Kunming has four radio stations. Through a kind of fluke, I was invited to one of them that features an English language program twice a week called "Let's Learn English Together."
The pictures on this page represent the second of two, programs that I co-hosted. In the first show, we played some alternative/electronic music that was provided by a friend who was supposed to be on the show that night, but he got sick, and since he knew of my professional history in radio, invited me to fill in for him.
I was introduced on-air as an American radio announcer. I didn't know any of the music that I played because it was all supplied by my sick friend. With the exception of my old college radio buddies who are probably reading this, chances are you wouldn't have recognized any of the music either.
And that's what made it great. There were no words in the songs, and that allowed me to come up with interesting stories regarding the origin of the titles of the songs that I'm sure had nothing to do with the composer's intent. But then, that's what radio's for, the "Theater of the Mind" as they're fond of saying.
During the second half of the hour-long show, we took calls from listeners. I think we talked to five people. Four of them asked about Michael Jackson. The fifth knew of some other artists.
I gently suggested that there might be something not quite right with the King of Pop, regarding his alleged appreciation of children above and beyond the charity work that he does. But the subtlety of the message was lost, I think. I didn't want to get thrown off the air again (as I was at UC Irvine's radio station-a badge of honor), so I kept my observations gentle in reference to the gloved one. For those of you not in the know, I was relieved of my duties as a talk show host in college once because on this show called "Freedom of Voice" I got a little bit too free, I guess. I was not politically correct. China has a very rigid standard of political correctness, and I knew it.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Which brings me to the topic of the second show that I did, the one with the pictures below.
I talked about the emerging interest of Chinese medicine, philosophy and culture in the West, specifically in America.
A good announcer can really connect with his audience. In an effort to really see who was listening, I employed a long forgotten trick from the early days of radio. By looking carefully into the microphone, you can actually see out the speakers of the listeners.
To my right is Leisl White, the host. People in China who speak English are given, or chose, Western names. Leisl has a Chinese name, but I was never told it. So, I called her Leisl. Apparently she got that name from The Sound of Music.
Incidentally, Western guests to China get Chinese names. My name translates to "Blue Diamonds." A reference to my eyes, I'm told.
"Please, no pictures!"
Leisl is what I call a "Mao Tse Tung Ren." Ren is "person." I don't know how to say "socialist" or "communist" say I stick with "Mao Tse Tung Ren." Its always good for a laugh too. The reason that I bring this up, is that, off the air, she expressed her disbelief that any non-Chinese person could ever become proficient at traditional Chinese medicine.
I responded with saying the same thing about Western music. Chinese produced music that attempts to mimic the original artists from the West often lacks an edge in their rock or a an understanding of improvisational musical styles such as jazz. But that's not always the case. There's a pianist at the Kunming Hotel who has a better feel for jazz and blues than most I've heard in the states. He understands our music in his heart.
Chinese medicine too requires a little more stretch among those not raised in the culture, but ultimately it is the nature of the student that determines how well the subject is absorbed, not the topic to be learned. There are practitioners who are superior, average, and inferior in both the East and the West.