Monday Required Reading

There is no vacation from reading. Indeed, some take the view that there’s no vocation, but reading.

The rich vs the very, very rich: the Wentworth Golf Club rebellion. The makings of a great novel.

The very, very rich vs the Mormon church. I’d read that novel too.

It’s time for car companies to shut up about electric vehicles and just ship them. Amen.

Norway’s most popular cycle route. Yes please.

Here’s what schools are doing to try to address students’ social-emotional needs. Shame on me, I shoulda lead with this.

The Covid Ball Is In The NBA’s Court

From “The NBA’s Big Covid Choice” by Ethan Strauss.

“The NBA actually has an opportunity here to end the precautionary moment, or at least signal its ebb. If commissioner Adam Silver steps forward and announces that his league is ending test protocols and treating this admittedly terrible disease in much the same way we deal with some other respiratory illnesses, that’s a potential cultural shift. The basic plan would be to test players and team officials only if they’re obviously sick (and sit said players if they test positive). And no more of the contact tracing that’s gummed up work behind the scenes of a highly mobile industry. The message could be simple: Look, we can’t functionally operate like it’s 2020; now that the disease is endemic, and vaccines are widely available, we must move into 2022.

This could be an influential move for all the reasons the NBA lockdown was important back in 2020, but now with one new one: The NBA is the archetypal blue state sport. The Covid question has broken along partisan lines, with Democrat-voting spaces far more likely to embrace interventionist measures. If the NBA announces a relaxation, there’s an element of “Nixon goes to China,” a credibility inherent to going against the grain. Such a proclamation grants space if not permission for other non-red world institutions to follow suit and open up despite the surge.”

Do read the whole thing. As thoughtful a rumination on our predicament with the “invisible enemy” as I’ve read. Granted, I might feel that way because I agree with Strauss.

That Time My Nephew Called Me A “Miscreant”

A “miscreant” is a person who behaves badly or in a way that breaks the law.

See number 6. In fairness, it can’t be easy being a radical lefty in the wilderness known as Ohio. He’s also a diehard Ohio State football fan so he’s still reeling from the Wolverine ass whupping.

Put all that together and I’m gonna let it slide.

One noteworthy thing he sidesteps, he could never substack like that in China.

Paragraphs To Ponder

“One day in August 2021, Zhao Wei disappeared. For one of China’s best-known actresses to physically vanish from public view would have been enough to cause a stir on its own. But Zhao’s disappearing act was far more thorough: overnight, she was erased from the internet. Her Weibo social media page, with its 86 million followers, went offline, as did fan sites dedicated to her. Searches for her many films and television shows returned no results on streaming sites. Zhao’s name was scrubbed from the credits of projects she had appeared in or directed, replaced with a blank space. Online discussions uttering her name were censored. Suddenly, little trace remained that the 45-year-old celebrity had ever existed.

She wasn’t alone. Other Chinese entertainers also began to vanish as Chinese government regulators announced a ‘heightened crackdown’ intended to dispense with ‘vulgar internet celebrities’ promoting lascivious lifestyles and to ‘resolve the problem of chaos’ created by online fandom culture. Those imitating the effeminate or androgynous aesthetics of Korean boyband stars—colorfully referred to as ‘xiao xian rou,’ or ‘little fresh meat’—were next to go, with the government vowing to ‘resolutely put an end to sissy men’ appearing on the screens of China’s impressionable youth.”

Meanwhile, U.S. anti-maskers and vaxers have lost their freedom. Cry me a river.

From The Triumph and Terror of Wang Huning.

Monday Required Reading and Listening

The semester is in full swing. Time to raise your game.

  1. Our high-speed transport future. Doubt I’ll live long enough to find out if it’s 670 (Branson) or 760 (Musk) miles per hour.
  2. And the future of weight-loss.
  3. How to help kids struggling with their mental health.
  4. The best young adult author going explains how to connect with kids through the written word.
  5. China’s Hot New Rental Service: Men Who Actually Listen. Groovy, we’re trending.
  6. Astute Ryder Cup analysis you’ve been clamoring for. I hope the U.S. hasn’t “ushered in a new era”. I prefer my Ryder Cups like I do the Good Wife, close.

Paragraph To Ponder

“In July, the I.M.F. estimated that an investment of $50 billion in a comprehensive campaign for vaccination and other virus control efforts would generate some $9 trillion in additional global output by 2025 — a ratio of 180 to 1. What investment could hope to yield a higher rate of return? And yet none of the members of the Group of 20 have stepped up, not Europe, not the United States, not even China. Billions of people will be forced to wait until 2023 to receive even their first shot.”

Adam Tooze, What if the Coronavirus Crisis Is Just a Trial Run?

Paragraph To Ponder

From Raffi Khatchadourian’s story in The New Yorker about the Chinese state’s crackdown in Xinjiang.

“Chen Quanguo’s predecessor had borrowed from his Tibet strategy, deploying two hundred thousand Party cadres in Xinjiang. Chen increased their numbers to a million, and urged them to go from house to house and grow ‘close to the masses, emotionally.’ Under a program called Becoming a Family, local party officials introduced them to indigenous households, declaring, ‘These are you new relatives.’ Cadres imposed themselves, stopping for meals; sometimes they were required to stay overnight. Terrified residents forced smiles, politely served them, engaged their questions, and even offered them their beds.”

We have no idea what a catastrophic loss of liberty entails.

Warren Exits—Patriarchy Remains Undefeated

In 1997 I traveled to China with Guilford College colleagues compliments of the Freeman Foundation. One female sociologist in our group, a firebrand feminist, had never traveled outside of the U.S.

One night we strolled through an open air market. Separately, she and I ended up purchasing some “peasant paintings”, inexpensive, beautiful folk paintings with farming themes done by rural artists. Afterwards, she wanted to know what I had paid for mine. When I told her, she lashed out, “Sexism!”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. I had cut my teeth negotiating with street vendors all over Mexico, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. I know the song and dance, how to walk away, just slow and far enough for the vendor to come and get me and say my price is okay. She knew nothing of the sort.

Being wise to the ways of patriarchy and misogyny meant she saw sexism around every corner. She’s the exact opposite of my close male friends, whose intelligence I respect, because they discount ANY talk of patriarchy and misogyny when it comes to Elizabeth Warren’s aborted candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President. Never mind that this will the 46th time in a row that we’ve just happened to select male candidates. It’s just a coincidence.

Megan Garber cleverly and cogently explains how patriarchy and misogyny doomed Warren in this piece titled “America Punished Elizabeth Warren For Her Competence”. But when it comes to my close male friends, who tend to be college educated, treat women with respect, and are (mostly) anxious to turn the page on the Trump administration, Garber has a heap of problems getting them to acknowledge that their dislike for Warren had anything to do with patriarchy and misogyny.

Because they are me in China. They think the Garber’s of the world see patriarchy and misogyny where it doesn’t exist. Being blind to it, they are highly skilled at rationalizing their choices. Of course, mens’ worst rationalization is this, “We definitely would’ve elected a woman one of the forty six times if one was as qualified as the men.” Most men’s rationalizations are more subtle and nuanced than that, but almost as pernicious.

Here are Garber’s problems more specifically:

  1. My male friends will choose not to read her piece. It’s exactly twelve paragraphs too long. They will think they know what it alleges, that she’s seeing things that don’t exist, that they’re heard it all before.
  2. Even if they were to defy the odds and read it, they won’t take the time to consider whether it applies to them. They won’t ask, “Was my negative reaction to Warren even in part a result of what Garber argues, that the U.S. still doesn’t know what to make of a woman—in politics, and beyond—who refuses to qualify her success? If so, why am I prone to that line of thinking?”
  3. They won’t ask that because that would require them to consider changes not just in their thinking, but in their behavior. How do you undue thinking of especially competent female candidates negatively anyways?

Were they to truly grapple with how to not penalize women candidates for their competence and ambition, the patriarchy would begin to falter. As Warren’s candidacy illustrated, there’s no risk of that. Yet. Patriarchy remains undefeated.

Quotes of the Week

Steve Kerr on being singled out by the President of the (dis)United States:

“I realize the horse was out of the barn a long time on this. But for me personally, this was my experience with, wow, has the office sunken low. My hope is that we can find a mature unifier from either party to sit in that chair and try to restore some dignity to the Oval Office again, and I think it will happen.”

Randi Mayem Singer on Twitter where she has changed her name to Randi Great and Unmatched Wisdom Singer:

“BREAKING: The president is refusing to be impeached on grounds that if he were impeached, then he would be impeached.”

Ruth Whippman in a New York Times essay, “Enough Leaning In. Let’s Tell Men to Lean Out.”

“So perhaps instead of nagging women to scramble to meet the male standard, we should instead be training men and boys to aspire to women’s cultural norms, and selling those norms to men as both default and desirable. To be more deferential. To reflect and listen and apologize where an apology is due (and if unsure, to err on the side of a superfluous sorry than an absent one). To aim for modesty and humility and cooperation rather than blowhard arrogance.”

The backlash in the comments from Whippman’s male readers speaks volumes about the validity and importance of her insight.

Wednesday Assorted Links

1. Exactly how did the Egyptians build the Pyramid of Khufu and its two great successors on the Giza Plateau? Super detailed which my engineer friends will appreciate. And no, it wasn’t space aliens, supernatural powers, or super-advanced predecessor civilizations. Makes me want to visit.

2. The big lie: What it’s like to cycle illegally as a woman in Iran. The things we, meaning cyclists in the west, take for granted.

“The boy cyclists used to tell me, ‘you have good co-ordination’. I owe this skill to the police — I learnt it when they were chasing me in the car and I used my bike riding to escape.

But there were times when they caught me. It was as though they had caught a thief. They would push me into their car, shouting, with several police women guarding me till we got to a police station. One time they even threw my bike in the street — even then I stuck to my bike and wouldn’t let go of it.”

3. I had the pleasure of serving with Sidney Rittenberg on my university’s Chinese Studies Program committee. Wicked bright, funny, and personable. Who has had as long and interesting a life? The one thing I never understood about him. How two lengthy imprisonments seemingly softened his stance on China, capitalism, and US-China business relations.

4. ‘You Failed Us’: Teen author asks 40 students of color to share their experiences at Seattle schools. The disadvantage of being one of the only students of color in a classroom?

“It’s more than having someone to laugh with during class,” Savage writes. “It’s the advantage of having someone to ask for help on homework, to study for the test with, to stand up for you, to confront the racist teacher with.”