Stories, thoughts, observations, rants and dribble. Just another of my attempts to keep the interested people informed ...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Let's get (kind of) literary

On Saturday afternoon I met up with a few people to go to some events as part of the Literary Festival that's running over the next few weeks.

The first event we saw was a talk by Jen Lin-Liu about her book 'Serve the People'. The topic, covering the range from small private kitchens in Beijing to apprenticing and working in large commercial kitchens in Shanghai, was intriguing, especially since I both enjoy cooking and have had a little bit to do with restaurant and pub kitchens. Unfortunately, she made it seem ordinary, and the way that she spoke about her experiences somehow conveyed no expertise at all, which is not what I want from someone who I want to tell me inside details about an industry I'm already a little familiar with. I think it boils down to her just needing more experience with the public speaking thing. More elaboration about the information in the book, actual answers to the questions (she did field some great questions, but not especially well), and fewer halting readings from the book would be a good start. Oh, and rapport-building skills? I don't know. Anyway, if the book fell into my lap, I might consider reading it, despite the fact that she pronounced the word 'myriad' as 'my-reed'. I am so judgmental.

Thankfully, a glass of wine was included in the ticket price, and we got to go immediately downstairs to get another glass of wine and see James Fallows speak. One of the girls who had come over from Wuhan is a huge fan, and I'm really glad I tagged along to see him. It's an increasing rarity to see a speaker who can form a coherent answer off the cuff, and turn banal questions into opportunities to give insight on something else. Yes, I watched several of the debates leading up to the American election last year. I didn't actually know much about Mr Fallows before I went in, but it turns out he was the youngest ever chief speechwriter for an American president (for Jimmy Carter), although it was recently inaccurately reported that Jon Favreau, White House hottie [personal opinion] and Obama's Director of Speechwriting, was. Fallows made a great crack about how it was much easier for Favreau, because he was writing for someone who could actually speak. James Fallows has authored nine books and for years been a regular correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, as well as many other vaunted publications. His postings in the US, the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere, and his many personal interests and achievements made this talk much more than just about promoting his latest book 'Postcards from Tomorrow Square'. [I live right behind Tomorrow Square!] He was humble in that he knew many of the people attending would have a closer relationship with China, and so mostly spoke to us about things he could give an expert opinion on. All in all, he came across as a fascinating, down-to-earth, adventurous man who dotes on his family and never hesitates to question the world. An amazing hour or so. My friend even got an autograph, a chat, and a business card afterwards. I've subscribed to his blog.

For another opinion on this afternoon, and weekend in general, check out Packers to Pandas.

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