Friday, October 7, 2011

End of October 1st Holiday

We have had two Fulbright gatherings in the past week; once at an eclectic hotpot restaurant and the other at a Western pizza joint. Both were quite good. The Chinese hotpot allows you to prepare your own sauce (um, sesame paste + chili oil), and then drop in your favorite meats, veggies, and fungi into the boiling cauldron (most are probably familiar with hotpot). This one, which is immensely popular, also offers free manicures, snack trays, and a performance of 'Dancing Noodles', where a waiter slowly whirls (i.e. makes) noodles before your very eyes, with each spin probably doubling the length of the noodles. As he does his breakdancing routine, he even inserts some martial arts techniques and traditional Chinese art forms where the noodle flies across the room as if suspended in air nearly reaching a patron's face as if out of a Hong Kong film (or Tarantino's Kill Bill). Fulbrighter James McGrath alertly captured some of the dancing from an up close vantage point and I am sharing his video here. Next time we'll have to set up a tripod from the other side of the room.

We also made it to Kro's Nest, a pizza venture run by a former student of the University of Hawaii that I knew some years ago from our regular Saturday morning pickup basketball games. Unfortunately, Olav was not working/managing the night that we stopped by, but we got to meet lots of interesting people somehow tied together by a connection to Fulbright. The pizzas were enormous, and a single slice seemed to be almost a pizza in itself. My first Western food in China, which I usually avoid for several reasons, mostly because of the variety and joy of Chinese cuisines (which come in so many regional forms, even a simple dish of tudouzi, shredded potatoes, I've experienced in endless varieties, most recently crispy like shoestring french fries, that was supposedly a Hunan style). Next week a few of us will try for a Hubei restaurant (Nine Headed Bird, and perhaps check out the massage parlor by the blind next door).

Meanwhile, classes resume next week after the 'Golden Week' holiday to celebrate New China's founding on 1 October 1949. So I spent yesterday reading excerpts of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Aristotle, Locke, Rousseau, and Marx that I have assigned to my class but had not read for several years. I rather enjoyed it, and glad that they fit together as I envisioned when I placed them in my syllabus this summer. In my last lecture, I tried to link some of their ideas on the 'state of nature', the 'social contract', a 'good' society, and the role of government to Chinese philosophers like Kongzi, Mengzi, and Xunzi, and connect their philosophies to the Western tradition (the class agreed that Mengzi approximates liberalism for instance; Xunzi was more conservative). It should make for a fun read when they submit their papers in a couple of weeks.

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