As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been offline a long time – probably the longest period ever since I started this site. I’ve been enjoying forgetting about the blog for a while, spending a lot of time with my parents and friends, and dealing with the practical issues involved in preparing for my move in 10 days (yikes) to China. So I was late to notice that China Law Blog has tagged me to reveal five things about myself that you don’t know. (Go to CLB to see more about this tagging process, and how he himself got tagged.)
Well, let me see what I can come up with. And allow me to be brief, as I’m still on vacation and vowed not to spend a lot of time on the site until I settle down in Beijing.
1. I was trained to be an opera singer. It was simply a matter of fact when I was a teenager that this would be my destiny, and I began training with a coach from the Metropolitan Opera when I was 15. I was a full bass, and my favorite role to sing was Sarastro in The Magic Flute. (So what happened? All I’ll say is that life plays tricks, and things often don’t work out the way we’d planned.)
2. My favorite hobby after classical music is cooking. I like cooking the complicated stuff that takes many hours to prepare, like paella or osso bucco or coq au vin. I baked two pies for my family’s holiday dinner (one pecan, one apple). I use no prepared foods or artificial ingredients, and I take my cooking seriously. It’s also therapy – nothing makes me feel more “harmonious” than preparing the perfect meal.
3. Although I listen mainly to the heavy-duty classical stuff like Wagner and Mahler and Bach, in 1999 I fell in love with the music of Abba – yes, the bubble-gummy, feather-light background music you’d take to listen to at the beach. Only it’s not bubble gum, it’s seriously great stuff once you get into it .(And I know I’m taking a big risk in admitting this. All fashionable pop afficionados know nothing is more uncool than Abba, but that means there are a lot of very uncool people in this world, considering Abba has sold more albums than any other group in history.) My favorite two songs: The Winner Takes it All and One of Us. But whichever I’m listening to is my favorite. And yes, again, I know how uncool it is to love Abba! Why else wold I keep it such a closely guarded secret?
4. I had two brushes with the super-famous in my life. For my graduate thesis, I interviewed Leonard Bernstein, whom I met for dinner at his Greenwich, Connecticut home in 1984. I still look back on that dinner as one of the most thrilling experiences in my life; to actually sit at the same table with Bernstein and talk about classical music and literature for hours, and then have him play his newly recorded Tristan und Isolde… The second experience was years earlier, when I saw an actor in a Broadway matinee whose performance I loved so much I went backstage and met with him and the show’s leading lady. The three of us then went walking through Central Park and spent two wonderful hours together talking about life and its myriad oddities. The actress was Marian Seldes, and the actor was at the time all but unknown, a charming and brilliant fellow named Anthony Hopkins. God, I loved living in New York City.
5. I lost more than $120,000 in the dot-com’s bursting bubble and its aftershocks. It seemed so real and such a sure thing at the time. I took a few thousand dollars in 1996 and turned it into what was, for me, a small fortune, and saw it vanish in just a few months. I learned a painful lesson and am now a cautious investor.
So whom should I tag? So many to choose from… Okay, here goes:
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.