Whatever the recent Sino-American talks in Alaska meant in geopolitical terms, one clear winner was Zhang Jing, who was praised for her “fluent, unflustered and graceful translation” (The Vietnam Times) of Chinese-delegation speeches into English. “Chinese media reports referred to her as ‘China’s Principal Interpreter’ and ‘China’s Most Beautiful Interpreter,’” noted the South China Morning Post. According to China’s state-run Global Times, “a photo with the hashtag ‘she is the on-site translator at high-level China-US talks’ has gone viral on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo with views surpassing 400 million.”
Weibo also supplies the you-are-there intensity of the moment: “Zhang then goes ahead and calmly translates Yang’s entire 15-minute speech directed at American secretary Blinken and national security advisor Sullivan. To give a speedy translation of such a lengthy off-the-record speech is seen as a sign of Zhang’s utmost professionalism as an interpreter, which many on Weibo praise. ‘She’s my idol,’ multiple people write.”
And so, the China Foreign Affairs University graduate becomes an inspiration to untold numbers of embryonic translators. Or, as the YouTube channel China Daily succinctly put it, “The on-site interpreter of the China-US high-level strategic dialogue is her, adding chicken leg for little sister Zhang Jing!”
Would you officially change your name if it meant an all-you-can-eat sushi meal for you and five hungry friends? What about if, once sated, you could just change it back? A recent promotion by a sushi chain (the free meal awarded to “any customer whose ID card contained ‘gui yu’ — the Chinese characters for salmon,” according to The Guardian) resulted in “salmon chaos” when some 150 people decided that the paperwork was worth it, that being known henceforth as Salmon Prince, Meteor Salmon King, or Salmon Fried Rice was also worth it, and tucked in. Because names can be legally changed three times in Taiwan, the incidental cost of this particular gluttonous impulse was reversible.
“I just changed my name this morning to add the characters ‘Bao Cheng Gui Yu’ and we already ate more than Tw$7,000”—around $250—one college student told a TV reporter. His new name, should he decide to keep it, is Explosive Good-Looking Salmon.
A little more seaweed in cows, a lot less methane in our atmosphere. Five months on a diet of seaweed, a study has found, resulted in 82 percent less of the harmful gas being belched and farted out by bovines. (Yes, it’s a quality-of-life issue on many levels.) “We now have sound evidence that seaweed in cattle diet is effective at reducing greenhouse gases and that the efficacy does not diminish over time,” Ermias Kebreab, the director of the World Food Center and an agricultural scientist at the University of California, Davis, told The Guardian. And while there are other good reasons to eat less meat, “the UC Davis researchers said that existing meat production could be made better for the climate by putting seaweed on the menu for cattle.” So maybe think about offering a cud of wakame or nori to any ruminants you know, next time you see them—you’ll be doing the planet a favor.
Some of that cattle-created methane comes from the Amazon and—along with methane from flooded soil and trees, and black carbon from fires—contributes to the rain forest’s actually “emitting more greenhouse gases than it absorbs,” according to a counter-intuitive new study published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change. Another factor is the albedo effect—in this case, the forests’ retention of heat. But, really, it sounds more like the Bolsonaro effect: in 2019, the first year of that president’s administration, deforestation of Brazil’s rain forest increased by 30 percent over 2018. Not good, according to any study.
Print me out a three-bedroom midcentury modern, would you, please? The 3D-printed building is nothing new—China has been running off copies, as it were, for some time, and a settlement of affordable houses was established two years ago in impoverished Tabasco, Mexico—but this insta-neighborhood of 15 homes, with prices ranging from $595,000 to $950,000, is different. “Construction is expected to take 18 months, raising hopes that 3D-printing could relieve California’s housing crisis,” The Times of London reported. The garage-size printers “create layers from the ground up. The California homes use synthetic stone, which hardens in sunlight and is stronger and lighter than concrete. The roof and insulation can also be printed, allowing the houses to be built as if made of Lego bricks.” And don’t forget the pool!
Bands are so 1975—yes, even the popular veteran British group The 1975. For some time now, technological advances have been shifting rock’s creative Ground Zero from friends bashing away in garages and basements to solitary figures composing on their computers in bedrooms. But the crisis for bands has become acute, according to a recent piece in The Guardian: “Popular music’s centre of gravity has undeniably moved towards solo artists, at least when it comes to serious commercial success.… Of course, radio and streaming are dominated by pop, rap and dance music but festival lineups don’t point to a golden age of bands, either.” Some speculate that, apart from whatever musical-fashion change this reflects, another factor might be the expense—rehearsal space, equipment, travel—of keeping a band afloat. Others suggest that the business simply prefers to deal with solo artists.
It’s all pretty distressing. What, for instance, will happen to the roadies? And not just the roadies. Anyone who’s read Pamela Des Barres’s classic groupie memoir, I’m with the Band, will understand that I’m with the Laptop could never hope to be as absorbing.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail