Saturday Night Cats

Zack and Archie are brothers and are totally devoted to each other. I’ve never seen anything like it; they sleep intertwined, do everything together and watch out for one another. I just got them two weeks ago; wish they could stay kittens forever.

And then they turn over.


Cultural Revolution Photos

Just go there. Awesome.


September 11th and the persistence of memory

Dali, The Persistence of Memory

Somehow there’s been a shift in the public’s attitude toward 911. After marathon memorials last year, the tenth anniversary of the tragedy, including never-ending streams of documentaries and rehashing of old news footage we’ve all seen too many times, after all of that it seems 911 has receded into our memories. This year there is near radio silence on the anniversary that comes tomorrow. Most media are greeting the anniversary as just another day. I’m sure there will be the usual ceremonies and name readings at the site, but it doesn’t feel like past anniversaries; not at all.

Memory and the passage of time are strange things. The memories sag, they even change. This is nothing new and I don’t mean to offer a course on pop psychology 101, but it is fascinating to witness this sudden altering of consciousness. Maybe it’s a sign that America is growing up and moving on. Not that we shouldn’t remember the dead and the horror of that day, not that we shouldn’t memorialize them, but we shouldn’t wallow in them either. There really does come a time to move on and put things in perspective. This applies to all tragedies, of course. But this year marks a landmark for the US: it is the year 911 breast-beating finally settled down and Americans have decided there is no reason to keep it top of mind all the time. We will never forget the images of that day and all its repercussions, but we are finally seeing it for what it is, a calamity from which America needs to recover and get on with life.


The Ferrari Scandal

Another day, another scandal. The timing of this one is particularly disconcerting for the CCP, coming a few weeks before they are expected to hold the 18th Party Congress with a changing of the guard that takes place every ten years. This is an odd one with more questions than answers. Did the son of one of China’s highest-ranking officials really die when the Ferrari he was driving crashed into a wall in March 2011? What happened to the two female passengers who were reported to be in the car with him? Was his father demoted because of the embarrassing incident or were there other reasons? And then there’s the biggest question of them all: what was the son of a party official earning about $15,000 a year doing driving a half-million dollar car?

A fresh scandal has hit China’s leadership ahead of this autumn’s once-a-decade transition of power, with reports that a close ally of president Hu Jintao has been blocked for promotion or even demoted following his son’s involvement in a fatal Ferrari crash.

Photos of the horrific smash in Beijing were deleted within hours of appearing on microblogs and websites in March. Even searches for the word “Ferrari” were blocked on the popular Sina Weibo microblog – prompting widespread speculation that a senior leader’s child was involved.

Now unnamed sources have identified the driver of the black sports car as the son of Ling Jihua, who was removed as head of the party’s general office of the central committee this weekend, the South China Morning Post and Reuters reported.

Another article raises question about whether there even was a fatal crash:

Sources quoted by Reuters said at least one of the trio died but that the victims’ identities were unclear; one said the young man had survived….One of Ling’s room-mates at Peking University, from where he graduated with a degree in International Politics in 2011, said he had not been able to contact his friend since the crash.

“We have all been trying to get in touch with him since we heard about the car accident,” he said. “He was supposed to go to graduate school, but he has not been seen since the crash. The last time I saw him was in July 2011.”

“I really cannot tell what happened. But all of his friends said it happened, so I guess it must have,” he added.

While some reports say searches on Weibo for “Ferrari” are blocked, I saw some tweets from China this morning saying it’s not true. Needless to say, any mention of the story by the media has long been banned. The timing couldn’t be worse for the CCP, already beleaguered by the Bo Xilai-Neil Heywood scandals. The People’s Congress is all about harmony and unity, and that threatens to be overshadowed by an atmosphere of suspicion and outrage over the blatant corruption of the Party.The CCP is in a real bind, seeking to get out its message of harmony while people are seething over its lawlessness.


Friday cat blogging

As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, I recently had to put my 23-year-old cat Nick to sleep to put him out of his pain. This was an agonizing decision, but I had to do it because I loved Nick so much. It took me a few weeks to recover, but then, a few days ago, I knew the time had come for me to bring new cats into my home. What is a home without cats? I went to the Humane Society and adopted two kittens, brothers who look almost exactly alike. As soon as I saw them in their cage, arms entwined and looking so happy together, I knew these were going to be my next pets for years, hopefully decades, to come. I just wanted to share with you the joy these kittens, Archie and Zack, are bringing me.

This is Archie and Zack standing on top of their scratching board.
Archie is standing while his brother Zack, as usual, sits passively by.

This is Archie looking down at the rest of the world.

And finally, this is Archie and Zack curled up together in a perfect Yin-Yang formation, in total harmony. They must be Chinese.


Just one more

I had to share this review of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China that just came out in Business Insider. It includes a Q & A with me about China’s sexual revolution. A very brief snip from a lengthy article:

While the book was based on exhaustive research — Burger says he personally went through thousands of articles and dissertations — it’s not just a piece of academia. The point of the book is to bring China’s sexual revolution to a mainstream audience. We’ve read an advanced proof of the book and have to say it’s a great read.

The book becomes available tomorrow if all goes according to schedule. I am delighted to see the advance praise.

UPDATE: And I just learned the godfather of the blogosphere Andrew Sullivan has blogged today about my book’s chapter on same-sex love.


Off to NYC

I leave early in the morning for a six-day trip to the world’s most exciting city, where I grew up and went to school. If anyone there wants to hook up for coffee or a drink please send me an email. Blogging will be lighter than usual the next few days, but I’ll do my best to put something up every couple of days.

Standing by the Hudson River at sunset.


Tourists beware: New China Visa Rules!

I really don’t like the sound of this:

If you’re planning a trip to China and don’t have an up-to-date visa in hand, you may encounter some additional red tape.

On Aug. 1, the Chinese government started requiring that travelers seeking tourist visas, officially known as L visas, submit a letter of invitation and photocopies of the traveler’s round-trip ticket and hotel reservations.

To obtain a business, or F Visa, applicants must now have an invitation letter or “confirmation letter of invitation” issued by an authorized Chinese agency. This is in addition to an invitation letter issued by a Chinese local government, company, corporation or institution.

For tourists, the invitation letter can come from a “duly authorized tourism unit” or it can be issued by a company, corporation, institution or individual in China. If the letter comes from an individual, a photocopy of her or his identification must also be provided.

The new, more complicated rules, unfortunately, don’t completely spell out what is considered a “duly authorized tourism unit” or what constitutes a “letter of invitation.” Consulate officials did not respond to our request for additional clarification.

The new requirements have thrown many travelers for a loop, especially those who filled out the four-page visa application form in July but whose documents didn’t reach the consulate until August. The result has been confusion, communication challenges and, in some cases, a scramble to meet deadlines and travel itineraries.

You don’t need a visa to go to Singapore or Japan or Hong Kong (or most other places I’ve visited over the decades). Why does China have to make it such hell to visit their country? Visas are a cash cow, a way to milk tourists and enrich the national coffers. Okay, I can deal with that, and getting a visa for entry into the US for a Chinese person is not necessarily a walk in the park either. But why does China have to add more barriers and make a process that is already a pain in the, um, neck even more nightmarish?

Despite the hassle, I had learned how to get a visa relatively quickly and painlessly based on the approximate dates of my trip to China. Now, “Travelers arranging their own trips…must lock in their travel dates, purchase their airline tickets and make hotel reservations before they know whether their visa applications will be approved.” Good grief. What’s the point?



A few hours ago I had my adored cat Nick, who was nearly 23 years old, put to sleep by the vet. A few years ago I posted on the death of his sister cat, Daisy. (Anyone who is a fan of The Great Gatsby knows where the names come from.)

Daisy, the grey cat, was the loving one, so affectionate that people who came into contact with her said she was more a dog than a cat. Nick, on the other hand, was the beautiful one, a brilliant orange color with a white thrush of a throat. He was sublimely arrogant; it was his house and all the food in it was his and I never owned him, he owned me.

Nick had been losing weight for months and I knew he wasn’t going to last much longer. Over the past few weeks his legs gave out and he struggled to stand up. When he lost interest in food a few days ago I knew it was time.

I won’t get all sentimental. I’ll just say that Nick was my life, and I always loved his grandeur, his egotism, his self-centeredness. No, I know these aren’t admirable qualities in a person, but in Nick’s case they made him regal, as though he was always holding court. It was funny that he behaved like a monarch. He was spoiled as hell, but what beloved pet isn’t?

I was massaging the back of his ears as the vet injected him with the anesthesia, which put him down in about 30 seconds. Yes, it was agonizing, but it was a relief to put him out of his pain. He’ll be buried in my back yard, right alongside his long-time companion Daisy. May they both rest in peace forever.


A Confucian Constitution

Is this op-ed a parody or what? Everyone here will find it worth reading, but may not know whether to laugh or cry. I’d like to know what you think.

If that column gives you a headache, you can also use this as an open thread.