Despite my quite sincere dark thoughts about the effects of the current (to me) extreme right’s trampling all over the ABC, I have to admit that there are and, one hopes will continue to be, treasures to be had on that network. Just pray that those who can’t see beyond “bottom lines”, narrowly defined in “market” terms rather than cultural terms, will not get their way. Go to Friends of the ABC. Get active in defence of the ABC.
But to one of the treasures, tonight’s Talking Heads on the remarkable (and beautiful) Li Cunxin (pronounced Lee Tsoonshin, a point Peter Thompson seemed to have a slight problem with, though I note Thompson did follow the advice on Li’s own site there. Curious. A dialect issue perhaps?).
PETER THOMPSON: Let’s go back, then, for a moment, to that consulate in Houston, where… when after this political drama around this defection you were told you were a person with no country. What did that mean to you?
LI CUNXIN: Something very precious was taken away. For years, I struggled. And from that moment, I realised I couldn’t even write home. For years we didn’t know we were dead or alive. And I truly only met my parents in my nightmare of dreams. So, when one truly realises how precious something when it’s taken away from you. For me, because I have really… it’s this, the moment I was chosen to go to Beijing, one ambition inside me was to be able to help my family back in China. To help them to get out their deep wells – the little fable my parents taught me. And…but after my defection, I realised I can’t help them. I can’t – even if I had money, I couldn’t send back home. So, knowing they would be still starving back home, suffering, I can’t do anything about it. And the worst of all, I truly didn’t know when I would ever, I would ever see them.
PETER THOMPSON: Well, China was changing under Deng Xiaoping. And you…
LI CUNXIN: Not in my mind, then.
PETER THOMPSON: You were lucky to be in Texas, where Mrs Bush was patron of the Houston Ballet. And, so, through connections, in a way, extraordinarily, the vice president of the United States at that time, Mr Bush intervened so that your parents could come to visit you. What a moment that must have been.
LI CUNXIN: Oh… Well, the funny thing was, when I was writing that part of my story in my book, it was… the images were still so vivid. So vivid, I could almost still smell the stage. Could smell the, sort of, lights. And sometimes you could feel that, you know, this intense stage light. This burning…smells like burning smell on the stage. You could almost see this dust floating across the beams of light. I could still sense the anticipation in the audience the moment my parents walked into the theatre after this long journey, experiencing train ride, and bus ride and on airplane for… for the first time ever left their hometown before, yet walk into this packed theatre, this glorious scene, and was gonna see their son dance for the first time. And the audience erupted into applause for them. And my heart just soared, and I could still feel that emotional pull at that moment. And, truly, I just… I felt the whole night of the performance, the hardest thing for me was to control my tears. Not to let my tears to block my vision on the stage, and knowing my parents were there. And it was just a faraway dream came true for us.
It was Part 2 tonight; you may also look at Part 1. I haven’t yet read Mao’s Last Dancer; I really must.
Li is, incidentally, around the same age as M.
While on things Chinese, I have been continuing to read Death of a Red Heroine — just about finished, and I am passing it on to M. I also used a description of Shanghai from the book in an English class with a young girl who came to Australia from Shanghai only about six weeks ago. We had a good discussion about the colour of the sales assistants’ uniforms in the cosmetics department of the major department store on Nanjing Road… The novel really is a very fine one indeed, well meriting its place in my “best reads of 2006”. I also welcome the comments made by Peter of Detectives beyond Borders.
SBS has a treasure tomorrow night: The Dark Side of Democracy.
Tonight’s documentary, produced by PBS, tells the story of the vice president’s role as the chief architect of the war on terror, and his battle with Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet for control of the “dark side.” Drawing on more than 40 interviews and thousands of documents, the documentary provides a step-by-step examination of what happened inside the councils of war.
From stories of Iraq buying yellowcake uranium from Niger to claims that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi agent in Prague, this documentary dissects the now-familiar assertions that led the nation to war. The program also recounts the vice president’s unprecedented visits to the CIA, where he questioned mid-level analysts on their conclusions. According to this documentary, CIA officers who were there at the time say the message was clear: Cheney wanted evidence that Iraq was a threat. Insiders tell the story of the battle between the vice president and the CIA.
See on PBS The Dark Side.
Surry Hills Library closed for rebuilding at the end of last month, but has established a small branch in the nearby public housing estate. Fortunately they brought their DVD collection with them, and today I watched my first borrowing: I Dreamed of Africa. And yes, Rotten Tomatoes says it sucks. However, it was nice to look at and is a good story. I really didn’t like the male lead, Vincent Perez. Kim Basinger was not at her best either. But Africa looked fine, and Garrett Strommen as 17-year-old Emanuele looked really fine.