Thursday, August 21, 2008


The following sentiment made me recall that book, Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me, I mentioned several months back. In summary he pointed out that people with educations have not become liberalized (unlike me). Instead, they become more conservative. So why should Chinese citizens be any different? The passage is from Newsweek (Aug.18-Aug.25), p.31.

“Such sentiments are common on the mainland. But people like Zhang were supposed to be different: he's what Chinese call a hai gui—"sea turtle"—referring to someone who has lived overseas. (The phrase is a pun on haiwai guilai, meaning "returned from overseas.") Their numbers are growing by the tens of thousands every year, and as the sons and daughters of the elite, they have an outsize influence once they move back to China. In the West there's long been an assumption that this cohort would import Western values along with their iPods. They were envisioned as the bridge to a more open, liberal, Western-friendly China.”


The following passages are lifted from a Newsweek article occasioned by the release of Woody's new film, “Vicky Christian Barcelona”. I recommend it as one of his best. But what do I know? Anyhow, the themes of his life occur even in interviews. But do we really know since all we have is what the interviewer passes on to us?

Allen says the indifference of the universe has obsessed him since he was a child. "My mother always said I was a very cheerful kid until I was 5 years old, and then I turned gloomy."

He can only attribute that shift to an awareness of death, which he claims to remember from the crib. "Now, maybe I stayed in the crib longer than other kids," he adds, with the well-timed cough of a former stand-up comedian. And there it is, that little spark of wryness, suggesting that the nihilism is just shtik. But it soon becomes apparent that when he says he agrees with Sophocles suggestion that to have never been born may be the greatest boon, he means it.

At 72, he says he still lies awake at night, terrified of the void. He cannot reconcile his strident atheism with his superstition about the banana [superstitious Woody must always cut his morning banana into 7 pieces], but he knows why he makes movies: not because he has any grand statement to offer, but simply to take his mind off the existential horror of being alive. Movies are a great diversion, he says, "because it's much more pleasant to be obsessed over how the hero gets out of his predicament than it is over how I get out of mine."

"Your perception of time changes as you get older, because you see how brief everything is," he says. "You see how meaningless … I don't want to depress you, but it's a meaningless little flicker."

As a filmmaker, he knows that audiences need a respite from the darkness of his vision—he wanted to end "Hannah and Her Sisters" with his character alone, having been dumped by Hannah's sister, but thought viewers wouldn't go for such a bleak conclusion. In real life, however, he believes there are no happy endings. "It's like the beginning of 'Stardust Memories.' The trains all go to the same place," he says. (And no, that place is not "jazz heaven," as a character in that film hopes.) "They all go to the dump."

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