Newley Purnell's home on the web since 2001

Month: September 2005 (Page 1 of 7)

Learning Mandarin in B.A.

I know it’s been Chiwanese (Chinese/Taiwanese) 24/7 in these parts recently, but this was too good to pass up.

CS Monitor: “East meets West, with an Argentine twist”:

BUENOS AIRES – Like many in Latin America’s most Eurocentric country, 26-year-old Emanuela Gavezza has long fancied the West. Her grandparents hail from northern Italy, which she has visited almost yearly.

During the ’90s, when the economy here was booming with the Argentine peso pegged to the dollar, she started traveling to the United States. She even studied at the University of Richmond in Virginia for six months, perfecting her English.

This year though, Ms. Gavezza is looking East. She began studying Mandarin with a private tutor. She now relishes sopa de wan-ton in Buenos Aires’s two-block long Barrio Chino.

She is not alone.

Typhoon Longwang

China Post:

The Central Weather Bureau (CWB) suggested yesterday that people in Taiwan come up with alternative recreational programs if they had mapped out outdoor plans for the weekend.

CWB officials said Typhoon Longwang, the 19th-named storm of the western Pacific typhoon season, has been heading west toward Taiwan from the east, is expected to bring heavy rains to the island tomorrow and Sunday if it keeps the current course.

With maximum wind speeds increasing to 221 kilometers per hour, Typhoon Longwang was located at around 1,250 kilometers east of Taiwan while it was gathering strength on the way headed for Taiwan and China.

The center of Longwang (King Dragon), named after the god of water and rain in Chinese mythology, was about 873 km (543 miles) east-southeast of Naha on Japan’s Okinawa island chain at 9 a.m. local time Thursday, the Pacific regional Joint Typhoon Warning Center said, in the latest advisory on its Web site.

(Emphasis mine. I’m trying to suppress my snickering here…)

typhoon, Longwang

Peter Hessler’s Forthcoming Book

Peter Hessler, who wrote the exceptional “River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze,” has got a new book coming out in April. It’ll be called “Oracle Bones : A Journey Between China’s Past and Present.” Those’re the only details I’ve got. I may just have to pre-order this one.

(Hessler’s author bio in last week’s New Yorker mentioned his new book; I haven’t read his article in that issue yet, but it looks great — it’s about Chinese auto makers and Chinese car culture.)

Rock, Paper, Scissors — on ‘Roids

Me with my B2a class

When I was teaching English in Taiwan last year, I used to require my students to beat me in rock, paper, scissors in order to go home when class was over. They’d line up by the door and then challenge me individually — if they lost, it was back to the end of the line.

Our showdowns, however, would have been much more involved had I known about RPS-25.

“Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness”

Don’t miss John Perry Barlow’s “The Pursuit of Emptiness.”

Slow and Low, That is the Tempo

Meet Franklin, the pet tortoise.

A Defibrillator?!?

Cops in North Carolina thought it was odd enough a Jacksonville man was driving an ambulance reported stolen hours earlier.

Odder still was that he was wearing a makeshift doctor’s uniform consisting of a stethoscope, a pager-like gadget and latex gloves stuffed in his back pocket.

But then things started getting really strange when they saw a dead deer, fully stretched out and wedged in the back. Some said there was an intravenous line attached to the animal and there was evidence a defibrillator had been used.

(Incredulous emphais mine.)

(Via Dana.)

Mmmm. Calamaaaari…


Like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel, an enormous tentacled creature looms out of the inky blackness of the deep Pacific waters.

But this isn’t science fiction. A set of extraordinary images captured by Japanese scientists marks the first-ever record of a live giant squid (Architeuthis) in the wild.

The animal—which measures roughly 25 feet (8 meters) long—was photographed 2,950 feet (900 meters) beneath the North Pacific Ocean. Japanese scientists attracted the squid toward cameras attached to a baited fishing line.

(Thanks to Lauren S. — via Mike W. — for the link.)

This Sounds Absolutely Horrible


Unless you can afford a first-class seat on an airplane, you’re stuck in steerage — a cargo area where solo travelers have little say about the person who will become their seat neighbor — also known as the person you plan to claw your way through when this thing ditches in open water.

Now, a Web business,, is attempting to ameliorate the undesirable seat-neighbor problem.

The AirTroductions tagline is “There’s Something in the Air.” I’ll say — I think it’s called desperation.

A bad date is one thing. A bad date while you’re strapped into a chair in a metal tube hurtling through the sky at 30,000 feet is quite another.

(Via Gridskipper.)

Ha Jin, Intellectual Badass and Really Nice Guy

I took a few poetry classes* with Chinese-American novelist Xuefei Jin when he taught at my college**. (And he even wrote me a gradudate school recommendation letter.) He had yet to become a literary big shot when I met him — a couple years after I graduated, he won the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner prize for “Waiting,” a novel set in China. His most recent novel, “War Trash,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

I met up with Jin again a few years back at a book signing for “Waiting” here in DC; he is humble, friendly, and a genuinely nice guy. (His personal story is an interesting one, too: he was born in China and served in the army during the Cultural Revolution; he later emigrated to the US and earned his Ph.D. in English.)

All of that by way of saying that I was thrilled to see that Jin has been included on Foreign Policy/Prospect magazine’s list of the world’d Top 100 Public Intellectuals.

*Jin began his writing career as a poet; one time, when we discussing a poem by an author we were studying in our modern American poetry class, he said, “if I could one day write a poem as good as this, I would die a happy man.” I wonder if, had someone told him then that he’d go on to achieve such literary acclaim, he’d have believed them.

**I never in a million years, as a twenty-year-old college kid, would have thought I’d one day live across the Taiwan Straight from Jin’s homeland.

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