Archive for June, 2012

Another busy week

Well, the good news is that I’ve been writing and reading a lot and putting together actual pages of content (woohoo!). The bad news is this is really slow work sometimes, and other times I feel like I’m off in some direction and on some tangent that is irrelevant to the presentation I need to give in ~3.5 weeks in Bremen. 😡

All of this reading, writing, and work culminates with some pretty insane things, like staying up to 1:30AM the other night to finish a 北京市体委 report from 1962 that outlined problems, weaknesses, and overall plans… which more or less meant lots of decentralization of 体育 at the highest levels and at the lower levels national defense 体育 and mass 体育 activities that look a lot like 1952-1953.

I also went in for a health check-up at the doctor on Thursday, then rushed to the coffeeshop afterwards so I could finish reading a 国家体位 document that talked about similar activities at the national level. …..Mmmmmm soy latte at Double-Eye (the best coffee-espresso drinks in Berlin IMO)…..

Apparently combining the above type of crazy schedule with continued physically activity wears me out more than I think.  I took off Friday from running, but we took a nice 5K walk in the evening to Tiergarten/Siegessäule area and back home (it’s lovely when the sun is setting). Despite the fact that this was my second day off in 7 days (I know, can you believe it?) and two of my runs this week were 45 minutes or less, I have been sleeping a lot too. Most days I get at least 7-8 hours, but after today’s 1.5 hours run around Grunewald/Wannsee -> Krumme Lanke (I am just doing this once a week right now because it’s all I can handle*), I came home and took a long nap. Now this is not extremely unusual to take a nap, but I also woke up at 9AM this morning, proceeded around 9:30AM to then go back to bed, and finally got out of bed around 11:15 or so. After we got home from running, had showered, eaten, etc I *tried* to do some work around 3:30 or 4, powered with coffee. It didn’t last that long. I faded and the nap lasted from around 5:15-7:15 or so, and it was difficult to get up at 7:15. I attempted another hour of concentration (to almost no end) before I threw in the towel and we went for Eis (sorbet) / beer / walk / watch the euro cup in the plaza. Now, it’s 1AM and I’m exhausted again…

I guess the lesson I learned today is that sometimes my brain needs a day off just as much as the rest of my body.


*I full realize that for many people, 1.5 hours seems to be *a lot* of running, but for anyone who knows me and the kind of crazy-ass long runs and marathon/triathlon training nonsense I have done in the past, 1.5 hours is like a standard workout. My definition of “long” is around or above 2 hours of continuous running and “very long” is anything around or over 3. For triathlon training, a typical brick workout (when I was doing them) would also be 1.5 hours — a “brick” would be: 45 mins of swimming followed by 45 minutes of running. “Long” workout days were usually weekdays when I ran an hour in the morning and biked 1.5 hours in the evening. And then there were those crazy weekends where I would do a long bike ride (3+ hours) *and* a long run (2-3 hours), all within 24 hours…

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More cramming

So, another day where I didn’t do any writing, just note-taking and research. There’s a lot more out there on ping pong athletes. I realized there’s a Hong Kong connection that I haven’t explored. Apparently the ping pong champions for China in the 1950s were actually a bunch of Hong Kong people who had done well and were recruited by Beijing to basically… well, build the program. I combed through a bunch of magazines from 1957 and I reckon this is pretty key. I also made a list in Excel of all the athletes from this book of interviews and noticed several star ping pong athletes noticeably ‘absent’ – one of whom is still alive. So, I started googling her and it turns out she was probably not interviewed because she helped someone uncover a ping pong match fixing scheme dating back to at least the early 1960s and lasting up at least until the late 1980s! The plot thickens…………..

The other big research thing I was doing today included reading through some (boring) directives from the period 1956-1960 or so. I’m trying to pinpoint the places where the State Sports Commission made efforts to decentralize mass sports/tiyu for ordinary people and/or focus on building elite competitive athletes for international glory — oops, I mean “friendly competition”. At the moment, it looks like it (not surprisingly) aligns with the early Great Leap Forward period, but now I’m thinking it probably began a bit earlier, in 1956, because some of the directives suggest temporarily halting the extension of programs in villages during those years. But, I need to more thoroughly record the dates and think about the words they’re using. 

And… that’s about it. I really wanted to get to some delegation reports today, but it looks like they’ll have to wait. And then I really REALLY need to get cracking on developing the 1960s chapter. I have some prose and a loose framework, but it’s going to a big chapter, the kind that will probably run well over a chapter limit. I plan to cover the 1962 Asian Games, 1st GANEFO and Asian GANEFO, and exchanges with African delegations, followed by discussing some of the memories I’ve found in documentaries and oral histories. I get overwhelmed/tired just thinking about it. 

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I didn’t write anything today, so I thought I should post up what I did do. But! I also should proudly note that this is the first day in two weeks (or so) that I haven’t written at least a few sentences and/or edited something related to my own work. I’m slowly getting solid frameworks and over the last two weeks I have even created some prose (woohoo!) for two other chapters. So, that basically means I’ve started three chapters, although here’s hoping that they don’t become only two (long story short, one of them might need to be folded into another). In total I’ll have 5-6 chapters — in other words, hopefully 5 but possibly 6. I need to have 2-3 written (at least in draft form) by fall in order to apply for writing/finishing grants. (Luckily I knew ahead of time what this would require, and that’s why I signed up for all of these workshops/conferences over the next few months. Deadlines = forced success, for me at least.)

What I did today:

1) got up late. Drank a bunch of coffee. Read the news, then finished reading some ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) records I found online. They’ve digitized a whole bunch of their archival materials. How cool is that?

2) Cleaned the house. This took a while.

3) Read/looked for some more articles on 邱钟惠 and 容国团, the first Chinese female and male world ping pong champions (1961 and 1959, respectively). 邱 is still alive, so there’s quite a bit on her. 容, who was originally from Hong Kong and only joined the Guangdong training team in the mid-1950s, faced a lot of persecution in the Cultural Revolution when he, like several other team members, was labeled as a “特务嫌疑” (suspected spy). On June 20, 1968 he committed suicide. (Two other team members committed suicide previously for similar reasons.)

I find this all the more interesting given that, when I paged through 1966 新体育 last week (it stopped publication in October 1966), I noted that several of the major criticism articles were (supposedly) written by members of the national ping pong team (such as 庄则栋). This group of athletes is still alive and shows up in most 体育片 and oral history/interview books. Some have extensive biographies and memoirs and are notoriously difficult to get interviews with outside of Chinese media (go figure – I know about this because I met a guy trying to research former ping pong athletes last year, without success).

Why is ping pong so important to me? It’s not just because it’s 国球 (i.e. the national sport), or even because of ping pong diplomacy/Nixon in China (although those are both important reasons), but because 1) I am trying to trace the routes of elite athletes through international sports exchanges in places like Africa / Southeast Asia / Third world (as “ambassadors” for China) and 2) I am tracing the rise of pop culture, elite athletes at models, and the cult of ping pong star athletes in the early 1960s. It’s quite obvious that a lot of the obsession with ping pong started around then, but it has much deeper and important roots than most people often think about. Of course, they were playing ping pong at Yan’an, too, but the highlight here will be on the development of spectatorship and pop culture, not the fact that some PRC leaders liked to play it. (They liked basketball and volleyball a lot, too, but you don’t hear those called 国球.)

4) I did some more reading/thinking about how much I detest a particular book I am going to write about in the lit review. For example: why on earth would you put a statistical chart in the book with a) no reference or source info and b) no explanation of how you determined those numbers. Also, sport in China was not “sometimes Soviet, but also had Western aspects” — blech. Fortunately, there are some redeeming aspects to the book, such as referenced 体育文史 articles I can easily look up, and the author conducted interviews with a few Chinese athletes and those provide some information on their family backgrounds/feelings about their careers.

5) I read some reports last night related to the 1959 第一届全国体育运动会, although the only interesting new bit in there was that the Iraq invitee (to watch the games) apparently “did not know about the Americans’ ‘Two Chinas’ conspiracy” (yeah, right) which meant that the Chinese took the opportunity to fully educate him about the “Jiang bandits” (Chiang Kai-shek nationalists in Taiwan). This goes very well with my argument that before 1960 the obsession with making international contacts through sports had a lot to do with promoting anti-Taiwan pro-PRC (socialism) sentiment, especially among Afro-Asian-Arab nations.

We finished off the day with a walk to get dinner (falafel and baba ganouj while, inevitably, watching Spain vs. Italy on the giant TV in the cafe) and then Heidelbeer Fruchteis for me (blueberry sorbet, mmm).    Man, I’m tired, and aside from a few K of walking, I didn’t even do any exercise today.

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