- - Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pretty fly for …

“Not long ago, I was offered work as a quality-control expert with an American company in China I’d never heard of. No experience necessary — which was good, because I had none. I’d be paid $1,000 for a week, put up in a fancy hotel, and wined and dined in Dongying, an industrial city in Shandong province I’d also never heard of. The only requirements were a fair complexion and a suit.

“‘I call these things “White Guy in a Tie” events,’ a Canadian friend of a friend named Jake told me during the recruitment pitch … ‘Basically, you put on a suit, shake some hands, and make some money. We’ll be in “quality control,” but nobody’s gonna be doing any quality control. You in?’ I was.

“And so I became a fake businessman in China, an often-lucrative gig for underworked expatriates here. One friend, an American who works in film, was paid to represent a Canadian company and give a speech espousing a low-carbon future. Another was flown to Shanghai to act as a seasonal-gifts buyer. Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image — particularly, the image of connection — that Chinese companies crave. My Chinese-language tutor, at first aghast about how much we were getting paid, put it this way: ‘Having foreigners in nice suits gives the company face.’”

Mitch Moxley, writing on “Rent a White Guy” in the July-August issue of the Atlantic

Made of junk?

“One theme (of many) running through ‘Toy Story 3,’ currently the top movie at the box office, is the conflict over ‘toy nature,’ so to speak — the nature, purpose and value of the toy characters. …

“The film’s chief villain, Lotso, is a toy whose owner replaced him and who, in his despair, came to hold the view that toys are ‘mere plastic,’ trash, garbage — things to be used and then thrown away. It’s this nihilistic view that explains and justifies Lotso’s tyrannical system of government, in which the powerful toys rule the weak … .

“The question the film must answer is whether each toy is valuable for its own sake, as an end and not merely a means to something else. And the answer is that every toy, regardless of usefulness or ‘newness’ or brokenness, is special. That’s the message ‘Toy Story 3’ ultimately affirms.

“We’re debating the same question in America today — only about human beings, not fictional toys. And it plays out in the controversies over abortion, euthanasia and embryo-destructive research. Is every human being — regardless of age, level of development, ability, “wantedness” and perceived “quality of life” — valuable, a person who ought to be treated as such?”

Paul Stark, writing on “When Toys Are Valuable: Toy Story 3 Affirms Pro-Life Message of Value in Life” on June 29 at Lifesite

Sore losers

“But of course, sometimes things get personal. This past weekend, my father and I drove out with some friends for a food and wine weekend in small-town France, in the Burgundy region. Naturally, on Saturday evening, we went to watch the USA-Ghana match at the town’s one beer pub — an American-style bar called ‘Route 66.’ …

“Nonetheless, after the USA game had been running on the pub’s TV for just 15 minutes … the barman, apparently annoyed by the concentration of U.S. soccer fans that had trickled into the bar, abruptly and angrily changed the channel. No amount of protest would change his mind. As I tried to ask for an explanation … he simply walked into the back, leaving his patrons to fend for themselves. …

“As it turned out, however, it was not lack of interest that drove that disdain, but instead a prolonged period of national mourning. Last week’s total implosion of Les Bleus, champions in 1998 and finalists in 2006, had driven most French fans (and the Parliament) beyond sadness to a Gaullic mix of bitterness and contempt. And as explained by a French friend with whom we were traveling, ‘no amateur soccer squad from the U.S. would ever be allowed to upstage proud French football.’”

Renard Sexton, writing on “In Europe, the World Cup is Not for Wimps” on June 30 at the site FiveThirtyEight.com

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