Paris Journal: Like a King

A hilarious and informative read from New Yorker Archive:
Paris Journal: Like a King–How to have a baby in France
By Adam Gopnik

In New York, …, pregnancy is a medical condition that, after proper care by people in white coats and a brief hospital stay, can have a “positive outcome.” In Paris, it is something that has happened because of sex, which, with help and counsel, can end with your being set free to go out and have more sex. In New York, pregnancy is a ward in the House of medicine; in Paris, it is a chapter in a sentimental education…

The Social Network

The Social Network

The Social Network

Finally watched this film. I liked it. A couple of articles from the New Yorker provided very good contextual read relating to the film.

The last paragraph from David Denby’s review summed up my main impression after watching the film.

Zuckerberg’s tragedy, of course, is that he leaves behind his friends as well as his intellectual inferiors. It may not be fair to Zuckerberg, but Sorkin and Fincher have set him up as a symbolic man of the age, a supremely functional prince of dysfunction. Charles Foster Kane was convivial and outgoing; Zuckerberg engages only the world he is creating. But those viewers who think of him as nothing more than a vindictive little shit will be responding to only one part of him. He’s a revolutionary because he broods on his personal grievances and, as insensitive as he is, reaches the aggrieved element in everyone, the human desire for response. He’s meant to be a hero—certainly he’s Fincher’s hero, an artist working in code who sticks to his vision and is helpless to prevent himself from suffering the most wounding personal loss.

I also really like the scene when the twins to go and meet Harvard’s president Larry Summers. David Denby’s interpretation of the scene seems amusing to me.

Fincher and Sorkin treat the brothers as squarely honorable traditionalists. They go to see Larry Summers (Douglas Urbanski), then the president of Harvard, to complain about Zuckerberg, and one can feel, in this seemingly unimportant scene, history falling into place, a shift from one kind of capitalism to another. Fincher and Sorkin wickedly imply that Summers is Zuckerberg thirty years older and many pounds heavier. He has the same kind of brightest-guy-in-the-room arrogance, and little sympathy for entitled young men talking about ethics when they’ve been left behind by a faster innovator.

As if to vindicate Denby’s claim above, here is a little revelation from Jose Antonio Vargas’s article that closes up this perfect circle.

In the early years, Facebook tore through a series of senior executives. “A revolving door would be an understatement—it was very unstable,” Breyer said. Within ten days of hiring an executive, Breyer told me, Zuckerberg would e-mail or call him and say that the new hire needed to get the boot. Things calmed down in March, 2008, when Zuckerberg hired Sheryl Sandberg, a veteran of Google who was the chief of staff for Lawrence Summers when he was Secretary of the Treasury. She joined Facebook as the company’s chief operating officer, and executives followed her from companies like eBay, Genentech, and Mozilla. A flood of former Google employees soon arrived, too.

Zukerberg and Sandberg really gets along. Zukerberg and Summers probably would’ve too.

While David Denby’s review is about the movie and the director. Jose Antonio Vargas article extended the story outside of the movie, the saga continues…

Meanwhile, however, most of Zuckerberg’s close friends, who worked for Facebook at the start, have left. Adam D’Angelo, who has been friends with Zuckerberg since their hacking and programming days at Exeter, teamed up with another former Facebook employee, Charlie Cheever, to start Quora.com, a social network that aggregates questions and answers on various topics. Chris Hughes, Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate, left to join the Obama campaign and later founded the philanthropic site Jumo.com.

In part, the exodus reflects the status that former Facebook employees have in the tech world. But the departures also point to the difficulty some people have working for Zuckerberg. It’s hard to have a friend for a boss, especially someone who saw the site, from its inception, as “A Mark Zuckerberg production”—the tag line was posted on every page during Facebook’s early days. “Ultimately, it’s ‘the Mark show,’ ” one of his closest friends told me.

In late July, Facebook launched the beta version of Questions, a question-and-answer product that seems to be a direct competitor of Quora. To many people, the move seemed a vindictive attack on friends and former employees. In an interview, Cheever declined to comment, as did Matt Cohler, another friend who left the company, and who invested in Quora.

Chris Cox, Facebook’s vice-president of product, said that Facebook Questions is not an attack on Quora. “We’ve been talking about questions being the future of the way people search for stuff, so it was a matter of time before we built it,” Cox told me. “Getting there first is not what it’s all about.” He added, “What matters always is execution. Always.”

The surprising fact that i didn’t know before reading Vargas’ story was that Zuckerberg’s “classical streak.”

It is very fitting, in a way. The fact that most of his close friends have left reminded me of Kings and Emperors from history, when they started killing their generals after the empire has been built. Because an empire belongs to the King, and to the King only.

Another fun fact from Vargas’ article. “The West Wing” was Zuckerberg’s favorite tv show, until he found out the script writer of this movie is the same person, then he took “West Wing” off his “favorite” from his facebook page. On the other hand, when Vargas’ told Sorkin that Zuckerberg is a big fan of “The West Wing”, Sorkin felt a bit awkward “I really wish you haven’t told me that.”

Lastly, if you are like me, you might also want to read the script:
The Social Network.

Recent New Yorker Articles

Just want to note down a few articles from recent issues of the New Yorker.

September 27, 2010 Issue

As new parents, we hold ourselves to impossibly high standards. We settle for second or third best when we buy a house or a car, and, when it comes to choosing a spouse, ninth best will often do. And yet, for some reason, we throw this time-tested principle out the window when we have a baby. We try to be “perfect” parents and raise the “perfect” baby, even if that means taking care of the baby “all the time.”
In reality, trying to raise a perfect baby is futile, because, behavior-wise, babies are pretty craptastic. Howling, vomiting, projectile-shitting—kind of hard to shoot for perfection when you’re doing appalling things like these around the clock.

Part of the power of “Gatz” may lie in the way in which it requires the audience’s submission to the exclusive experience of reading, without the distractions of family, television, laptop, or iPhone. Being shut up in a darkened theatre with “Gatz” is a strangel potent way to reproduce the increasingly elusive sensation of being enraptured by a book.

This reminded me a short conversation i had with Gui lately. She was saying that when Noah grew up, his world will not have physical books anymore. He will be reading from kindle or ipad or whatever the most trendy e-reader will be called.

“Will people still read ‘books’ if they’ve never read a physical book?” Gui was wondering out loud. I could see where her concerns come from, people would only consume reading materials in shorter form, like on-line newspaper articles, tweets, sms, facebook status. They would have neither patient nor time to read long “thick” book. But i somehow feel more optimistic. Because a world without the pleasure of reading a long novel is a sad sad world. People wouldn’t give up such pleasant experience, some people at least.

October 4, 2010 Issue

In other words, Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice.

October 11, 2010 Issue (The Money Issue)

(I LOVE this issue! It is full of gems.)

he was the first Chinese student since the Cultural Revolution to return with an American doctorate in economics. His Ph.D. was from the University of Chicago. … Lin is also, it’s safe to assume, the first chief economist of the World Bank to take office as a wanted man. He faces an outstanding arrest warrant, issued by the Ministry of Defense in his native Taiwan, for “defecting to the enemy,” for abandoning his post in the Army at the age of twenty-six and swimming to the mainland and a new life under the Communist Party.

A million dollars each! I kept estimating, and dividing by four, and mentally spending the money. My husband and I had recently bought a house in East Hampton, and the renovation had cost much more than we’d ever dreamed.  There was nothing left for landscaping. I went outside and walked around the house. I mentally planted several trees.  I ripped out the scraggly lawn and imagined the huge trucks of sod I would now be able to pay for.  I considered a trip to the nursery to look at hydrangeas. My heart was racing. I pulled my husband away from his work, and we had a conversation about what kind of trees we wanted. A dogwood, definitely. A great big dogwood. It would cost a small fortune, and now we were about to have one.

I went upstairs and looked at the script I’d been writing. I would never have to work on it again. I was just doing it for the money and, face it, it was never going to get made, and, besides, it was really hard.

I never did enter the fifth stage of inherited wealth: Wealth.

I finished the screenplay and it got made. I am quick to draw lessons from my own experience, and the lesson i drew from this one was that I was extremely lucky not to have ever inherited real money, because I might not have finished writing “When Harry Met Sally…,” which changed my life.

(this article truly opened my eyes)
First the argument Nightingale had against the Red Cross.

The godfather of modern humanitarianism was a Swiss businessman named Henri Dunant,…, he founded the Red Cross, on three bedrock principles: impartiality, neutrality, and independence. In fund-raising letters, he described his scheme as both Christian and a good deal for countries going to war. “By reducing the number of cripples,” he wrote, “a saving would be effected in the expense of a Government which has to provide pensions for disabled soldiers.”

…Florence Nightingale…she rejected the idea of the Red Cross from the outset. “I think its views most absurd just such as would originate in a little state like Geneva, which can never see war,” she said.  Nightingale has served as a nurse in British military hospitals during the Crimean War, where nightmarish conditions – septic, sordid, and brutal – more often than not amounted to a death sentence for wounded soldiers of the Crown. So she was outraged by Dunant’s pitch. How could anyone who sought to reduce human suffering want to make war less costly? By easing the burden on war ministries, Nightingale argued, volunteer efforts could simply make waging war more attractive, and more probable.

It might appear that Dunnat won the argument… Polman has come back from fifteen years of reporting in the places where aid workers ply their trade to tell us that Nightingale was right.

Some examples to prove Nightingale’s case…

The conventional wisdom was that Sierra Leone’s civil war had been pure insanity: tens of thousands dead, many more mainmed or wounded, and half the population displaced — all for nothing.

[a rebel leader in Makeni] claimed, the R.U.F. had escalated the horror of the war (and provoked the government, too, to escalate it) by deploying special “cut-hands gangs” to lp off civilian limbs. “It was only when you saw ever more amputees that you started paying attention to our fate,” he said. “Without the amputee factor, you people wouldn’t have come.” The U.N.’s mission in Sierra Leone was per capita the most expensive humanitarian relief operation in the world at the time.  The old rebel believed that, instead of being vilified for the mutilation, he and his comrades should be thanked for rescuing their country.

More opinions(all negative) on humanitarian aid from various professionals or ex-aid-workers…

…as the Harvard law professor David Kennedy writes in “The Dark Sides of Virtue” (2004), “Humanitarianism tempts us to hubris, to an idolatry about our intentions and routines, to the conviction that we know more than we do about what justice can be.”

[Michael] Maren and de Waal expose more thoroughly the ignoble economies that aid feeds off and creates: the competition for contracts, even for projects that everyone knows are ill-considered, the ways in which aid upends local markets for goods and services, fortifying war-markers and creating entirely new crises for their victims. Worst of all, de Waal argues, emergency aid weakens recipient governments, eroding their accountability and undermining their legitimacy.

[Michael] Maren, who came to regard humanitarianism as every bit as damaging to its subjects as colonialism, and vastly more dishonest, takes a dimmer view: that we do not really care about those to whom we send aid, that our focus is our own virture. He quotes these lines of the Somali poet Ali Dhux:

A man tries hard to help you find your lost camels.
He works more tirelessly than even you,
But in truth he does not want you to find them, ever.

“My Life as an Heiress”

Really enjoyed this article from the latest New Yorker: “My Life as an Heiress”. It also helped a great deal that i didn’t pay attention who was the author, so when i got to the last sentence, imagine my surprise! It made the article so much more enjoyable.

(Note, the link above only points to the abstract. But the latest iPad version of New Yorker boasts of having all the articles, so maybe if you have an iPad…)

“Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond” @de Young

After seeing the amazing “Birth of Impressionism” exhibit at de Young in July, we’ve been impatiently waiting for the second half: “Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond”.

It is finally here!

Gui and I went to see it yesterday (a Thursday). And we were disappointed.

It is good and worth seeing, but not great. Certainly not as great as “Birth of Impressionism”. Maybe because of the famous names in the title, it was a lot more crowded than the previous exhibit. As a result the overall enjoyment of the show was further diminished. 🙁

“Birth of Impressionism” was great because it was so consistently good from beginning to the end, great paintings in every section. Quality of “Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond” was very uneven, it had a few good Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne; basically each artist had its own room, less than 10 from each artist; quantity-wise is far from enough, quality-wise it is not impressive either. And the proportion of paintings in the “Beyond” part was too large–about half of the show, and paintings in the “Beyond” section were uninteresting.

My favorite painting from this exhibit is “The Portrait of Gaustav Geoffrey” by Cézanne.

The Portrait of Gaustav Geffrey by Cezane

The Portrait of Gaustav Geffrey by Cézanne

WebMuseum has a detailed commentary about this painting, parts of it explained why i liked it so much.

It is not a revealing study of the face, but an image of the man of books, the writer among his things. Cézanne often reduces the singularity of human beings; he is most happy with people like his card players, who do not impose themselves, who are perfectly passive or reserved, or immersed in their tasks. The portrait becomes a gigantic still life. The world of objects absorbs the man and lessens the intensity of his person; but it also enlarges him through the rich and multiple surroundings. His repressed activity is transferred to the complicated articulation of his books, the instruments of his profession. Indeed the arrangement of the books behind him, projecting and receding, tilted differently from shelf to shelf and ending in the open volumes below, seems more human than the man, reminding us of a long twisted body in classic counterpoise, like Michelangelo’s Slave in the Louvre, a work that Cézanne admired and drew.

I’ve read and re-read Irving Stone’s Lust for Life, which used to be one of my favorite biographies. I’ve cried so hard during each read. Despite Stone’s fictionalizing of Van Gogh’s life, the book gave one a vivid image of the artist and its inspiration, as well as all the backstories of each of his painting. I remember the famous yellow room was painted in anticipation of Gauguin’s visit, and it was used to decorate the room.

While visiting Italy last fall, I finished reading Moon and Six Pence on my iphone. Even though i was never crazy about Gauguin’s paintings, the book painted a good portrait of the artist, and gave a complete overview of his life.

I fell in love with impressionism after my first European trip in 1997. I feverishly read on the period history, and browsed through every artist in this category at WebMuseum. At that time, one of my favorites was Cézanne. I search high and lo for his paintings on line, downloaded them and made them into my screen saver. I used to sit in front of my computer and watch the slide show over and over, mesmerized.  I never thought i would love a still life till i saw those done by Cézanne. Naturally i felt cheated when there were only two still life by Cézanne at de Young this time. What a let down!

Even with its shortcomings, this exhibit still delighted me. It was like seeing old dear friends again after long absence. Makes one feel all warm and fuzzy inside…

The Orchid Saga Continues

“What goes around comes around…”

Friend Bonnie got a moth orchid for her office desk. After the bloom was gone, a keiki developed on the flower stem! it was fascinating. I’ve never seen a live keiki before. Then the keiki started to grow roots. New leaves and new roots were growing left and right, but no more flower.

Right before my maternity leave, our department was due for another move. On packing day, Bonnie said she wanted to throw away her orchid since it didn’t look like it would bloom anytime soon. She was tired of carrying it around. I jumped, “I will take it! With all that healthy leaves and roots, all it needs is a little sunlight, then it would bloom.” I told her that she could have it back once the flower shows up.

The new flower stem grow out of the keiki this time. I think it was around the time when Noah was born. I’ve forgotten what the bloom was like. So we waited. And here it is. Exactly like my first orchid, which i’ve managed to kill while we were on Cole street. Some kind of reincarnation, maybe?

The New Comer

The New Comer

Impressions from Paris — My Photography Exhibition (by Mi Zhou)

(ZM wrote about his trip to Paris earlier this month, in Chinese. He covered some very interesting topics and people, i thought more people will be interested in reading this so I translated it from Chinese into English, with great editorial help from Alice and Gui! Thank you both! 🙂)

Impressions from Paris — My Photography Exhibition
by Mi Zhou

After doing photography for over a decade, I had my first gallery exhibition. I flew to Paris for a week to attend the opening and met my agent for the first time. I want to share some of my experiences with other amateur photographers who are in similar situations.

1. The Agent

In June 2009, I received an email from someone named “Aurélie”, inquiring whether i have an agent in France. In the case that I did not, she offered Florence Moll’s services as my French representative. After a brief exchange of emails, Florence and I confirmed our agent-photographer relationship.

This was my first interaction with any agency. I was completely ignorant of how it should work. I remember asking multiple times for some kind of contract that would legalize our partnership. At the end Florence told me she has never signed any contract to date with any of the artists that her agency represented. All of her professional partnerships operated on the basis of mutual trust. I took her words for it, but I wasn’t sure whether it would work out.

Florence Moll represents a dozen or so top commercial and fashion photographers and designers in Europe. Most of her clients are luxury fashion merchandising brand names such as LV and Hermès.

I’ve always been curious how she found me and what motivated her to represent an amateur like me. To be honest, even if my photos really sold well in the future, the amount of money it would generate still couldn’t compare to her other commercial projects.

A year later, when i finally made my way to Paris and met Florence for the first time, I raised this burning question to her. She told me that her assistant Aurélie saw Ma Ke’s “Wu Yong” fashion photo series in a magazine last year and thought it was “simply splendid”. Aurélie then showed the magazine to Florence, who “fell in love at first sight.” She asked Aurélie to find this photographer at once. A few seconds later, Aurélie exclaimed in delight as she found my website on-line. After reviewing my site, Florence “fell in love all over again.” The reason she wanted to represent me was completely based on her love of my photos; potential profit was not in the equation.

The rest was history. Florence selected 80+ photos from my site, and I produced two sets of portfolio based on her selection and mailed both to Paris.

Agent

Agent Florence(middle) and her assistants


The potential audience of my photos was new marketing territory for Florence. In order to promote my work, Florence spent a lot of energy in networking with galleries, media, and museums. She even took some university classes on art and photography. During our meetings this time, i noticed how worn were the cloth covers of my two portfolio boxes, a mark of the numerous trips Florence made to various potential clients.

June 2010, Florence emailed me with good news: six months after submitting my portfolio, Polka publications group decided to print and exhibit a few of my photos, together with those from five other photographers: Peter Lindbergh、Stanley Greene、Brenda Ann Kenneally、Williams Daniels, and Alain Loison. All these names were new to me, so i did some research on line…

2. Polka

Polka is actually the name of the dog of the founder, Alain Genestar. Alain said told the story of how when everyone was trying to come up with a name for their new organization, nothing stood out. At the end he pointed at his little dog and said, that’s it.

Polka

Polka


Polka is made up of three entities: Polka Gallery, Polka Magazine, and Polka website. Personally I think these three entities are the most ideal media channels for promoting photography. Polka is run by Alain and his son and daughter. Every year, it publishes four magazine issues: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The magazine’s publication is in sync with four exhibits in its gallery. It also organizes exhibitions and promotional events at other locations, including all the major photo festivals throughout Europe. From the Polka editorial committee, one could see the focus of this organization: “Photojournalism”.
http://www.polkamagazine.com
http://www.polkagalerie.com

Some of Polka magazine editorial committee members: Christian Caujolle, Jean-Jacques Naudet, Reza, Marc Riboud, Sebastião Salgado, Robert Delpire.

Polka Gallery currently represents 32 photographers (see images below). I feel honored to appear in the same list as Elliott Erwitt, William Klein, Mary Ellen Mark, James Nachtwey, Sebastiao Salgado. Many of them have been my idols for years. Meanwhile, I’m trying to not let any of this get to my head — I understand perfectly where my work stands against these masters.

Current Artists Represented by Polka

Current Artists Represented by Polka


Polka magazine has published a total of 10 issues since 2008.
Polka Magazine

Polka Magazine


This is the best photography magazine I’ve seen. It attempts to revive the golden age of magazine as a media channel. The most impressive part of the magazine is its 100% high quality content. All the articles and information are about the photographers and their work. Some of them are classics and some are new documentary photos (too bad it only appears in French). Every issue contains over 150 pages and 20+ topics. Every topic ranges from 6 to 20+ pages, so each topic can be thoroughly presented. Many photos get spread page treatment. I think this is probably as close to heaven as it comes for photojournalists.

From every magazine issue, Polka Gallery picks 5-6 photographers holds simultaneous gallery exhibits. They usually include 1-2 famous photographers, plus 3-4 new faces. Each exhibit lasts for 2 months.

While in Paris, I went to the gallery four times, every member of Polka was easy going and friendly. Alain introduced me to his little dog Polka. They constantly expressed their appreciation of my photos, explained that they were the perfect fit for their magazine and gallery. They thanked me for attending the opening. The chief editor of the magazine, Dimitri Beck, gave me the entire set of their magazines as a present…

3. The Printer
It is a little embarrassing for me to admit that after all these years, I had no gallery quality final prints of any of my photos. Usually, established photographer will have their best work in print form, ready for exhibition and sale. But I’ve never done so. The production cost is high, and more importantly there hasn’t been the need. I’m really grateful that Polka took care of all the cost of print and framing for the exhibit. But I was a little worried of the quality of the final print since the I only had photo scans done on an Epson V700.

Picto is a prominent professional imagery production company in Paris. The printer Christophe Batifoulier works in their Fine Art department. Bati sports sideburns and looks like a skinny version of the actor Jean Reno. He holds a prestige position inside Picto. His has a gigantic workshop as his private office and workspace. It contains four computers, one scanner, two large scale printers, one giant viewing table and a wall sized board where final prints could be hung up using magnets and viewed in ideal light.

At Picto, Bati enjoys unprecedented independence. he is not limited by the cost of material or any fixed working hours. Bati only agrees to print photos that he likes. His imagination and sensitivity enables him to reveal what each photographer is trying to express, merely based on a sample print.

Upon my arrival, the first thing Florence did was to take me to see my exhibition photos at Bati’s workshop. When I saw the final print, I was blown away. They far exceeded my highest expectations. Bati showed me samples he made on various papers and with various inks. He said that he could tell which scanner I used based on my scanned files. He commented that my scanner focus was not accurate, the negative was not completely flat, and some of the details in highlight areas were lost. It was good enough for any print that is under the dimension of one meter. But it could have been better.

Before he set out to print my photo, Bati spent a lot of time adjust my image files, including the tone, contrast, sharpness, and grain. He thought the best scanning technique for film negatives was not drumscan but Imacon. He explained the reasoning but unfortunately it was too technical for me to grasp his finer points. He also suggested to not use color ink to print black and white photos, because even with the most careful adjustments, it is hard to keep the tone consistent if you print the photos at different times, which is not good for gallery edition because they only print photos when there is a sale. Carbon ink wouldn’t have such a problem.

Three days later I went to visit Bati on my own. He showed me some of the photos he was working on for other photographers. We chatted for a long time. I asked him how it was like to work for Koudelka. Bati told me that for him photo production was not about money. It was a game for him. He didn’t want to work for only one or two photographers, because no matter how great those photos are, limiting oneself into such a narrow style would impede one’s imagination and reduce the enjoyment of the work itself. He loved working with various photographic styles and topics; they brought him inspiration and challenge. He didn’t want to open his own print shop because he didn’t want to be trapped into the marketing and finance matters that he didn’t care for. For the photos he loved, he was willing to spend the time, resources, and his passion in production. For photos he didn’t respond to, he usually pushed them to other co-workers instead.

He was generous at sharing his knowledge and expertise. He was contemptuous of people who mystify technique or guard their techniques like a trade secret. He even suggested that in the future, I could mail him my film negative so he could scan it for me, then send me print samples to get whatever adjustments I prefer, then he would modify his file accordingly. He pointed out some of my photos that he thought were ideal for galleries, and asked me in addition to Polka whether I have other gallery representations.

Hopefully I will work with Bati again in the future.

4. The Exhibit

Polka Gallery

Polka Gallery


The Polka Gallery itself was nothing fancy. Compared to some of the galleries in China, it seem almost shabby. The gallery space is divided into two physical partitions. The partition facing the street is currently displaying twenty photographies by Stanley Greene. Inside the courtyard, the exhibition space has two stories. Five of my Burning Man photos were displayed on the facing wall. The other three walls were given to the other three photographers in this exhibit, five to seven photos each. The basement was devoted to Peter Lindbergh’s 20 photos.

The opening went from 6pm to 9pm on a Thursday afternoon. What put me at ease was the informality of the opening. There were no ceremonies, nor were there any speeches given or demanded. No time was spent on exchanging pleasantries. Even the Culture Minister of France drew no crowd. Everyone there seemed to be returning friends and all knew their way around. According to gallery personnel, there were over fifteen hundred attendees at the opening.

During the opening I discovered another benefit of having an agent: I didn’t need to spend energy socializing. I was chatting with my old friend Kang, Yves, and their friends. Claude told me that she saw lots of bigshots, but none of their names rang a bell for me. One photographer came up and congratulated me for having an exhibit at “one of the best two photography galleries in Paris.” I didn’t snap too many photos at the opening.

Alain Genestar(left)

Alain Genestar(left)


The crowd at the opening

The crowd at the opening

The gallery set two sizes for my photos: 21x60cm, limited 15 prints each; 40x100cm, limited 10 prints each. The photographs were framed on an aluminum board, on the back of which was a 8-ply paper board with a rectangular window opening for the photographer’s signature. I was pleasantly surprised that my photos made three sales. Two buyers wrote their checks in person. Both Florence and Polka were happy, too.

The next day, Florence and I went to the Gallery again to sign a bunch of documents that gave Polka the right to represent me in photo sale. Florence explained to me the document explained the method of representation, its limitations, the sale price and rules, etc. Both Florence and I were first timers seeing documents like this, so the sales manager of Polka, Adélie (Alain’s daughter), patiently explained every bullet point on the document. She also explained certain rights that I as the photographer should retain for myself. Florence told me that for the initial sales, she would wave her commission so that I can earn a little money to compensate for the travel expenses. I was very moved, given how much time and energy she had spent on this project herself.

5. Meetings

Florence explained that I wouldn’t be able to meet a few people because Visa pour l’Image, the premier International Festival of Photojournalism held in Perpignan, happened to fall on the same week. But she managed to get me appointments with photo editors from “Vogue”, “W”, and “Le Monde”.

I’ve never participated in this kind of meeting before. I thought photo editors from such publications would probably be desensitized by the large volume of photos they go through on a daily basis. Also, considering the general stereotype of French arrogance, I was hesitant to attend these meetings. But I was proven wrong. My portfolio was submitted prior to each appointment. If the other side had no interest in the work, there would have been no appointment in the first place.

All of the meetings turned out to be very pleasant. At Vogue, the editor called in everyone from her department, and asked me lots of questions regarding my photos’ backstory. We discussed many topics covering travel, culture and society. She said unfortunately they already sent two photographers to this year’s Burning Man, and they just got back…

It was pretty difficult to get in “Le Monde”’s door, literally. We had to pass an X-ray machine, then through a double door that was controlled by security from inside, Florence presented our appointment sheet to the front desk who summoned our host, then we had to take a security controlled elevator to reach the editor’s office.

The photo editor of Le Monde is an elderly lady in her sixties, Frederique Babin. She spoke to Florence in French while browsing my portfolio. Later I asked Florence what they were discussing. Florence asked me in return, “Didn’t you notice her eyes were wet when she looked at your work?” Before we left, Frederique asked me to prepare a complete work portfolio and send it to her.

None of the people I met talked about art or trends. Instead, they were more interested in whether the imagery moved them spiritually or emotionally. Meanwhile, everyone showed more respect for traditional film photography and classic black and white imagery. They were also interested to learn whether a photographer could master diverse topics and styles. Florence believes that “As long as your work is truly great, it would shine.” I couldn’t agree more. She also told me to be patient and spend as long as needed to photograph what I was interested in. But she also said, it would be difficult to promote someone who doesn’t put out new work every two years. Ha, so there is still some pressure.

While promoting my work in the past year, Florence also met her share of arrogant clients. Some organization’s first sentence was “Who referred you?” On the other hand, she understands the other side’s frustration, too. Her agency would receive approximately ten portfolios and resumes submitted by new artists every week. I guess that birds of the same feather eventually flock together.

The one-week Paris trip passed in a blink of an eye. It felt like all the events had something to do with me, and had nothing to do with me at the same time; all had something to do with photography, or not.

Now I’m home and life goes on as before.

“The Pulse and Shadow of the Fan”

Electric ceiling fans always remind me of romances in the tropics, like scenes in sepia tone from movies such “The Lover” or “The English Patient”. With phrases such as “They lie in each other’s arms, the pulse and shadow of the fan on them.”

In reality, they totally don’t look the part.

Our current house comes with an electric ceiling fan and lights combo installed in the master bedroom. When we moved in, we took one look at the thing and thought that was the first thing must go. They look UGLY! Then we procrastinated, and the fan stayed till this day.

When the first heat wave hit earlier this month, during the hottest day of that wave, when the evening stood steaming in the breezeless night, we were wondering how the three of us would fall asleep in the heat. I remembered the fan! The cool breeze felt like magic.

Now we are at the supposedly the last day of the longest heat wave i remembered in San Fran, we’ve been using the fan whenever we were in the bedroom.

Yesterday afternoon, both ZM and I were taking a nap with the baby in between us. I woke up for a brief moment. The bedroom was in a golden hue even with the curtain drawn. Setting sun drew large bright square on the curtain, there was a little breeze coming from the open window, the curtain sway in it slightly. The fan was on. It was like a scene from a movie… and it was romantic.

Stuck

Read an article in a recent New Yorker magazine on traffic of Moscow:”Stuck“. It reminded me of Beijing. The similarity amazes me. How both countries, after their corresponding rigid communist central planning years, their capital both decided to abandon all concepts of urban planning and embrace “market” when it comes to car and road. Yet, results of the before and after seem to have some similarities too.

We’ve been here before. The cars standing in endless lines on the crowded Moscow streets: they resemble nothing so much as the people who used to wait in endless lines outside the Moscow stores for Polish coats, Czech shoes, and, famously, toilet paper. Now, more comfortably, they wait for the light. They are willing to endure all manner of humiliation to keep driving.

Sunny Weekend, TV series, and Inception

1.
The weekend started off nicely with a gorgeous sunny day in San Fran on Saturday (what a rarity in summer!) when Alice arrived. I finally made it out of the house and visited the Farmer’s Market on Alemany Saturday morning. How wonderful it was to be finally out and about.

Noah happened to born into the most gloomy month of the City – July. We were lucky to be treated to a couple of sunny ones when he was discharged from the hospital. But ever since, we have been mostly sitting in the glooms.

But since autumn just started yesterday, we seem to have entered the real warm month of the city. Hoping to see more sunshine as well. fingers crossed.

2.
Suddenly I’m following three TV series: Mad Men, Rubicon, and Sherlock by BBC.

Mad Men season four has been a huge disappointment to me so far. I think i finally figured out why. There hasn’t been enough advertising cases in the show! There used to be at least one advertising case study in each episode, and turned out that’s one of the major reason drew me to the show.

In the first three episodes of the new season, there has hardly been any advertising case at all! it is all about the melodrama of Don’s life, which i only care as a side show. :-/

Rubicon is a bit slow after the more engaging/thrilling first episode, but I’m giving it some benefit of doubt and hoping it will get more interesting soon.

The New Sherlock from BBC, where Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were placed in today’s London has been spectacular! Episode one especially, episode three was wonderful too. episode two is a bore. 🙁 I guess the script writer really matters for a TV show, like the director to a movie.

3.
I’ve heard so many great reviews of Inception, the movie, that I came to the theatre with high expectations.

I was disappointed.

It is intricately built. It is clever. But it is soulless. There is nothing human about the story, nothing connects me with the characters. It is a show, in which i have no part of. I feel sympathy for no one in the movie. I couldn’t care less whether any of them made it out of their self-built maze.

Many has compared Inception to the Matrix. I try to remember why i enjoyed the Matrix so much. ZM thinks it is because the Matrix has simplicity, audience could actually enjoy the entertainment. Inception is too exhausting, and at the end, all that mental effort produces very little reward. What’s the point of it all?

Loved this “counter-inception” via Twitter today.

Introducing Baby Noah

July 15, 2010

It is 1:44am, i’m writing a blog entry in my PJ, wide awake even though i haven’t really slept for more than 3 hours in the past 24. Living on something a little more than adrenaline: we now have a new member in the household! 🙂

Tonight was the first night this week any of us has slept at home.

I plan on start a new blog for all Noah related writings so i can keep my current blog(s) still about me.  But setting up a new blog will take a little more time than i could spare at the moment. And a few of you out there has been wondering what has happened.

So here is a quick intro, and hopefully “Jean’s Weblog” will resume its usual random program when life becomes more sane.

It has been a roller coaster week. I had no idea how we had managed to pull through all these so quickly. Luckily we did and things are looking up (at least at the moment, i’m in the optimistic cycle of the mood swing).

Noah has been a model baby. Even nurses in the hospital were telling us how calm and pilot Noah has been. He rarely makes a fuss about anything and the only thing really bothers him has been hunger, even that he protests in a very restrained way.

He has this amazing highly choreographed facial expression plus elaborate hand gesture reflex that totally blew us away.  80% of his time since being born has spent with an IV tube taped to his left hand. So we always thought he only had a single hand gesture routine, which often mimic either a passionate speaker or a symphony maestro. What he couldn’t talk, he made up using his facial muscle and intricate finger language. I often said he had an obama routine where you could imagine an Obama speech was given.

But since last night when his left hand was also freed from the iv, we realized it was really a double hands gesture routine that he was excelling at. definitely a maestro.

Tonight i discovered something else, he can pull a super vivid and accurate marlon brando Godfather routine with his facial expression and his hands and shoulder. And he only does that when he was pooping.  It was hilarious.

Unfortunate Noah has been a complete night owl, to witness any of these performance, you have to be present around 2am.

July 18, 2010
There are so much i wanted to write, only if there is some kind of thoughts->words program so i can dump everything in my mind in words without actual sitting down and typing them out…

Since Thursday night, i’ve been struggling between co-oping with Noah’s feeding schedule and keeping my own sanity by sneaking in as many naps as possible. I’ve realized that if i wait till i have enough time to make a proper introduction and recording all the little things i want to say about Noah since his birth a little over 6 days ago, i would have to wait for a long long time.

so here are some vital stats:

Noah Tian-Yi Zhou (周天翼)
Born on July 12th, 2010, 15:05
Weight: 3.895Kg (8lb, 9.39 oz)
Height: 54.6cm (1’9.5″, i.e 21 and 1/2 “)
APGAR (okay, i know this is too “typical asian parent” to include such stats, but just for the fun of it. I will try not to do it again):
one min: 7
five min: 9

Since Thursday night, he has been doing better at waking up occasionally during the day too. So to give Grandma Aiqi a glimpse of what he looks like when he is happy and awake!

Holding Noah in my hands, i am still awed by this reality, it still feels like a miracle. Surreal.

“Birth of Impressionism” @ de Young

Went to see “Birth of Impressionism” @ de Young with Gui since she has a membership at the museum and offered to bring me in for free! We were hoping today being a weekday we might be able to see the exhibit without the crowd.

How wrong we were! It was totally “people mountain people sea”! 🙁

Luckily the exhibit itself is really good! Both the quantity and quality of paintings are not to disappoint. Quite a lot of them were new to me even though i’ve been to d’Orsay a number of times before. Made us looking forward to the next installment in late September: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay.

Sisley and Cezanne are still my favorite. I also enjoyed quite a few Manet (e.g. The Fife Player), The Magpie by Claude Monet (1868), American expatriate Whistler’s Arrangement in Gray and Black, known to many as “Whistler’s Mother.” The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)…

San Francisco is not so bad after all. Gui and I were content as we walked out into the dismal summer afternoon of SF: cold, windy, and cloudy.

The Fife Player by Edouard Manet (1866)

The Fife Player by Edouard Manet (1866)

degas

The Dancing Lesson by Edgar Degas (1873–1876)

The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)

The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)

Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother by James McNeill Whistler(1871)

Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother by James McNeill Whistler(1871)

A Million vs. A Billion

Was clearing out closets over the weekend, and uncovered a past issue of New Yorker. Before discarding it to the recycle bin, i browsed through the content and read one article: “Heroes and Zeroes”. It is a book review on “Lords of Finance” which is about the world first batch of central bankers from countries like USA, UK, Germany and France.

The book and the review both sound just okay. But one sentence in the reviewer’s 2nd paragraph caught my eye. John Lanchester was trying to illustrate a point of how hard it is for ordinary people to grasp the difference figures in millions, billions and trillions.

A million seconds is less than twelve days; a billion is almost thirty-two years.

I think that’s by far the best illustration i’ve heard on the delta between a million and a billion.

Now that issue of New Yorker can go in the recycle bin. 🙂

“National Defense” – The New Yorker on World Cup

Picture 1

Tim Howard will be key in the long-awaited World Cup rematch against England next week.Psychologically, goalkeeping is the toughest spot on the field. Howard has Tourette's syndrome, which he feels may help him stay alert and reactive.

After Gui alerted me to the June 7th issue, i read this article about USA soccer team history, their match against England 60 years ago, termed as “Miracle on the Grass”, current team member such as Tim Harward and Landon Donovan. Fascinating read.

One interesting piece of information is about the USA’s jersey. Not sure if i’m the only one puzzled by the USA soccer jersey design this year. It looks odd and even ugly to me. But turned out, this year’s USA uniform, “made by Nike, is styled after the 1950 jersey, with a vintage sash across the front.” So that’s it, “echoes of history”. Hoping for another Miracle on the Grass… If USA could play the way they did during the second half against Slovenia, then a Miracle seems very possible…

Go, USA! 🙂

– Read the Abstract of this article: Hampton Sides, The Sporting Scene, “National Defense: Can the United States’ goalkeeper produce another Miracle on Grass?” The New Yorker, June 7, 2010
– Listen to New Yorker Podcast: World Cup Kickoff

More World Cup Roundup @ The New Yorker.

A Print Ad on the New Yorker

Here is the backcover of the latest New Yorker magazine! The text at the bottom says:

Three exceptional journeys. One historic game.
Café Maravillas, Madrid.
Follow Pelé, Zidane and Maradona on louisvuittonjourneys.com

Pelé, Maradona and Zidane by Annie Leibovitz for Louis Vuitton

Pelé, Maradona and Zidane by Annie Leibovitz for Louis Vuitton

Turned out the photo was by Annie Leibovitz.

Cool!

Cute New Yorker Cover June 1, 2010

The New Yorker Cover 06-01-2010: Union Square by Ivan Brunetti

The New Yorker Cover 06-01-2010: Union Square by Ivan Brunetti

People are out enjoying a nice spring day, or are they? See if you can identify how many people in this drawing that are not wearing a headphone.

Foxconn

I’m a little slow in catching up with headline news. Because i don’t usually read news. Only when enough people on my subscribed blog list started commenting about the same headline news, then I started to pay attention.

Such is the case with Foxconn. So what that Chinese workers working in sweat shops kill themselves. Tell me something i don’t know. But turned out there are a lot more i didn’t know.

Most of the time, I read “fakesteve” for its comic value. But yesterday, its article on foxconn caught me off guard. For once, it seemed rather professional. At least it sounded more rational and data driven than most other headline news.
Our New Spin on the Foxconn Suicide Epidemic

They’re jumpers. And jumpers, my friends, are a different breed. Ask any cop or shrink who deals with this stuff. Jumpers want to make a statement. Jumpers are trying to tell you something.

Also, consider this. Walmart has 1.4 million employees in the United States. Can you remember a time when 10 or 15 Walmart workers jumped to their deaths from the roofs of Walmart stores over the course of a few months? Have you ever heard of Walmart asking employees to sign a no-suicide contract, or putting safety nets up on all of its buildings? If this did happen, would you think maybe something is going on at Walmart? Or would you just say, well, 10 or 15 people out of 1.4 million is still waaaay below the national average?

Britain’s National Health Service has 1.3 million employees. Number of suicides last year involving NHS workers jumping from NHS buildings: zero. Indian Railways has 1.6 million employees. Can you recall the last time 10 or 15 of them threw themselves under trains over the course of a few months? Deutsche Post has half a million employees. Ever heard a story about a dozen of them hurling themselves into letter-sorting machines?

And yes, France Telecom did have a suicide epidemic last year. Guess what. Nobody went around saying that it was no big deal because it was still below the national average in France — instead the official explanation was that the suicides were caused by brutal management harassing workers. The Sarkozy administration took this seriously and got involved and at France Telecom a top executive actually resigned because of the tragedy

So it is a humorous way to get me thinking of the media spin. I can see why Chinese mainstream media would want to point out foxconn’s suicide rate is way below national average, so it is not a big deal. Then why does western media equally eager to embrace that line of spin?

It only took me one search phrase to come up with some data that really made me think. Everyone has heard how Apple’s market capitalization surpassed Microsoft during this past week. I have heard quite a few people telling me how amazing Apple’s profit margin is especially w/r to iphone and ipad.

Here is some data behind that AMAZING profit margin:

(Source: BBC China) 中国媒体报道说,苹果公司从iPad产品中获得超过50%的 利润,每台499美元的iPad,苹果公司获利297美元。其成本主要为拥有专利的LG公司(生产触摸显示屏)和韩国三星获得。富士 康加工组装费每台只有11美元。富士康工人的基本月薪为100美元。

Chinese media reported that Apple’s profit margin of ipad is 50%+. For one $499 iPad, Apple profit equals $297. The parts cost went to mostly LG and Samsung, (LG’s touch screen dominates the cost, at approx. $80 a piece). Foxconn got paid $11 per iPad for assembly. The basic salary of a Foxconn worker: $100/month.

And what kind of work condition does these workers must endure in order to earn that $100/month? Here are some info reported by China Labor Watch. I’ve also heard some of it on NPR last week. Some excerpt to give people a taste of how it was like.

…its workers, most of whom are in their early 20s with little or no social support, labor for up to 12 hours at a stretch on highly-repetitive, assembly-line tasks without any break and sometimes the workers are forced to work even on weekends.

…they need to finish one task every 7 seconds [i heard this on the radio]

..Foxconn is … enforcing harsh, military-style work culture to maximize output. [Think of the long lines outside of apple store demanding iphone, ipad…]

…They are not allowed to talk to each other when working. Even in the same production line, workers do not have chance to get to know their colleagues.

Basically they are treated like machines, except they are cheaper to maintain. The downside is machine breaks down but a machine won’t commit suicide.

When i was chatting with my mom about this, first question she asked was why didn’t they leave? go work somewhere else?

Turned out Foxconn is actually not the worst place to work. To the contrary it is actually one of the most sought after place in Shenzhen for migrate workers. Why? because it is reputable, large, and stable. It actually pays salary on time.

That’s right, lots of places in the Chinese labor market don’t even pay their workers on time. It is not just limited to manufactory jobs. Even in white collar market such as free lance writers for magazines often never gets paid. After a while, people gravitate toward large, reputable, well-known employers, even though their pay might be lower than smaller places.

If you are working in the worst place in town, then at least you know you have the option of moving to a better place. What if you are already at the best place in town and still you are driven to despair by the work and pressure, what then?

Reference on Foxconn being the best place to work (in Chinese): 因为富士康是最好的选择
Reference on iPad material cost by iSuppli: Apple’s iPad’s Components May cost $260.

Fireworks

When Gui and M used to live in Toronto, every summer they could watch firework competition on the lake Ontario right from their living room. I watched it once with them when i was visiting. It was lovely!

While we were living on Cole street, I noticed that one weekend in May, there were fireworks display above Embarcadero in the evening. We could watch it from our roof, or just walk uphill half a block to watch it on the sidewalk of Fulton street.

Later i learned it was sponsored by a local radio station KFOG, called KFOG Kaboom Festival. They put up a concert on the piers in the late afternoon and end the party with half an hour fireworks starting sometime after 9pm.

It was probably the best firework we get to watch in San Francisco every year. July 4th fireworks is impossible because of the hellish parking situation around fishermen’s wharf. New Year’s Eve fireworks is easier because i could time it such that to drive north on 280 then Embarcadero Blvd a little before mid-night. and just park on the stopped traffic right below the Bay Bridge and watch. But it was usually cold and sometimes rainy.

Last night Gui called me to give me an unbelievable good news, this year’s KFog Kaboom festival will be at Candlestick Park. It means we could watch the firework right from Gui’s balcony!

So i went over to Gui’s place last night to watch the fireworks, like the good old days in Toronto. I checked out the event information page before i went, and noticed the fireworks barge was positioned directly in front of Gui’s balcony on the bay!

It turned out to be the best fireworks “seat” i’ve ever had. We were so close to the show and with a non-obstructed view! We could also hear the music that was to go with the fireworks directly from the stage. The weather was perfect as well, no fog, and not windy either.

Here is a video clip I recorded using my phone. Of course it doesn’t do justice to the dream like quality of any fireworks, or how close we were to the grand display! I hope they would keep this location from now on.

Working with the Right Coast

As it happened, most of the time i need to work with people in the Far East. It exacerbates my tendency to follow a night-owl schedule: sleep late and get up late.

Recently I had to work with people on the east coast instead. Slowly I had to change my sleep pattern to be in-sync with the Right Coast. This morning was especially bad. Started dealing with emergency after emergency starting at 7am. By 11am, i already felt exhausted. The good thing about working in early morning was the entire campus was so quiet. I could concentrate on tasks at hand without disturbance. Soon I happily realized something else: that i had the entire afternoon to myself cuz the Right Coast has gone home! I went to a couple of training instead. It was kinda nice. Feeling a sense of accomplishment by noon and stay relaxed for the remainder of the day.

I could get use to this Right Coast schedule.

Speaking of the Right Coast, it is pretty freaky what happened today with the stock market!freefall

140 Characters – Random Thoughts on Twitter

1. SMS
140 characters limit starts with SMS.

My first encounter with SMS was at Beijing, China, 2006. Sister was visiting China a few months earlier. She loved the SMS experience so much that she bought a cheap Nokia GMS phone and told me to use it when i was there.  After she returned to the States, she tried very hard to figure out a way to SMS Chinese back to her friends in the Mainland from the US. But it didn’t work. (even today, we still can’t SMS Chinese from ATT to T-Mobile, US Carriers are so awful!)

SMS in Chinese totally rocks! Not only that everyone there SMS each other (cuz SMS is so much cheaper than a voice call, you rarely hear people yapping on their cell in public like in the US. Instead everyone was heads down doing the finger dance on the phone), but also the fact that you could pack in so much more information in 140 Chinese characters than in 140 English characters. It also helps that cellphone coverage is truly ubiquitous in China, no matter how remote you are, you are bound to have cell coverage, very unlike our experience with ATT here in the US.

I remember visiting the forbidden palace on a snowy day. Maybe because of the bad weather, the enormous palace ground was mostly desolate, hardly any visitors in sight. It was such a rarity to find oneself all alone in a place so famous! I Texted a friend in Shanghai about the atmospheric experience as i was wondering from empty courtyard to empty courtyard. She texted back her agreement that winter time is the most romantic to visit Northern China; while the south is much better during Spring time. The texting experience made that trip a lot more interesting because i could have a real time discussion with someone who was not physically present but totally understood how i felt.

Later when i met up with a friend of my sister, she showed me some SMS she saved, the ones my sister sent her while she were in Beijing during previous summer. Some were beautifully written, some were hilarious. Together they added another dimension to sister’s trip. It was like pieces of jewels in the form of words. The best part about SMS was they were spontaneous, and you often get real time response/reactions from the recipients. And the convenience of sending one SMS to a group of friends made it even more interesting.

Organizing group outings, which is almost a daily event in beijing, is also incredibly easy with SMS. Instead of yelling at your cellphone to give the address of a place 15 times, you just text it to everyone needs to be there. Piece of cake.

When i got back to the US, the SMS favor sorta just died. I couldn’t convince any of my friends or family to pay more money for SMS service. They all thought why not just pick up the phone and call? And SMS in English is not quite the same either. The ROI is drastically lower because you couldn’t pack in as many meaning to 140 characters. Also the fact most people don’t use public transportation cut down the time you really can use SMS. Because it is harder to type a msg while driving. and when you are not driving, you often have access to a computer, where you could Email or IM.

Later when i heard of twitter, my first reaction was, ah, that’s like public SMS.Since i can’t convince my friends/family to join SMS, twitter is also out of the question.

2. small groups of think-alike vs. the masses
i read about Jason Byrne’s ah-ha moments on twitter(http://isaa.ch/1b). One of his major points was revolved around getting to know a small group of people who has similar taste. he is worried that as subscription size grow, that intimacy and dynamic will be lost. a trendy place can remain trendy only when it is relatively less known. once your granny heard of it and started going, then it is no longer cool.

i knew exactly what he meant, because i have already experienced the full cycle of elation to disappointment on a different site, where i joined during its initial launch, met quite a few like minded people from all kinds of geo/profession, the percentage of high quality people was really astonishing. What’s more, most of them were content creators, and they generated interesting/original content. then the word got out, the site became popular, the average quality of people dropped, most of these new comers were pure consumers. Dilution of people’s quality and interests changed the dynamic, most of the old-timers remained subscribers, except they are now less active, and become consumers too. The only difference is whenever they do create something, they are still of higher quality than the masses. It is a pity that somehow facing the massive incoming consumers made originally active creators dormant.

I don’t think this is a unique problem to twitter. All the web 2.0 sites face the same issue. I wonder if there is a way to keep these small active group’s spirit intact within a massive popular site, kinda like keeping a small community/neighborhood intact within a metropolitan. Both are hard problems that currently dont’ seem to present a solution.

In the physical city, once a neighborhood becomes interesting, say after a group of artists moved in, yuppies will follow and the housing price rise and the original artists got priced out while they were the ones who made the place interesting in the first place. i.e. Gentrification.

On the web, it is not housing price that forced out the original voices. It was more like the “noise” or the “clutter” of less-interesting voices that silenced people.

3. Local news
This is what i find Twitter so unique: “Real Time Search-Twitter FTW“. It is a new form of media platform for the masses to report news around them. Things that major news outlets aren’t interested, and local news outlet doesn’t have enough bandwidth to cover 24/7.

That’s also why i think of twitter less like a social platform.

Orchid, Round II

Growing up, I never thought of myself as a gardener.  Even though we’ve always lived in places with a backyard and/or a balcony that’s full of plants since i could remember. I seldom paid a passing attention to them, except during the Fall when we harvested rose petals off our giant rose bush in the yard, and made them into rose jam. When plants turn to yummy food, i’m interested plenty. 🙂

I didn’t even realize my Mom was really into gardening until we moved into our place in the south bay. She planted all sorts of plants she used to crave in secret and told me of her grandpa’s tiny garden in their tiny courtyard at Shanghai. She sought out the kind of blossom and fragrance from her childhood: osmanthus, night blooming Jasmine, Wisteria, bougainvillea, gardenia, etc.. Luckily they all seem to thrive in Bay Area weather. Along the way she discovered and adopted plants she found in the bay area. She became an extremely proficient African Violet grower. Her favorite pass-time was to browsing the nursery at homedepot, and pick up leaves/twigs fell along side of the nursery isle. Came home, she would try to grow them into full plants by first place them into small jar of water, once enough roots grow out, she will move them to a pot of soil.

I observed and grew very fond of Mom’s gardening philosophy. She dislikes bonsai and any kind of restrictive cultivation method. She prefer to let plants grow wild naturally and she would not force anything to grow in places that they are unhappy. She joked that that’s how she raised my sister and I as well. I feel so fortunate!

When i moved to SF with ZM in 2004, Mom started dispatching plants she deemed suitable for our apartment to SF with us. Following her simple instructions, I found out that i was not exactly bad at gardening either. I applied Mom’s principle well. Only the ones suited my lazy habit got to live.

Then came the orchids. My first attempt started shortly after we moved to our apartment on Cole st.. I was obsessed. Read everything i could find on-line, and tried to follow instructions no matter how strange it was. But it was not meant to be. One by one my orchids all died. 🙁 Mom thinks it is the light and air in our apartment that’s not suitable for orchids. Most of our living space faced west, the sun was too hot for most of the orchids i tried then. The only east facing window was in our kitchen, where the air circulation was not that great. But looking back, i suspect the main reason was my obsession. I was way too attentive. Orchid really thrive under mild negligent. Most orchid growers were intimidated by the perception of orchid’s fussiness, so they tend to err on paying too much attention to them. Most of orchids end up either drowned by too much watering, or stressed out by constantly changing location by their owners.

After we moved in our current place 2 years ago, my orchid obsession came back. First, both Mom and i thought our central patio was the ideal place for orchid. Initially it seemed to be true. Every orchid we brought in the patio thrived. Encouraged, both Mom and i started enlarge our orchid collection. I soon ran out of places to put new orchids in the patio, they started invading my living room, which have two large South-East facing windows.

After going through one full year of season changes, my orchids in the patio started to decline, but the ones in the living room continue to do well. And I also noticed that moth orchid does very well in my living room, but dancing doll and others don’t.

Meanwhile, Mom has discovered the orchid stand in San Mateo farmer’s market on Tuesdays, where you could get gorgeous and large orchid for as low as $5! Her orchid collection exploded. But she noticed something else, exactly opposite to my house, eventually her moth orchid would start to wilt but her dancing dolls, spiders and every other kinds continued thriving.

So we purged our collections and did some exchange. I end up with almost all the moth orchids, and she kept the rest.

If negligent is the key to the heart of orchid growing, then i have been practicing exactly that during the past winter.  I’ve left them unwatered for as long as 3 weeks. Came spring time, they all started to grow flower stems!

Among my current orchid collections were three baby ones that Mom had picked up last Fall from a flower shop’s garbage can. They have been sitting on my living room side table since Mom cleaned them up and potted them. Two of them  immediately  started growing new leaves, one stayed weak but managed to survive.

Around thanksgiving time, the two stronger “garbage” siblings started growing a flower stem each. I was amazed. Ever since my orchid fever started back in 2004, i’ve been reading admirably about the orchid expert who would pick up dried up orchid or discarded misshapen ones from the street and nurse them back to life, then anxiously waiting to discover what kind of flowers these orphaned darling would produce. I never thought I would get to do that one day too!

As the morning sunlight became more abundant during the last month or so, one of the baby orchid’s flower buds grew rounder and fuller every day. I was full of anticipation. What color would it be? Will it be the most common white with yellow center or will it be a surprise?!

This morning, I noticed the first petal opened a crack! Excited, i rushed over to take a look. Hmm… purple with strips…could be like this, which is rather common. Or maybe like Mom’s first orchid?

Mystery Moth Orchid

Mystery Moth Orchid

Knowing it will probably be in full bloom during the day, I rushed through Friday evening traffic and got home to discover this:

Mystery Revealed

Mystery Revealed

It is not purple, but red! Stunning rich red with thick fuzzy stripes, and a velvety red center plus a white tip. White and purple are common moth orchid color. Haven’t see that many red.  I’m elated.

Close Up

Close Up

Have been googling all evening and eventually found it in one volume from Google Books: Moth Orchids: The Complete Guide to Phalaenopsis. The orchid is called Doritaenopsis Taida Salu ‘Alisan’. Originally from China!

Very happy. My first mystery orchid is blooming! And it is beautiful! 🙂

Tani’s Kitchen

It has been almost two years since Jennie recommended this little hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant in Daly City to us.  We finally made it in on Friday for lunch and we loved it!

I had chicken teriyaki and tempura combo. ZM had Unagi Donburi.  He said it is the first Unagi Don he had in the bay area that actually cooked the Unagi in open fire. On my end, I’ve never seen chicken teriyaki cooked this way before. It was boiled with lots of ingredients, so it was like a stew but minus the soupy part. The meat was very well cooked that they fell out of the bones. Yum. I liked their tempura too.

Next time maybe i will try their “Japanese Beef Hamburger” or teriyaki beef. We saw them on other customers’ plates, and they look yummy!

Very reasonable priced, and huge portion!

Oh and it is run by Japanese. 🙂

32 Park Plaza Drive
Daly City, CA 94015-1301

Sunday Morning Rain -Rambling

Gloomy Sunday morning, browsing web in bed using my SIM-less iPhone, kept on coming up with new ideas for the on-going renovation.

As I am typing this, the promised rain has started, soft but insistant pattering on the skylights, like little feet.

After a couple of months on nexus one,I am delighted to find out that typing on iPhone is actually not so bad, almost acceptable! What does that say about N1? 🙁

Waiting for ZM to wake up so we can go for brunch in the mission…

The New Apple Hype(updated 4/6/2010)

For anyone who reads anything at all on the English speaking web, yesterday was a day of bombardment of the new Apple Hype – the iPad (i’ve finally become desensitized when reading it on the screen, but i still cringe when hear this word pronounced on TV, what an awful name).

I remain skeptical. For all those who are hailing this product as revolution and life changing, i have one simple question. Other than making the internet more like TV, what else does it do? In other words, it makes the “consuming” act of web surfing more pleasurable (maybe, since it is so big i still can’t imagine carrying this everywhere i go).

What exactly does it do to help people CONTRIBUTE to the web? What exactly does it help people to CREATE something for the web?

My biggest frustration with all these new devices, iphone, android, or kindle has been the awkwardness of “writing”. I want to be able to jog down notes, thoughts, and compose something on the go. So far none of these super popular devices have provided an acceptable means for that. A notebook, a paperback and a pen have still been the most convinient, light-weighted, and versatile tools.

Instead, i find myself more and more like a “walking potato” holding these devices, consuming, consuming and consuming, while producing little. It is passive and encourage laziness and lame complaints of being bored.

When writing i still need to turn to my laptop keyboard. Writing makes me feel active and it energize me.

Until someone can prove to me that iPad can revolutionize the “production” part of the web, all i can say is …

doh.
—–
Update 4/6/2010: Quite a few interesting discussion on this topic in twitter land. Check out some of them from http://twitter.com/stop on 4/5/2010. The conclusion there seems to be iPad is not designed primarily for content creation, but for content consumption. But that doesn’t mean people can’t create content using iPad in some form. It also has dependency on the type of content you would like to create and your preference with tools. As Zeze pointed out in the comment, she could use iPad to draw sketches freehand because the screen is bigger. and http://twitter.com/ahbei mentioned he prefer touch UI for jotting down notes.

So i should qualify my argument to my own preference, which is physical keyboard. Because i type so much faster than writing using a pen. So touch UI is not for me. Also i’m mainly a writing person, not a drawing person. I should adopt @stop’s point, “Given the circumstance that I prefer to use computer as my web content creation tool, and my content creation is mainly limited to photo editing and blog writing; I’m not in iPad’s target audience.”

Random Thoughts on SF Weather

1.
It is drizzling. The ground was barely wet. The drizzle was so soft that even our cat Mars didn’t mind when i let him out to the backyard this morning. As i was walking to the shuttle stop, i was trying to think of a word to describe the drizzle. In Chinese it would be called “Smoke Rain”, means the rain is so light that it resembles a film of smoke floating about. Then i realized it didn’t quite work in English. Not for me at least. Because the word “Smoke” in English is heavily tinted with the smell of smoke. While the word “Smoke” in Chinese, when used as an adjective, means merely the visual representation of the smoke that you see from far away, no smell is associated with it. In Chinese, the twisting shape smoke(either from a cigarette or a fire) resembles as it travels slowly about sometimes was used to describe a beautiful woman’s walking style, mysterious, seductive even.

2.
The weekend was glorious in the City. We went to Golden Gate Park on Sunday, I to botanic garden area to check out the cherry blossom(it seems we were a little late, the blossom has passed its prime), ZM to hippie hill to check out his old stumping ground for photos. Later we met in de Young’s Cafe for a bite and realized the price there has doubled since our last visit!! Does that imply inflation?!

But the sun light was so lovely, i was almost giddy. I love San Francisco in the sun, so pretty, so pretty. Best season of the City. No Fog, no wind, all that blossoms dotted the landscape, pastel colored houses lined the streets, all were sparkling in the sun.

New Yorker: “After Stevens”

After Stevens
-What will the Supreme Court be like without its liberal leader?
by Jeffrey Toobin
The New Yorker, March 22, 2010

Interesting profile on the most senior Judge on Supreme Court, soon to celebrate his ninetieth birthday, appointed by a Republican President (Gerald R. Ford) in 1975. Started as a “moderate Republican”, “He was a pretty conservative Republican on economic issues, but he was always a great progressive on civil rights and social rights.” But slowly turned liberal as the Court become more polarized. Now Stevens is the senior liberal leader on the bench.

It is interesting to learn how Stevens think the Court should do its ultimate job – interpret the constitution.

“Stevens believes that constitutional decision-making is conducted through the interpretation of a mix of various sources—a complex balancing act.” He added, “The glue holding it all together is judicial judgment.”

This is the core of Stevens’s disagreement with his great intellectual adversary on the court, Antonin Scalia. When it comes to interpreting statutes, Scalia believes that the Court should be guided by the words of the law “all by itself,” as Stevens put it. Steven G. Calabresi, a law professor at Northwestern and a co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society, told me, “What makes Stevens a moderate liberal is that he is fundamentally a legal realist, which means that when the text and history of the Constitution point in one direction, and good results and good consequences point in the other, he’ll usually go with what he sees as the good results.” He added, “Scalia sees the role of the judge as to read the text and apply it—period. Stevens thinks the law is more of a living thing, and he takes text and history and applies it in a way that he thinks serves the purposes of the framers, not necessarily their exact words.“

hmmm… Scalia’s view reminds me of the definition of Fundamentalism.

Stevens “is the only veteran of any kind on the Court”, and that allowed him to do something very important during Bush Administration.

Stevens’s repudiation of the Bush Administration’s legal approach to the war on terror was total. First, in Rasul, he opened the door to American courtrooms for the detainees; then, in Hamdan, he rejected the procedures that the Bush Administration had drawn up in response to Rasul; finally, in 2008, in Boumediene v. Bush, Stevens assigned Kennedy to write the opinion vetoing the system that Congress had devised in response to Hamdan.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration conducted its war on terror with almost no formal resistance from other parts of the government, until Stevens’s opinions. He was among the first voices, and certainly the most important one, to announce, as he wrote in Hamdan, that “the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law.”

“The Second World War was the defining experience of his life, and he is proud of being a veteran,” Cliff Sloan, a Washington lawyer who clerked for Stevens in the mid-eighties, said. “No one can challenge his patriotism, and that’s why he was the right guy to take on the Bush Administration’s position at that time and in that way.”

Lastly, when will he retire?

With the election of Barack Obama, the question of Stevens’s retirement has become more pressing. Even though Stevens was appointed by a Republican President, many assume that he would never willingly have turned his seat over to George W. Bush.

As for Obama, Stevens said, “I have a great admiration for him, and certainly think he’s capable of picking successfully, you know, doing a good job of filling vacancies.” He added, “You can say I will retire within the next three years. I’m sure of that.”

Read more at the New Yorker: After Stevens

Staring into the Abyss – Reading “Too Big to Fail” by Sorkin, And A Couple New Yorker Articles from March’10

The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System---and Themselves

The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System---and Themselves

1.

September 2008.

I remember it being the month where mainstream media is filled with bad news. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Washington Mutual, etc. etc… Stock market was crashing. Our company froze hiring, started cutting cost, the talk of laid-off started showing up in rumor mills. All kinds of unfamiliar financial terms started flying around, all flavors of economist are giving their opinion on TV/Radio/Newspaper/Internet. Some say it is going to be another Great Depression, some say no it won’t be that bad. Whatever the government and the Fed did or did not do, someone would hurl critics at them.

Chaos and confusion reigned the day.

Sometime around 2009, we suddenly realized the chaos seemed to have subsided a while back. But when? and how? What worked?

I wasn’t paying attention. Life somehow seemed to have moved on. The looming disaster that almost consumed wallstreet seemed to have been pushed aside by some unknown force.

I finally had some understanding of the tsunami like events during those days after i finished reading “Too Big to Fail” by Sorkin over the past few days.

What a great book it is! “Paulson, Gerthner, Bernanke and a dozen or so private and public sector figures who populated the drama”, they were the ones who actually stared at the abyss that they never thought would happen in their lifetime. They not only didn’t falter, but also managed to hold back the tide. Unbelievable.

We do live in interesting times. How lucky we are.

The book covered the approximately seven months period from the time when Bear Stern fell (3/17/2008) to the time when Paulse, Gerthner, Bernanke united to force the top 9 banks to sign up on TARP money (10/13/2008).
2.

March 15, 2010 issue of the New Yorker magazine is jam packed with great reads. Two particular articles are relevant to “Too Big To Fail”. They read like sequels to the book.

One on current Treasure Secretary Geithner:

No Credit by John Cassidy – Timothy Geithner’s financial plan is working—and making him very unpopular.

One on President Obama:

Obama’s Lost Year, by George Packer.

I feel lucky to live in a time when great men like Paulson, Geithner, and Obama who manage to hold on to their conviction and who are always “willing to do the responsible thing, even when it is terrible politics.”

On the other hand, it came to me like a revelation. It is okay to be misunderstood, under-appreciated when you believe in what you do and was fortunate enough to be given the power to execute as you see fit. It is worth it when you can see the result of your work did pay off, even though most other people don’t. It is okay. They will. Politics don’t matter as much as doing the right thing.

3.

The Obama article is only viewable in full to those who have a subscription. So let me quote some excerpts that I loved.

A very nice summary of this Administration’s first year.

The congressional senior aide… said, “One of the problems with this Administration is it has tried to have a grown up, sophisticated conversation with the public. That is the President’s instinct, it’s Tim Geithner’s instinct. And that itself is tone-deaf. You can’t say to people whose houses are in foreclosure, who are losing their businesses, ‘It’s a complicated situation.'” The aide went on, “The President is having a very eloquent, one-sided conversation. The country doesn’t want to have the conversation he wants to have.

A backstage view of how the President makes decision.

Meetings with the President, various Administration officials told me, are businesslike but thorough. Opposing positions are solicited and hashed out, and Obama steers the debate with tough questions, often demanding more information than his advisers can provide, and brushing off a policy’s political consequences. Tom Perriello, who admitted to sitting in “relatively cheap seats,” remarked that the surest way to win Obama over to your view is to tell him it’s the hard, unpopular, but correct decision.

This pride in responsible process is the closest thing to an Obama ideology. It champions pragmatism without pandering to the status quo, and conveys skepticism, even contempt, for Washington’s ordinary way of doing business.

So what exactly is “Washington’s ordinary way of doing business”? The question kept coming to my mind as i was watching “In the loop” and later “The Thick of it” (thanks to Isaac who shared it with me!) – original British TV series that “In the Loop” is based on. In between laughs at how ridiculous the behind scene British and the US government day-to-day operation looked, i was horrified, is it really how our governments are run? Purely reactive, constantly trying to cover up or to make something bad look good. Completely short sighted, no long term vision whatsoever. Everyone chases for sound bites and both afraid and long for the glow under a media light.

And this article seems to confirm that is not too far from the truth! And Obama is trying to put a stop to that. The fact we feel frustrated with the futility of Obama Administration’s first year was partly due to our being used to that kind of short-sighted, sound-bite-chasing politics.

Axelrod…suggested that the political failures in Obama’s first year were a result of the President’s conscientiousness in addressing difficult problems like financial instability and soaring health-care costs, regardless of the political fallout. “he violated the sort of day-to-day gestalt of Washington that says every day’s Election Day, everything’s tactical,” Axelrod said, ‘I honestly don’t think people elected him because they thought he would be a great political tactician.” Obama, Axelrod argued, does what he believes to be right in spite of “short-term political calculations. In that sense, he stands apart from the sort of prevailing politics in Washington. Now our bet is that, at the end of the day, doing it differently is good politics.”

I really really hope so and i hope that day in “at the end of the day” proved to be shorter than 4 years.

Here are some examples on how conscientious this Administration has been and why their first year seems such a failure.

The Recovery Act was meticulously designed to favor the substantive over the splashy, but an unintended consequence was that its impact became nearly invisible. The largest tax cut, for example, would not be sent out in the form of single checks, which, economists have learned, tend to be saved during downturns. (This happened to the Bush Administration’s stimulus in 2001.) Instead, refunds would be distributed in pay-checks over a two-year period, which made them less noticeable and, therefore, more likely to be spent. Money from tax cuts and programs like unemployment relief stimulated consumer spending, which led to workers being hired or retained, but those jobs didn’t carry the label of the Recovery Act. Large numbers of jobs that can be directly credited to the stimulus have come from aid allowing states to keep public employees on the payroll — and nobody notices that cats that don’t run away. Many investments in infrastructure and research and development were targeted less for their immediate benefit than for their long-term effects on transforming the economy; this led to spending, on areas like high-speed rail and clean energy, that won’t immediately create large number of jobs. The White House also set up an independent board to guard against waste and corruption, which inevitably slowed the awarding of contracts.

The article also talked about how Obama tried to negotiate for Republican vote in the face of “unprecedented soullessness” from the other side. It is similar to how Obama tried to have an “adult conversation with the public”. It is a little funny, and at the same time, moving.

Obama’s quest for bipartisanship, in the face of exceedingly discouraging facts, has been so relentless that it suggests less a strategy than a core conviction: reasonable people can be civil, exchange ideas, and eventually, find points of agreement. But shortly after the Inauguration, when Obama went to Capitol Hill to discuss his stimulus bill with House Republicans, party leaders informed him before negotiations had even begun that Republicans would vote against it as a bloc….Nevertheless, the White House continued to bargain for Republican votes throughout 2009, as if the two sides were negotiating in good faith.

There was an obvious reason that Obama did not want to abandon bipartisanship: he often needed Republican votes. But this conciliatory approach came at a high cost. The White House and its allies didn’t push for advertisements against insurance and drug companies; they didn’t take the offensive early on to create outside pressure on Republicans in Congress; and they didn’t effectively use the Obama grass-roots movement and progressive organizations to embarrass Republican senators in vulnerable states like Maine and Ohio. The Administration, busily negotiating with the opposition, considered such tactics counterproductive. Meanwhile, Obama’s opponents went on the attach, and his restraint came across as weakness. Close observers of the President said that, as a consequence, he lacks a key element of Presidential power: the ability to inspire fear.

The article mostly concentrated on a rural town in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, with a 20% unemployment rate, and how Obama’s Recovery Act’s money is impacting the town folks.

I finished reading this last night before the healthcare bill passed. So you could imagine my mood swing.

The decidedly treacherous future of this Administration suddenly seemed a little more hopeful. Maybe the 2nd year of this Administration will be looking up? We shall see. “Yes, we can?”

The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer

Directed by Roman Polanski, based on the novel “The Ghost” by Robert Harris.  Starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan.

I’m a bigger fan of Robert Harris than of Polanski. Even though i loved The Pianist and was pleasantly surprised by The Chinatown. But i adore all three books i’ve read by Harris: Pompeii, Enigma, and Imperium.

Watched this over the weekend. The movie seems to be a complete Polanski product, i could hardly see any trace of Harris. And I’m far more impressed by Brosnan’s acting than McGregor’s.

The movie resembles The Chinatown so much. The bleak mood was perfectly set throughout the movie. The impending threat moving ever closer to the surface. The clean and startling ending closed all losing ends nicely. It is a very satisfying thriller because as an audience I was happily taken by surprise at how outlandish yet how plausible the final plot reveals to be.

Regardless of everything else, Polanski is indeed a brilliant director.

In the Loop

In the Loop

In the Loop

Saw this movie in the oscar nomination list (Adapted Screenplay). Got it through Netflix and watched it over the weekend.

It, is, HILARIOUS.

It is a mock political comedy.

Background: The US government wants to go to war with some Middle East Country. The British PM is going along. Politicians (not including the actual head of state) on both sides of Atlantic, both divided into anti-war, and pro-war camps.

The Characters:
From the US:
– Daren Clarke (US Assistant Secretary for Diplomacy, anti-war)
– Lieutenant General George Miller (anti-war)
– Linton Barwick (US Assistant Secretary for Policy, pro-war)

From the UK:
– Simon Foster (Minister for International development, anti-war, but not hardline)
– Malcolm Tucker (Communication Manager for PM, Simon’s boss? He sure acts like he is everyone’s boss. Not really having a stand, just does whatever the PM wants him to do. The funniest character of all. Every sentence is decorated with many F words, super creative at his cursing lines.)

No wonder it got the nomination for its script. the lines are priceless.

1.
Michael Rodgers (some mid-level staffer from foreign relationship office on UK side, loves opera) is on the phone.

Michael Rodgers: No, no, no, you needn’t worry about the Canadians, they’re just happy to be there.
[pause]
Michael Rodgers: Yes, well, they always look surprised when they’re invited.

2.
Jamie MacDonald (Michael Rodgers’ boss) came into Michael’s office and heard the opera blasting in the background.

Jamie MacDonald: Turn that fucking racket off! It’s just VOWELS! Subsidised… foreign… vowels!

3.
At the very beginning of the movie, Simon Foster made a comment about war is unforeseeable during a radio interview with Times. The US anti-war camp (Karen) liked it and brought Simon along back to the US to attend a “war” committee meeting held by Linton and wanted Simon to express an “international” point of view to counter Linton’s hawkish stand.

But Simon didn’t dare, and the following hallway conversation happened after the committee meeting.

Lt. Gen. George Miller: So you’re not resigning?
Karen Clarke: Are you still playing the hawk?
Simon Foster: Well, in… in a way I’m playing a much cleverer game than that… I’m a fake hawk.
Lt. Gen. George Miller: [pause] A what?
Simon Foster: …Fake hawk?
Lt. Gen. George Miller: [pause] You’re an idiot. Or are you a… fake idiot?

4.
This the pep-talk Simon got before he went to the “war” committee meeting that Karen invited him to.

Malcolm Tucker: You concentrate on nothing! You stay detached, or else that’s what I’ll do to your retinas.
Simon Foster: Can I go to bed now, please?
Malcolm Tucker: Oh no. We’re gonna stay here, and you are gonna rehearse saying nothing.
Simon Foster: …Am I being tortured?

5.
In Washington, Linton had one of his 22 year old deputy AJ to brief Linton’s UK counter part, Tucker, on the “war” committee’s work. Tucker felt very insulted.

A.J. Brown: Yeah. So, item. We need to have a conversation about the mood of the British Parliament, the bumps in the road ahead and what not.
Malcolm Tucker: I’m sorry, I don’t… This situation here is… Is this it? No offence, son, but you look like you should still be at school with your head down a fucking toilet.
A.J. Brown: Your first point there, the offence? I’m afraid I’m going to have to take it. Your second point, I’m 22, but item, it’s my birthday in nine days, so… if it will make you feel more comfortable, we could wait.
Malcolm Tucker: Don’t get sarcastic with me, son. We burned this tight-arsed city to the ground in 1814. And I’m all for doing it again, starting with you, you frat fuck. You get sarcastic with me again and I will stuff so much cotton wool down your fucking throat it’ll come out your arse like the tail on a Playboy bunny. I was led to believe I was attending the war committee.
A.J. Brown: Yes, Assistant Secretary of State Linton Barwick asked me to brief you on the work of the Future Planning Committee.
Malcolm Tucker: I’m away.
[AJ’s assistant walks in with the coffee]
Malcolm Tucker: And here we are. The fucking Vice President has also graced us with his presence. Give him a bottle of milk.

Malcolm Tucker: Linton! Linton!
Linton Barwick: Mr Tucker, isn’t it? Nice to see you again.
Malcolm Tucker: Are you fucking me about?
Linton Barwick: Is there a problem, Mr Tucker?
Malcolm Tucker: I’ve just come from a briefing with a nine-year-old child.
Linton Barwick: You’re talking about AJ. AJ is one of our top guys. He’s a Stanton College Prep, Harvard. One of the brightest and best.
Malcolm Tucker: Well, his briefing notes were written in alphabetti spaghetti. When I left, I nearly tripped up over his fucking umbilical cord.
Linton Barwick: I’m sorry it troubles you that our people achieve excellence at such an early age. But could we just move on to what’s important here? Now, I understand that your Prime Minister has asked you to supply us with some, say, fresh British intelligence, is that true?
Malcolm Tucker: Yeah, apparently, your fucking master race of highly-gifted toddlers can’t quite get the job done…
Linton Barwick: All right.
Malcolm Tucker: …between breast feeds and playing with their Power Rangers. So, an actual grown-up has been asked to fucking bail you out.

6.
Karen and Lt. Gen. Miller originally made a pact that they were both going to resign to protest the war. But Lt. Gen. Miller backed out.

Lt. Gen. George Miller: My loyalty is to the kids. I am a soldier.
Karen Clarke: You’re not a soldier.
Lt. Gen. George Miller: I’ve been a soldier my whole life! What do you mean I’m not a soldier? I’m a soldier! Look at the uniform – what, do you think I’m one of the fucking Village People?
Karen Clarke: When did you shoot a guy last?
Lt. Gen. George Miller: What, just because I haven’t shot someone in fifteen years. I’m not a soldier? You know, the Army doesn’t make you drag some bullet-ridden bloody corpse into the Pentagon every five years to renew your soldier’s license!

More quotes at imdb.