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JG Ballard

JG Ballard

Last week I added a wonderful movie to my iTunes library - Empire of the SunThe film was based on a book byJ.G. Ballard who sadly passed away last Sunday (April 19, 2009) at the age of 78. Ballard based the “Empire of the Sun” on his boyhood experiences (< Ballard’s real story) in a World War II internment camp outside of Shanghai. Many photos and a video of  J(ames) G(raham) Ballard’s original home - 31A Amherst Ave Shanghai, China. Shanghaiist has a write up > HERE

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This 1987 film was directed by Steve Spielberg and starred John Malkovich. It was also the very first role for Christian Bale who delivered an amazing performance. Bale plays young James Graham, who is separated from his parents during the 1941 Japanese invasion of Shanghai. The 12-year-old Graham goes from living a life of privilege to becoming a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp in Lunghua, China. The film has many poignant moments and I highly recommend it. See > video trailer.

23fgb24p40The Empire of the Sun has some personal meaning for me. My uncle, Lud Lozier, flew B-24D Liberator missions from India to China. In May 1942, the Japanese captured the Burma Road, the only ground route available to supply Chinese forces. As a result, B-24 transport units had to fly over the Himalayas from airfields in India to China. My uncle flew many of these “over the hump” (Himalayas) missions and recounted how bitterly cold it was flying at 30,000 ft. His flight jacket and hat were all he had to keep warm. No heated/pressurized cabins like we enjoy in today’s aircraft. When the B-24s dropped down into China, they were vulnerable to Japanese fighter attack. Hence they were often joined by AAF P-40s Warhawk fighters who would escort them safely into China. Many of these P-40 fighter pilots were part of the original American Volunteer Group (AVG) … also known as the “Flying Tigers.”

118th TRS P-51s on the flightline at Laohwangping, China, June 1945

The Flying Tigers were originally a non-military, non-government flying unit contracted to assist the Nationalist Chinese in their fight against the Japanese invasion of China. Most of the Flying Tigers’ fighter pilots were Americans. In 1940 the US was officially neutral to the Sino-Japanese war, but President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) wanted to help the Chinese and FDR transferred a number of P-40 Warhawk fighters to India. And so the Flying Tigers unit was born. Later on in WWII, a number of the Flying Tigers pilots were assimilated into official US squadrons.

The 118th Tactical Reconnaissance “Black Lightening” Squadron, which flew fast and nimble P-51C Mustangs, were involved in a number of missions against Japanese positions and airfields in China.

empire-of-the-sun1empire-of-the-sun2In the Empire of the Sun there is a powerful scene where members of the Black Lightening Squadron attack the Japanese airfield at Lunghua, China. The airbase is adjacent to the Japanese internment camp where the young Jim Graham and fellow expats are being held prisoner. Jim has a passion for military aircraft, and ignoring all danger, he races to the top of a building to watch the American fighter pilots strafe the airfield. Jim is overwhelmed when an American fighter pilot zooms by in his P-51 and screams at the top of his lungs P-51 Mustangs …the Cadillac of the sky!” 

bloodchitnew1There is one other personal moment I’d like to share about the Flying Tigers. About the same time that Empire of the Sun was released to theatres (1987), I happened to be running in a race in Reno, Nevada. Picture 1In those days I was fleet of foot and very skinny (ah memories). I also was the proud owner of numerous Flying Tigers memorabilia. My friend Randy happened to be a pilot for Flying Tigers Freight Line and he had given me many of his t-shits with the Flying Tigers logo and depictions of P-40 fighters. Well the morning after the Reno 5K race, I went to breakfast at an all you-can-eat casino buffet with a group of my running buddies. I was wearing a colorful Flying Tigers t-shirt. As I was standing in the buffet line, I happened to notice an Asian family sitting at a nearby table. They seemed to be staring intently in my direction. As I made my way down the buffet I looked back once or twice more and it was apparent that the family was indeed paying close attention to me. Yet I had no idea why? I noticed that the parents, appearing to be in their 70s, seemed to be quite emotional. A few moments later the Asian son got up from the table and approached me. He was polite and almost apologetic as he spoke; “Excuse me, I am sorry to interrupt your breakfast, but I was wondering about your shirt? … Did your father fly for the Flying Tigers?” 

picture-43I explained that he did not, but my uncle flew in WWII and knew many of the original American Volunteer Group pilots. The Asian son did not want to interrupt me any further so he thanked me and turned to leave. I stopped him before he could walk away; “Wait … I’m curious, why did you come over to ask me about the Flying Tigers?”  He responded; “Well, my parents saw your shirt and they remember the American pilots very well. You see, they were held captive in China by the Japanese. They are very grateful to the Americans and the Flying Tigers. Your shirt brought back many memories for them.  It is very emotional for them.”

That brief encounter had a big impact on me. I will never forget that family. It brought home in a personal way how much the Flying Tigers meant to the lives of so many who struggled to survive under the most austere circumstances. Something to think about when we bemoan our present day lives. 末端

Empire of the Sun (1987) pilots:
Hoof Proudfoot…. aerial unit mustang pilot
Mark Hanna …. aerial unit mustang pilot
Picture 2Ray Hanna …. aerial unit chief mustang pilot (P51 pilot of “Tugboat” who waives at Jim – Christian Bale)
Tom Danaher …. aerial unit chief zero pilot 

Ray Hanna

Ray Hanna – 1928-2005

 

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Update – 03/27/09: China Unicom executive mgmt in Beijing have now “explained things” to the Shanghai subsidiary. The flashy iPhone images and special page used to promote 3G services are now no where to be found on the Shanghai Unicom website.  This is no surprise as the over eager Shanghai subsidiary was a mite early in their promotion. Read more > HERE

iPhonAsia comment: Remember that old kids game called Telephone? You whisper something into someone’s ear and they whisper the same story (you hope) to someone else who in turn whispers it to another … finally the last person states aloud what they believe to be the message. 9 out to 10 times the original message has been badly garbled … sometimes comically so … Well that’s just what happened in Shanghai on Tuesday. The original message got “Shanghaied” and false reports of a “done” iPhone deal spread rapidly across the newswires and blogosphere. 

Here is iPhonAsia’s post today on TMO Apple Finance Board … 

The reports of a “done deal” are a bit premature
http://idannyb.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/iphone-officially-in-china-on-may-17/

Sina.com and other Chinese sites are now quoting a China Unicom official who states that while significant progress has been made, an agreement between Apple and China Unicom to release iPhone in China has yet to be formally concluded. Sina.com states that yesterday’s press reports of a “finalized deal” contain factual errors.

What’s really going on? China Unicom’s Shanghai subsidiary was a bit over eager and splashed iPhone (and other smartphones with whom no deal has been made) all over their website to promote their forthcoming WCDMA 3G network launch. 
http://idannyb.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/china-unicom-promoting-high-end-3g-services-on-iphone/

China Unicom’s Shanghai subsidiary is having a hard time keeping the probable “iPhone deal” a secret and they’re essentially teasing what will “soon be” through their regional website. Chinese reporters got curious and contacted Shanghai Unicom for official comment. A Shanghai Unicom spokesperson (Yi Difei) talked about the forthcoming May 17 WCDMA 3G network launch date (trial launch in 55 cities) and expressed “optimism” over an iPhone deal. Then Chinese reporters interviewed several telecom analysts who made very presumptive statements about a “done deal” and the May 17 network launch. These analysts, however, were not affiliated with China Unicom. News service reports were then miss-read by other news services … sort of like a game of telephone. And then next thing you know we have reports of an official iPhone deal and a May 17 launch date.

End result is that Apple is more than a bit miffed and now China Unicom HQ in Beijing is doing damage control.
All that said … my view is that the deal will be finalized in a matter of weeks, after:
1. Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) approval
2. Senior Apple execs go to Beijing to reciprocate the China Unicom visit to Cupertino
3. Signatures

The deal will most likely be formally announced on May 17 for launch later in the Summer. Note: To paraphrase the late great Yogi Berra; “A deal is never done, until it’s done.” So it’s only prudent to add a question mark until we get the official press release.

Full backstory >
http://idannyb.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/apples-iphone-in-china-negotiations/

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3g-logo-tdscdma-wcdmaUpdate: On February 10, 2009 Apple added new China Job Postings … 

Shanghai – EPM-Tooling and New Material/Process – The position will support multiple product lines from our Mac and iPod/iPhone Divisions  

Shanghai – Reliability Engineer - The position is China based where extensive travel to different vendors is expected with occasional travel in Asia and US

Shenzhen – Supplier Quality Engineer – Will interface with Engineering, Operations, Quality teams with in Apple as well as multiple suppliers.

Update: On February 6, 2009 Apple posts for a retail sales manager in Hong Kong and positions (plural) for exceptional Hardware Design Engineers to join a fast paced Apple portable computers design team in Shanghai China, and participate in the development of Apple’s next generation portable computers

Update: On February 5, 2009 Apple posts a PR Manager position to be located in Beijing. See job description below.

Update: On February 2, 2009 Apple posted two additional iPhone/iPod positions requiring either fluency in Mandarin or travel to China. See below

Just a bit of rambling guesswork … FWIW … On Jan 22, 2009 Apple posted a job for an RF Test Engineer to be located in Shanghai or Shenzen. An RF Test Engineer would most likely not need to be located in China unless they are testing a device on a domestic wireless network. China is precluding WiFi on authorized mobile handsets; consequently the mostly likely RF tests would be on one or more of the following 3G networks … TD-SCDMA, W-CDMA, CDMA2000 or EDGE 2.5G.  And the most likely device to be tested is an “official” iPhone in China. Thinking June for any real news.

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Shanghai images from Trek Earth

shanghai_from_the_bund2.jpgshanghai_view_from_the_tower.jpgnanjing_road_of_shanghai.jpgnein_bend_bridge2.jpgchinesedance.jpgzhouzhuang.jpg20060616_1680a.jpgnanjing_road_resize.jpgswordfighting_small.jpg

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