Day 86 - On Being Photographed

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains - GLORIOUS

Political Correctness

In the cafeteria, we talked about some of the subtleties of not being offensive in English. In particular, we talked about talking about gay people. Don’t say “a gay” or “the gays” when talking about the LGTB community. I’m definitely not the most PC of people, but that much I know. The terms can change quickly, and there’s no real authority to issue these tidbits of information, but we thought it was good to explain this to our Chinese friends.

That far middle thing is brown-sugar bread.
Aurora asked why. Best explanation I can come up with is that speaking in that way takes away their personhood and defines them by a single, mostly-irrelevant feature. It’s the same reasoning behind mental illness: don’t say “a schizophrenic,” say “a person with schizophrenia.” Sometimes this can be a mouthful.

On Being Photographed

I told the group, Jen, Wendy, and Aurora, that I had my first group of people stopping me to take a picture of me this weekend. Jen was surprised that it was only my first. Wendy and Jen both said they get stopped more regularly than that, but that might have to do with them being of African descent, they suggested.

The idea of strangers taking pictures without permission came up.* I’m tall enough that people could just take pictures of me from afar, sneakily. Jen recounts a picture that went viral with a black man in it. It was clear that he had given permission for the photo - he was smiling. But the comments made by the Chinese people were racist and rude, making fun of him. That’s one of the reasons why Wendy said she will say flat-out “no” most of the time.

Mountains in the Distance
It's particularly nice driving toward them in the morning.

In the audiobook I”m listening to, I’ve finally reached the 1900’s in Chinese history. Finally! It started all the way back in the 1600’s! Without a map in front of me, and seeing the names written down, I’m having a helluva time remember who did what. Even if you asked me about famous people in that time span, I couldn’t tell you. If you describe what major players did, I might be able to remember that. So the take-away is just vague historical figures. But now.. Mao has entered the scene, and it’s about to get a whole lot more relevant to today! I hope!

The Upside to Smog

You know, the upside to heavy smog all week is that you really appreciate the clear days where you can see the sky. Sure, it's probably taking years off of my life, but hey! Look at that blue! Just like the man in the gym’s tattoo said: Pain past is pleasure.** Life is about contrast. The end of a bad situations makes the ensuing “normal” feel that much nicer. Like in the movie Fight Club, where Brad Pitt’s character temporarily holds a convenience store clerk, Raymond K. Hessel, hostage:
“Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted."
*I know of at least 2 times it’s happened without my permission. Then again, I’ve taken pictures of random Chinese people, so.. I guess we’re even?
**His other tattoo was the somewhat less profound "Yesterday; Yes a day"

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]

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