The Battle at Lake Changjin

The movie market in China

The Battle at Lake ChangjinI was falling down a rabbit hole, looking at 2021 box office grosses for movies. I knew Spider-Man: No Way Home had the largest gross sales.
DOMESTIC (45.3%) $627,428,198
INTERNATIONAL (54.7%) $759,000,000
WORLDWIDE $1,386,428,198

It’s interesting how well the film did in so many countries: $44.7M in France, $61.4M in the UK, and almost $41M in South Korea. But not in China.

Whereas for The Battle at Lake Changjin, almost all of the revenue is from China.
DOMESTIC (–) (Released Nov 19, 2021) $342,390
INTERNATIONAL (100%) $902,198,524
United Kingdom (Nov 19, 2021) $63,392
Australia (Dec 2, 2021) $138,739
Hong Kong (Nov 11, 2021) $2,596,393
China (Oct 1, 2021) $899,400,000
WORLDWIDE $902,540,914

And what IS this film? “Set in the Second Phase Offensive of the Korean War, ‘The Battle at Lake Changjin’ tells an epic historical tale: 71 years ago, the People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) entered North Korea for battle. Under extreme freezing conditions, the troops on the Eastern Front pursued with fearless spirit and iron will, as they courageously fought the enemy at Lake Changjin (also known as Chosin Reservoir). The battle was a turning point in the Korean War and demonstrated the courage and resolve of the PVA.”

In fact, 108 of the 200 top-grossing films have 0% sales in the United States. Another five got 0.1% of its box office from the US. Six of the eight critics in Rotten Tomatoes panned it.

Time travel

Number 3 on the list is Hi, Mom: “A woman travels back in time to befriend her own mother in an attempt to make her life better.” Though it had a limited box office in Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong, $821M of the $822M in sales were in China, with none from the US. The four critics in RT liked it a lot.

The fourth film was No Time To Die, the most recent James Bond film
DOMESTIC (20.8%) $160,772,007
INTERNATIONAL (79.2%) $613,262,000
WORLDWIDE $774,034,007
The list of countries is lengthy and broad.

F9: The Fast Saga ranks number 5.
DOMESTIC (23.8%) $173,005,945
INTERNATIONAL (76.2%) $553,223,556
WORLDWIDE $726,229,501
Lots of countries are represented as well, though China is quite important with almost $217M in ticket sales.

Movies into musicals

I started thinking about this when I read what Mark Evanier wrote about movie musicals. “There are 27 (!) stage musicals which are ‘in development’ as movies.” Given the lackluster box office of In the Heights and West Side Story, most of these films probably won’t be made.”

West Side Story
DOMESTIC (54.4%) $30,271,174
INTERNATIONAL (45.6%) $25,331,328
WORLDWIDE $55,602,502
Nothing from China

In the Heights
DOMESTIC (68.1%) $29,879,041
INTERNATIONAL (31.9%) $14,000,000
WORLDWIDE $43,879,041


I read that This Year, Hollywood’s China Relationship Finally Unraveled. It doesn’t matter how accommodating the industry may be — the next phase of the Xi Jinping era may be defined by less space for Western content.

“Despite attempts to make it past China’s censors, Space Jam: A New Legacy never received a release in China this summer and scored just $162.8 million worldwide… — Disney received the same cold shoulder when it came to its Marvel tentpoles Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and The Eternals, films that were built around Chinese talent in order to make a giant showing in the market. But to no avail.

“Neither film was given a release in the country that continues to take heat for reported human rights abuses. Hollywood’s silence on those abuses has become deafening as other industries and entities have begun to confront China. In fact, 2021 — with its diminishing economic returns in the country — might mark the year that finally cooled the Hollywood-China romance.

“The reversal of fortunes in China has begun to accelerate in the past year. In 2021, just 25 U.S. movies were released theatrically in the country, many of which were minor indie titles instead of studio tentpoles. By contrast, some 45 Hollywood movies were shown on Chinese screens in 2019. That is forcing the major studios to pivot on their China ambitions, mostly because there is little to no growth to be attained in the country in the current climate… “

China in Ethiopia, a stepping stone into Africa

There were plenty of hotels — even new ones — had once been grand but had declined due to lack of maintenance.

Ethiopia and China shake hands Source: CNN, 2015

My good and brilliant friend Catbird, who I’ve known for a long time and has no political ax to grind, wrote this to me in March 2018. I thought it should have a wider audience, so I’m posting here with her permission.

When I spent six weeks traveling in Ethiopia in late 2016, it looked like China was using the country as a stepping stone into Africa. They’d built important trade roads (Addis Ababa to Djibouti and Kenya), a light-rail system in Addis that’s quite heavily used, and a new railroad to Djibouti, which, although it’s not actually in Ethiopia, is Ethiopia’s port after it and Eritrea separated and Asmara was no longer available.

My impression was that the Ethiopian government had been blinded, or maybe just seduced, by money from China. There were also lots of factories with their little company towns that looked more like prisons with their walls, razor wire and distance from the highway. This and other foreign investment has happened much to the consternation of the populace: every once in a while there’s an uprising with riots, buses (and sometimes trucks) turned over and set afire and so on. I saw that, too. If my trip had been for government business, I wouldn’t have been allowed to go.

However, this gifts/flattery strategy may not work out in the end. I observed that Ethiopia as a whole basically doesn’t do maintenance, which, when it comes to infrastructure, will eventually lead to huge inefficiencies. There were plenty of hotels — even new ones — had once been grand but had declined due to lack of maintenance. I also saw jaw-dropping soil erosion in rural areas.

A burned-out bus from the 2016 unrest in Ethiopia

Apparently the government believes that it owns all the land and can take it at any time. My guides told me it was that, for instance, if you improved your land, the government could just kick you off of it at any time, so there was no point in improving anything.

IMHO, this is an unfortunate artifact of communism. That regime (the Derg) murdered hundreds of thousands of people.

I also learned that Ethiopians don’t think much of the Chinese, and say things like “those people will eat anything—even scorpions!” because they eat pork. Muslims don’t eat it because the Koran forbids it, and Christians believe pigs are just unclean.

I was particularly interested in this after reading that the American ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley wants to cut aid to poor countries who challenge the U.S. It’s as though the regime thinks the United States is the only game in town, which it is not.

April rambling #2: Smartest place on earth

A World Awash in Purple


The 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winners, with links to many of the written pieces!

The Vlogbrothers — John and Hank Green — summarize the tax proposals of the folks who want to be your next President.

John Green: Here’s to civil discourse and David Kalish: Comparing Facebook to a pee-soaked lamp post.

Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy.

Mississippi Interracial Couple Evicted For Being In An Interracial Marriage. In 2016.

Michigan mechanic refuses to serve people from the ‘ghetto’ — but insists he’s not racist – he was a bit coarser than that. “But Jim S. insists he’s not racist — which is exactly what racists usually say. ‘Race has nothing to do with this, let me clarify,’ Jim S. told Mic. ‘What we’re trying to avoid is people who number one can’t afford service.'” In 2016.

Michael Rivest: Thoughts on White Privilege and Colorblindness.

Why You Should Care about Felon Voting Rights.

Jeff Sharlet: Airbnb’s Paris “Open”, during the Paris attacks.

This is what happens when you bury a mass murderer in a small town.

John Oliver: Credit reports and Lead poisoning and Hollywood Whitewashing.

1939 news clipping re: Jack Benny’s “valet”, Rochester.

New York Times: How to Explain Mansplaining.

“Leftover women”, those unmarried by 25, in China.

Greg’s daughter Mia turns 13.

Dustbury: The years take their toll on a body.

Neuroscientists Can Identify You by Your ‘Brainprint’ with 100% Accuracy, and related story.

Albany, New York: Smartest place on earth? Probably.

16 Things I Would Want If I Got Dementia.

Jaquandor has been posting poetry all month, of many varieties.

How to Insult Like Shakespeare.

Now I Know: How Brazil Got to the 1932 Olympics (Mostly) and “We Won’t Give Up Until You Bleed” and A Weighty Issue (about clipboards!)

There’s a Scientific Reason Why Indian Food Is So Delicious.


TWC Question Time #33: Part Two– Killing the King.

These Millennials!

Superman: tax evader.


BBC have broadcast TWICE as many obituaries in 2016 compared to last year at this point.

The Prince section

“Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?
“Do I believe in god, do I believe in me?”
“Controversy” – Prince

A World Awash in Purple.

Arthur addresses how the Internet Age didn’t create social mourning.

Prince on Arsenio Hall’s show.

Prince & Tamar Davis(Good Morning America 2006)/a>, which I watched in real time.

Former Warner Bros. CEO Mo Ostin Recalls His Long Relationship: ‘He Was a Fearless Artist’.

Weekly Sift.

Prince refused to be a commodity and took a protective stance on music copyrights.

Paul Westerberg: ‘I Can’t Think of Anyone Better’.

Is the water warm enough? Cartoonist Hazel Newlevant discusses Wendy & Lisa’s contribution to Prince’s legacy.

Times When He Showed Us His Great Sense of Humor.

Do It All Night: The Story of Prince ‘s Dirty Mind. An in-depth look back on the 1982 album that allowed Prince to cross over as a rock’n’roll star.

From Bat Dance to his Alter Ego comic.

A guy on Facebook noted: “‪‎Prince‬ was a huge fan of Bonnie Raitt and when he covered I Can’t Make You Love Me for his Emancipation album (1996), in the liner notes, he wrote: bonnieisanamericantreasure. When Bonnie was between labels, before signing to Capitol, Prince wanted her to sign with Paisley Park. They worked together a bit to see where it would go, but then he had to go to Europe to film Under The Cherry Moon. In the meantime, the stars aligned with Bonnie, Don Was and Capitol Records. What followed was Bonnie’s breakthrough success with ‘Nick Of Time’. Whatever they did together remains in Prince’s vaults.”

More music!

Lonnie Mack, RIP.

Amy Biancolli: Music to vote by.

Coverville 1122: Cover Stories for Roy Orbison and Paul Carrack. Roy would have been 80.

Harry Hipster Gibson – Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs. Murphy’s Ovaltine (1944).

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1967 Broadway Soundtrack).

Lawrence Welk Meets Velvet Underground.

The Chinese lesson

It was interesting that, along with their titles, I was given the delegates’ dates of birth.

Delegation at NYS SBDC, March 18, 2013

A couple of months back, I was asked to speak to a Chinese delegation from Shenzhen province about these aspects in the United States: “statistics system in government organizations (structure, operation, management, what they do, etc.)” and the “government division responsible for business registration (when the division established, its history, etc.)” and “a brief overview of the business registration file or database establishment (industry categories, quantity, the geographical distribution of industries, employees, etc.)”

I dutifully prepared some remarks. Some of the questions were lost in translation, I feared. Others were quite overlapping. On the other hand, I DID discover that the NYS Department of State, which registers corporations in the state, was established shortly after the Declaration of Independence.

It was interesting that, along with their titles, I was given the delegates’ dates of birth, which ran from 1958 to 1975

Do you know what was THE most popular thing I talked about? It was after the session was ostensibly over, and they were talking about their itinerary, going to New York City. It was going to be 70F, but they didn’t know what that meant in Celsius. I started feverishly writing two columns by hand on a board in the room:
They were SO excited by this information that they started taking pictures of it.

Later, they gave me this lovely scarf in appreciation for my assistance.

Speaking of international, I went to an import/export workshop recently, and the presenter indicated that most products needed to ship in metric units, such as milliliters and kilograms. The instructor said, rhetorically, “I mean, who else besides the United States even USES our system of weights and measures?” I said, with assurance, “Liberia and Burma.” I was remembering the map from this blog post from a little less than three years ago.

Gee, even I learn something from my blog posts, occasionally.


Past perfect: Gore Vidal, Mike Doonesbury and the Olympics

Once upon a time, I was an avid Olympic watcher, but all the dustups this year has vaguely soured me on it all.


I haven’t been reading the comic strip Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau as regularly as I once did, 40, 25, even 10 years ago. I own three hefty early volumes of collected strips which I used to reread frequently. However, I’ve never cottoned to it appearing on the op-ed page of my local newspaper. So I managed to miss the great announcement in Sunday’s paper, by the nominal lead character, Michael Doonesbury, that he was handing over the reins of his daughter Alex (July 29); immediately, Alex has talked about the changes she’ll be making in the strip. The focus of the series has been more on her and her new husband Leo – check out the wedding sequence, from June 11 to 23 – than the previous generation for a couple of years now. I should note that I think the daily strips are greatly enhanced by color, and I should just remember to read it online, even if it’s a day later.

When I heard that writer Gore Vidal had died, I flashed back, not to anything he wrote, though I’m sure I read some of his essays. Rather, I remember these series of vigorous debates between him, presumably on the left politically, and William F. Buckley on the right, e.g., doing commentary at the 1968 Democratic convention. These discussions, often on the Dick Cavett Show, which aired against The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and therefore under-watched, were almost always lively, occasionally nasty affairs, but amazingly entertaining television. Go to YouTube and search for Gore Vidal William Buckley.

Once upon a time, I was an avid Olympic watcher, but all the dustups this year have vaguely soured me on it all. There’s whatever Mitt Romney said about preparedness, which was similar to what the British media had said; it’s DIFFERENT when THEY say it, rather than a foreigner on their soil pronouncing it. At least, the US opening ceremony garb that was Made in China got Democrats and Republicans to agree on something. NBC’s tape-delay, and their handling of those who don’t keep in line, not to mention its somewhat jingoistic coverage, starting with the opening ceremony coverage, was annoying; How an American Can Stream the BBC’s Official Olympics Coverage and Overcome #NBCFail. Note also the controversies once the competition actually began, which happen regularly, but seem somehow magnified by so much instant media.

I HAVE caught random events- England v Canada women’s basketball when I was at the barbershop; a couple of swimming events – but I haven’t sat down with the intention of watching.

Second picture from @tompsk.

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