, perhaps somewhat characteristically, to much more practical use.
At least one of China's many English-learning sites, 171english.cn, has posted audio and the transcript of the much-derided speech, so that its readers can use it to practice their English listening and reading comprehension. "Audio and transcript for Clint Eastwood's Speech at 2012 U.S. Republican Party National Convention," reads the Chinese-language header, according to Beijing-based Atlantic writer Helen Gao. The site's English header announces, "Gelivable English Langauge Teaching: Exchange Cooperation Model Innovation." I don't know what that means, either.
These sorts of websites are prolific, and typically use BBC, NPR, or CNN recordings, Helen explained. U.S. government-sponsored soft power outlet Voice of America is a favorite of English-learners, she said, because the reporters tend to speak slowly.
"There aren't many people talking about" Eastwood's speech in China, Helen told me, but "the few that are, are pretty impressed." That's right: impressed with Clint Eastwood. While many of us are scratching our heads in the U.S., the small number of Chinese observers who are aware of the speech seem to have concluded that it went well, according to Helen's anecdotal encounters in Beijing and on the raucous Chinese social web.
"It got enthusiastic responses from the crowd," is the common impression, she said. "It's pretty much based on the crowd's reaction, because they have so little context to judge if the speech is a good one. But if everyone's laughing then it must be pretty good." The state-media response has been warm as well, as reflected in this Chinese-language Sina news service article, with some color commentary from Helen*:
Hollywood strongman Clint Eastwood appeared at the Republican National Convention today to support and warm the auditorium for Romney, and he was welcomed with enthusiasm. He excited the crowd with a famous line from Dirty Harry [the Chinese translation for this movie literally means "an urgent arresting order"] and made the audience very high. [This sounds very informal but is actually what's being said.]
Reflecting, Helen added of the speech, "It would definitely be difficult to explain to my mom why this is funny."
So, very lost in translation. But she also suggested that maybe Chinese reactions aren't really about the speech itself. "Here it's almost like an excuse to admire the American way of campaigning," she said, explaining that Chinese who are attuned to American news often appreciate American politics for "the informal feeling of it," "the ability to appeal to the crowd," and "the thrill of openly making fun of an 'official.'" It's "all very, very foreign," she said. It certainly is.
* -- When Helen showed me this article, I asked, "Is it this funny when you read how American media cover China? Do we get it this wrong?" I held my breath. She answered, "Not that I can remember," and then more seriously, "I think American media is much better at paying attention to what common Chinese people are thinking and saying."
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For several days, I’ve been corresponding with a 22-year-old Donald Trump supporter. He is white, has a bachelor’s degree, and earns $50,000 to $60,000 per year.
He lives near San Francisco.
“I recently became engaged to my Asian fiancée who is making roughly 3 times what I make, and I am completely supportive of her and proud she is doing so well,” he wrote. “We’ve both benefitted a lot from globalization. We are young, urban, and have a happy future planned. We seem molded to be perfect young Hillary supporters,” he observed, “but we're not. In 2016, we're both going for Trump.”
At first, we discussed Bill Clinton.
Last week, I wrote an article asking why Trump supporters aren’t bothered that their candidate called Clinton a shameful abuser of women who may well be a rapist. After all, Trump used to insist that Clinton was a victim of unfair treatment during his sex scandals. Either Trump spent years defending a man that he believed to be a sexual predator, even welcoming him as a guest at his wedding, or Trump is now cynically exploiting a rape allegation that he believes to be false.
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“Donald Trump was the biggest guy in the world with that,” he said. “Trump spent every morning on the phone with me, with Page 6––he loved to get his name in the paper. As a result, he would drop dimes on other people in every industry he knew dirt on. You put the story in the paper, and then, three days later, you say, ‘Donald Trump was at a Knicks game with this supermodel.’ And he’s happy. That’s all it took.”
Finally, an explanation for Bitchy Resting Face Nation
Here’s something that has always puzzled me, growing up in the U.S. as a child of Russian parents. Whenever I or my friends were having our photos taken, we were told to say “cheese” and smile. But if my parents also happened to be in the photo, they were stone-faced. So were my Russian relatives, in their vacation photos. My parents’ high-school graduation pictures show them frolicking about in bellbottoms with their young classmates, looking absolutely crestfallen.
It’s not just photos: Russian women do not have to worry about being instructed by random men to “smile.” It is Bitchy Resting Face Nation, seemingly forever responding “um, I guess?” to any question the universe might pose.
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Graduation season is almost done, and it has brought the usual spate of commencement speeches that urge graduates to follow their passion, be true to themselves, inspire their fellow humans, and save the world. But in recent years there has been a dissenting note to this feel-good rhetoric. In 2012, the speech that became a YouTube sensation—now viewed by 2.5 million people!—was by a then-obscure high-school English teacher to his senior class. The title was “You Are Not Special,” which also gives you a sense of the thesis. It was an elegant essay that was actually gentle in comparison to some of the other characterizations of young people in the media these days. The “Me Generation” was the name given to the Baby Boomers. Time magazine ran a cover in 2013 on the Millennials with the title “The Me Me Me Generation.”
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Love is great, but it’s actually empathy that makes the world go ‘round. Understanding other peoples’ viewpoints is so essential to human functioning that psychologists sometimes refer to empathy as “social glue, binding people together and creating harmonious relationships.”
Narcissists tend to lack this ability. Think of the charismatic co-worker who refuses to cover for a colleague who’s been in a car accident. Or the affable friend who nonetheless seems to delight in back-stabbing.
These types of individuals are what’s known as “sub-clinical” narcissists—the everyday egoists who, though they may not merit psychiatric attention, don’t make very good friends or lovers.
A conversation about how Game of Thrones’s latest twist fits in with George R.R. Martin’s typically cliché-busting portrayal of disability
In 2014, a few media outlets ran stories diagnosing Game of Thrones’s Hodor as having expressive aphasia, a neurological condition restricting speech. Some aphasia experts pushed back, saying that while Hodor has often been described as “simple-minded” or “slow of wits,” aphasia only affects linguistic communication—not intelligence.
A rock structure, built deep underground, is one of the earliest hominin constructions ever found.
In February 1990, thanks to a 15-year-old boy named Bruno Kowalsczewski, footsteps echoed through the chambers of Bruniquel Cave for the first time in tens of thousands of years.
The cave sits in France’s scenic Aveyron Valley, but its entrance had long been sealed by an ancient rockslide. Kowalsczewski’s father had detected faint wisps of air emerging from the scree, and the boy spent three years clearing away the rubble. He eventually dug out a tight, thirty-meter-long passage that the thinnest members of the local caving club could squeeze through. They found themselves in a large, roomy corridor. There were animal bones and signs of bear activity, but nothing recent. The floor was pockmarked with pools of water. The walls were punctuated by stalactites (the ones that hang down) and stalagmites (the ones that stick up).
Yet the proposal’s Trumpian moniker is not the most significant thing about it. This is an expansive bill, sponsored by a member of the House Republican leadership and a member of the health committee in the Senate, that seeks to enact conservative, market-oriented reforms to the insurance industry but does not—repeat, does not—repeal the Affordable Care Act. Instead, Representative Pete Sessions of Texas and Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana are proposing to allow people to leave the Obamacare exchanges and instead receive a $2,500 tax credit (plus $1,500 for each child) to purchase health insurance on the private market or put in a health-savings account.