Tag Archives: media

Read: The boat rocker: a novel by Ha Jin

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Having enjoyed Ha Jin’s Waiting, when I saw this book on my local public library’s shelves, I immediately checked it out. Jin is a Chinese author who writes realistic novels about everyday people and their difficulties and daily struggles in life. The boat rocker focuses on Chinese expatriate Feng Danlin who is a journalist in New York city, trying to eek out a living by exposing truth in a world in which people love flashy headlines and are less interested in details.

Jin’s writing is engrossing and fluid, making for a fairly quick read. In addition, the novel contains many poignant quotes about society, government, politics, and the media. Although it’s written about China, it could apply to any country including the US right now.

In such circumstances, a decent citizen should stand up to the government. History has taught us that no country is qualified for the moral high ground. An intellectual’s role is not to serve the state but to keep a close watch on it so that it may not turn abusive, oppressive, justice, freedom, and equality as universal values.

The story is mysterious and draws the reader in. Danlin’s ex-wife is promoting her first novel which will be translated into 30 languages right away and touting the fact that she already has a movie deal worth millions for it. He knows it’s a lie and that while there may be a book, there’s no way it’s good enough to warrant the praise she’s claiming, so he sets out to disprove her lies by exposing them in cutthroat articles interrogating the false claims. However, it’s unclear just what’s going on and who is controlling it, and just how high up the scheme goes.

The tone itself feels like a mystery novel in some ways but it is not a whodunit in the classic sense and there are no bodies or clues to examine. This ambiance adds to the charm of the novel and gives it more depth. It’s not just a story of a man jealous of his ex-wife’s success and trying to ruin her good fortune; she is conniving and exaggerating reality and those around her that are enabling also have much to gain in the US as well as China and they hope all over the world if her success is believed by everyone.

In the end, Danlin is let with not much as money and power prevail over the truth-seeking journalist who won’t quit. But he continues to fight, no matter what, for what is right. While not the happiest ending, it seems like the most fitting for not only this novel but in the present given all of the current events.

Recommended?: Yes, to everyone especially those concerned with recent current events and the media in the United States. While not directly related, certainly the topics and issues brought up in the novel do have some parallels and are interesting to consider.
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Much meaning lost between the pages in passing time

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I feel the desire to explain my last post a bit more and where I was coming from by addressing the title of this post, “much meaning lost between the pages in passing time.”

Books are a product of their time, similar to other media and art, and in a way they become relics of things forgotten, created in a time different than the present. Different in values, fears, hopes, dreams, desires, worries, economics, culture, and so on. The world changes constantly. All the time, always will. Music is a more obvious and immediate form of some of the changes that pervades the general consciousness more readily than other media.

All this is by way to say that 1984 meant something different in 1949 when it was first published, before the advent of personal computer and any glimmer of the Internet. But today, Big Brother’s systematic rewriting of history any time the Party chose to couldn’t happen. With Twitter and Facebook and the Internet in general, not to mention smartphones and texting, information cannot be controlled. Anyone can share anything anywhere, basically. Get on wifi and say or upload whatever you want, to anyone anywhere listening.

Yet privacy is an issue. And we freely self-report and broadcast what we do and where we are, to name a few of the plethora of possibilities now available. Whether you tweet on purpose and include your location or just the fact that your smartphone is turned on and broadcasting your triangulated location to satellites circling the Earth, you are sharing a lot of information about yourself. Even search engine are smart enough to learn about you based on your searches and links that you visit. Despite this, we live in a free society with freedoms that we take for granted such as free speech and free press in America. It not even conceivable to me that anything in 1984 could ever take place especially do to all the technology these days. And Big Brother has become a joke, a literal reality show, a British oddity with their surveillance cameras everywhere. Cop and murder TV shows and movies use those cameras to solve crime and portray them as useful and necessary to do good and catch the bad guys. While we invite TVs and computer screens and now tablets and mobile devices to make media pervasive and everywhere that we are, users have never had as much control over media as we do now. I am not bound by Castle‘s programming schedule because I can get in on Hulu.com whenever I want to watch it.

This isn’t the first time this issue of misunderstanding works from a different time crossed my mind. In high school, I watched Hitchcock’s The birds with my little sister and we couldn’t believe that it was originally billed as a scary horror movie. Really? It’s some bizarre birds randomly attacking people for no reason. Odd but certainly not terrifying–unless you fear birds, like my one friend. And it was campy to us. Sure, even in 2004, computer graphics and trying to out due gore and gross scenes pushed movies and shows to new visual feats. To us, scary and horror mention something totally different. And LOLCats doesn’t help:

So why read books from the past? There is a lot to still gain from anything ever written, be it beauty, content, history, a glimpse into a previous era. Same goes for all other art and media. Unlike in 1984, we keep things around to remember and ensure that the past persists, which exactly was what Ingsoc fought against–“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

While I still stand by more post from yesterday, I will say that everything should be appreciated with the proper respect for the time in which it was created and what it meant to those then. Taking any work out of context does a great disservice to the current generations as well as the past and can certainly bode poorly for the future. Like the saying goes, don’t forget where you came from. Plus, those who can’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

Writing and storytelling mean I lot to me now. I’ve learned to appreciate a well crafted novel that makes you pause to savor a phrase or reread a passage that is witty and charming, or insightful and bold. Orwell doesn’t do that for me but is enjoyable none-the-less for his groundbreaking nature of topics and ideas. There’s always a writer behind the piece to consider. Why did they write what and how they did? What purpose did it serve then, and what can it now? Why create it at all, and what would it mean if it hadn’t been created ever?

Food for thought as Camp NaNoWriMo creeps up on us! I’ve got a new idea in mind, so we will see how June progresses!

Plus, for everyone wonder, what’s next on my agenda?  Friday by my favorite sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein! It’s famous and been on my bookshelf at least a decade now, the pages are yellowing and even smell old already. Space action-adventure, yes please! Woot! In the first two pages alone, the main character kills a man, stuffs him in a locker, blasts a spying robot and shoves that in the locker too, stows away in a bathroom, and changes her identity–off to a quick start and it looks to be a great adventure. Such an anticipated read of mine that I’ve always held off to read it. No more. Reading it now! Headed to the porch to indulge.