Friday, October 26, 2007

Things Found While Looking For Other Things

It's reassuring to be reminded that - despite some evidence to the contrary - I'm not THE most eccentric person in the world:

There's a "Maytag Collector's Club"!

- and I'm not a member! See, I scarcely budge the needle on the Eccentric-O-Meter.

(Maytag Collectors. I am reminded of the Bob-and-Ray "opposing viewpoint" sketch, the guy complaining that it was unrealistic to expect an ordinary working man to "save the whales": as most apartments are too small for a decent whale collection.)

Things I was looking up:

I was at the library today for their weekly book sale... and upstairs in the meeting room, the conductor of our local Symphony was introducing this week's guest star, "celebrated erhu virtuoso" Betti Xiang.

(She played on Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project).

So I stopped in and listened to some Chinese classical music on erhu for a while. I've certainly spent LESS interesting lunch hours.

She was born in Shanghai, started learning her instrument during the Cultural Revolution, did her stint in the People's Army, emigrated to Chicago ten years ago. Worked with Yo-Yo.

The path:

1) Hmm, Shanghai.
2) The Bund.
3) The extra-territorial concessions along the Chinese coast.

4) I was unclear on the German concession in China; what I knew was that up in the Northwest, the Germans had built a brewery ( can't have a German community without some drinkable beer - and Tsingtao reached America just about the time that I reached drinking age...); AND, for some obscure reason, I was under the impression that the Germans were involved with Russia's Port Arthur, across the bay.
What was the story there?

5) And so I confirm in my head that Port Arthur and Tsingtao are actually different concessions.

6) But it turns out that Tsingtao is now

a) Qingdao, a city of over seven million people (...won't be long before it's bigger than NYC...)
b) the home of appliance manufacturer Haier.

7) Haier is now a major manufacturer, $12b/year. With a factory in America.

8) Haier was beat out by Whirlpool in their bid to buy out Maytag. (We're a Maytag family, and have been ever since my parents' Bendix front-loader gave up.)

9) Whirlpool bought Maytag a year ago, and has already closed Maytag HQ in Newton Iowa (I was there with my father in the summer of 1970, on our way to Collins Radio), and has also closed the Maytag factories. The Newton factory closed TODAY, in fact. (Sic transit gloria mundi.)

Which led to

10) Maytag Collectors!

I love the Internets.


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