Book News: Zocalo, Rand Forum, Chinese Movies

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Other people's travel problems are not interesting, and thus I will go easy on my latest misadventures* at the hands of United Airlines.

I will say, though, that if I see you either at a Zócalo event in Santa Monica this evening, at 7pm, or tomorrow evening at the Revelle Forum at UCSD, also at 7pm -- and I am wearing something other than the blue jeans and blue-checked shirt I am wearing right now, that will mean one of two things.

Either United Airlines has figured out how to give us back the bags (with a week's worth of clothes, notes, supplies, pills, presents, etc) that my wife and I so innocently entrusted to its care around 6:45am yesterday morning at Dulles airport; or I have found a time to re-outfit myself at one of the fine clothing establishments of greater LA. Stay tuned, or look for the blue-checked shirt.

On the substance front: Rob Cain, of the China Film Biz site, has a very interesting post about the pluses and minuses of the proposed acquisition of the AMC theater chain in America by the Chinese Wanda group. To me the most resonant part of the analysis is why China film makers may have trouble moving from simply throwing money at the international film market -- for instance, by buying up AMC -- to their real goal, which is to create a movie-making industry whose products people in the rest of the world willingly watch. Cain also goes into that topic here. This is parallel to the challenge I was discussing in "What Is the Chinese Dream?" and in my new book as a whole: what it will take for China to move from a "hard-power" economic success to a soft-power, sophisticated-product creator. I had thought briefly about the parallels to the movie industry but not as thoroughly as Cain does. Worth reading.

* Ah, United. So many millions of miles invested in your "loyalty" program, so little feeling of actual loyalty in the relationship. At the beginning of each flight, passengers see the promo video from the current chairman, Jeff Smisek, saying how excited he is about the new United culture. Most airlines do without CEO-promo as part of the preflight drill; for me these appearances are a regular opportunity to reflect on the difference between the announced exciting new culture and the familiar set-jaw attitude of many (though of course not all) United ground, desk, and cabin crew members. But meanwhile, I have only the highest regard for their baggage crew, in hopes that they get our stuff to us, before we're off to the next place.

On a brighter side thanks to many of my friends involved with Zócalo, including the founding director Gregory Rodriguez; and to Peter Cowhey, my friend and a longtime dean and potentate at UCSD, with whom I'll be talking at the Revelle Forum.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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