August 7, 2007

Mr. Lusk:

As per your letter of the fifth, I avidly agree on the main points, but must differ on certain, certainly most unsubstantial, minutiae. I believe the Charlie Chan flicks of the 40s were in large part propaganda pieces meant to explain to an American audience that the US military involvement with the Chinese resistance was quite okay; and that the Chinese were in fact allies, differentiating the Chinese from the Japanese who were at the time in the States being rounded up into detainment camps. Mr. Chan, remember, was always between assignments for “the US government;” hence a good guy. I seem to recall that some of the Chan flicks ended with an appeal to buy US War Bonds, but I will have to look into that further. Perhaps we should concentrate on the issue of a white actor, Sidney Toler, playing Chan as a symptom of an American WWII pan-Asiatic phobia in a future correspondence.

My folks are here with me in Hainan. Why they couldn’t manage the feat of visitation in the four years I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area is going super-hush-hush. Me and my dad had a rather lengthy discussion on labor movements in general and the United Auto Workers specifically in relation to the shift of auto-production from North America to Asia. To sum his sentiments up succinctly, he said the US labor movement “didn’t have the collective brains of a flea,” which is to say he is doing fine and much the same as you remember him. He handed me Wang Hui’s China’s New Order (Harvard 2003); Wang among other arguments calls for a globalized labor movement to keep pace with the increasingly multi-national corporations. If production is multi-national, his argument goes, then the unions should also go multi-national: it’s worth the read, a little pie-in-the-sky and all, but solid analysis.

After a two-year delay, I finally made it to South Monkey Island. You remember me telling you about the typhoon my first year here back in 2002, and how I got stuck in BeiHai, and the later lung infection that kept me bedridden for a spell. I wrote that long poem that came out recently in the poetry journal 26 in issue c. Well, I was trying to get to South Monkey Island, which got a decent write-up in my guidebook. I’m not sure why. The place bills itself as a nature reserve, but is in fact a well-groomed park that has some monkeys wandering around in it. At regular intervals, they have “monkey circus” which is as bad as it sounds: at one point, a goat walks a tightrope while a monkey does a handstand on its horns. It’s something to do with the Chinese zodiac apparently. Yes. It’s all too reminiscent of the Sancha He Wildlife Reserve in Yunnan that puts on an hourly trained elephant show, complete with trainers and whips, for the tourists who don’t manage to see one of the seven wild Asian elephants there somewhere on the compound. I am sure there is a perfectly good Marxist-with-Chinese-characteristics explanation for this phenomenon, but as I lent my Little Red Book out before my trip, I can’t find a worthy quote: China’s man-is-master-over-nature position is well-rooted, as expressed by their questionable expenditure on their man-in-space program and the Three Gorges Dam project.

As with all tourist traps, the places around Sanya are a tad pricey and disappointing. The Wuzhi Zhou Island shore area that allowed swimming was cramped and overcrowded. Attempts to swim off the rest of the island’s beach brought on youngster security guards in ill-fitting baseball hats. Flashing my multiple Red Cross Lifeguard and CPR cards did nothing to soften them up: you swim where they tell you that you can swim: what a waste of a perfectly good tropical island.

That is my report.

Kareem was a teenage shoplifter.

Mr. Horton
[first published Life Nanjing 3/05]


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