"Oh my god, it's full of stars."
Monday, December 31, 2007
"Oh my god, it's full of stars."
My best wishes to all of you for a splendid 2008!
Incredible, but true.
My thanks to Leah for alerting me to this oddball delight - although it seems we both come somewhat late to the party. Apparently, this video of Filipino prisoners performing Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' dance routine has been quite the sensation of YouTube since it was first posted 5 months ago, and has recently been featured on a number of American TV shows. Time Magazine, I learn, has just rated it No. 5 in its list of the year's 'Top 10 Most Popular Viral Videos' (Damn, what are the others?? Got to go check out that list!). On YouTube, it has already drawn more than twice as many hits as Michael's original video of the song!
We have one Byron F. Garcia to thank for this. He works with the Philippines government as an adviser on prison security, and a year or so ago he had the idea of developing a new exercise regime for inmates, based on dancing to pop hits. The scheme - implemented at the Cebu Provincial Detention & Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) - was an immediate success, and quickly became famous throughout the country (they've even had the surviving housemates from the Philippines 'Big Brother' show bussed in [blindfolded] to perform a dance routine with the prisoners as their 'challenge' for the day - worth checking out because the girls are very cute).
Now, my first thought when I saw this was that it must be a spoof, a fake. But no, it appears to be genuine. Then I had qualms about the power-dynamics of it - are these prisoners being forced to take part against their will? (I very much doubt if such a programme could succeed in my native England, a nation of notoriously reluctant dancers.) The hours of practice required must get pretty gruelling; and it would be a hugely embarrassing activity for anyone as self-conscious as I am. I have qualms too about the economics of it - the prison is now earning money by allowing tour groups in to view these mass-choreographed performances.
On the other hand, I suppose it's a lot less exploitative and demeaning than sending these guys out to work on road gangs. And they do seem to be having a whale of a time doing these dance numbers. Perhaps Byron really has come up with an idea of genius here, an exercise programme that is fun, and that gives the prisoners a sense of pride and achievement - something that could be truly rehabilitative. How long before we see this kind of thing in prison exercise yards all over the world??
Byron's posted over 20 videos of his prisoners doing their thing now: 'Radio GaGa' is pretty good, too, but 'Thriller' is the classic. My New Year gift to my loyal readers. [I've posted a video for you to enjoy over on the Barstool today as well - go check it out.]
Sunday, December 30, 2007
[This, by the way, was Froogville's 750th post. Gasp of amazement! It seems No. 1,000 could be upon us before we know it.....]
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Were there, in fact, any public health warnings issued on this most poisonous of days? No.
Immediate Update: Leah has a nice piece on her blog (having done some of the research I couldn't be bothered to!) about comparative API levels in the States and the composition of the pollution here in Beijing. Apparently, yesterday Beijing's API went off the scale (500+)! I'm a little sceptical about that, because it seemed to have cleared up a lot by mid-morning.... but early, when I took this picture, yes, it was pretty grim.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Fast food detritus;
Instant noodles, lazy living.
Plastic fork forest.
Oh, I used to have far more than this! Over three years in this pad I had accumulated dozens and dozens of these little disposable forks that you get inside bowls of instant noodles. I had a bit of a clean-out a while ago. I am a terrible hoarder - I always think that these things are going to come in handy one day for a picnic or something.
But yes, I was a little ashamed when I realised how dense my 'fork forest' had grown - it was damning evidence of how indolent my bachelor lifestyle has become, how rarely I can be bothered to cook myself a proper meal any more.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
"I have to work tomorrow. I have to finish writing the end-of-term exam. And then I have to give my students the answers."
Monday, December 24, 2007
E.E. Cummings (1894-1962)
Saturday, December 22, 2007
She wasn't then - and isn't now - at all my usual type, physically. Blonde hair and a full bosom don't have much of a hold on me. Honestly!! However, she had something........
Sadly, Diana died a few years ago, while still only in her 50s.
At present, there are only two clips of her on YouTube. Perhaps more will be posted eventually; she appeared with Benny numerous times, and on quite a few other British TV shows of the period as well.
For now, here is one of her biggest musical numbers from The Benny Hill Show (possibly the only time he allowed her to perform straight, without having some of his comedy shtick going on in the background) - a medley based around the Frank Sinatra classic, 'Travelling'. Ah, this takes me back....
Friday, December 21, 2007
That certain smell in the air -
A promise of snow?
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Happy Charismas to all of you!!
Tulsa has kicked things off by unearthing this one, which seeks to match you with your representative animal.
I was reminded of a variation on this 'animal metaphor' game I was introduced to many years ago, where you are asked which animal you think of yourself as.... then you're told you can't have that one, and you must produce a second choice.... and then a third. I think the idea is supposed to be that the first animal chosen is your idealized version of yourself, the second is how others tend to see you, and the third is closest to your 'true self'. I chose eagle, racehorse, and....... CAT! What would you choose?
Anyhow, according to this quiz of Tulsa's, I am a penguin. Or a dog. Or just possibly a beaver? Are the results always this wishy-washy, I wonder, or were my answers unusually erratic?? Of these three, I definitely prefer penguin. I recognised an immediate affinity with a penguin called Misha, the lugubrious, enigmatic centrepiece of the Ukrainian novel Death and the Penguin which I read recently (though the book itself wasn't very good).
Tulsa suggested I take the quiz again today. No, no, no - I want to be a penguin. I'm sure most of the other animals are pretty crappy. I don't want a second dip! Oh, all right then..... I am pretty sure I gave exactly the same answers, but got a completely different set of results (Owl? Sheep??!!) - so I wonder if there isn't an element of randomizing going on in the program.
Some of you may recall that this time last year - according to this quiz on the divertingly bizarre Rum & Monkey website - I discovered I 'was' Ludwig II, the Mad King of Bavaria!
Curiously enough, I just re-took that one - with, as I thought, substantially different answers..... and came out as Ludwig again. What is it about me and Ludwig??
Anyway, the thing about penguins is:
Genera and species: Aptenodytes patagonica
Collective Term: A colony of penguins
For penguins are birds condemned to live out their days on the ground. Unable to fly, their excess energy has no outlet save their creative talents and emotional outbursts. Penguins are poetic, artistic, and intellectually gifted, and as writers, penguins have no equal. But, if unable to channel their impulses in a positive way, the resulting turmoil proves damaging to their relationships and careers.
With a natural aptitude for languages, penguin personalities dominate the world of publishing as writers, editors and journalists. A strong sense of drama draws them to the theater and cinema, although unlike typical bird personalities, they avoid the spotlight unless they're able to hide behind the characters they play. Once on stage however, they prove to be excellent performers with their multifaceted personalities conveying the full gamut of emotions.
However, a lack of confidence affects their work and penguins tend to give up too easily. So work never dominates their lives and they always put their families first. Those intimate with their penguin personality are impressed by their unswerving loyalty. They are sentimental at heart and always remember anniversaries and the birthdays of nieces and nephews. With a strong compassion for others, they place their family's needs ahead of their own but often end up being taken advantage of.
In matters of the heart, penguins connect poorly with other bird personalities who look down on them because of their terrestrial connections. Mammalian personalities also treat them with suspicion too, finding them to be flighty and unpredictable.
Since penguins have the coldest feet in the animal kingdom, it's no surprise that within its conflicted bosom there beats the warmest heart of all. Unfortunately, most of us will never experience this gentle compassion, for penguins ration their love only to family and close friends.
Careers and Hobbies :
Writer, Herbalist, Journalist,
Actor, Designer, Waiter
Gambling, Board Games, Reading, Family time
Famous Penguins: Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote, Danny Devito
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Tea with Madame X
I feared my love was obvious
It filled the room like sunshine
Perhaps too warm, too dazzling
I was showing my love too freely, clumsily
Letting it flow out of me in all directions
Spilling across the table towards her
I was too obvious, I thought, too simple
But if I'd had tactics, they were forgotten
In her presence
I lost myself in the details of her
Her hair, her eyes, her mouth, her laugh
I felt my love was obvious
But she managed to ignore it
Or swept it aside, as a minor irritation
Much as she absently dabbed with a napkin
At the stray crumbs of cake on the tablecloth
She smiled and thanked me and left
The café still warm with sunshine
But in another hour or so
It would be dusk
Monday, December 17, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
this is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye.
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.
Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.
This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.
Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table.
Your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.
This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round, not flat and has more colors
than we can see.
It begins, it has an end.
This is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.
Margaret Atwood (1939- )
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Quite remarkable, really. I didn't realise they did villainy like this any more!
It's cold outside......
Don't take it personally.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
2) It gave me stability of income. (Something I've never really enjoyed in my entire life before!)
3) I was about to get a British health insurance package through it. (I've never had proper health insurance since I came to China!)
4) The business is - just maybe - about to take off in a big way in China. It would have been quite exciting to play a part in that.
5) They were providing my visa for me. (So, I now might well have to leave the country, at next-to-no notice, to get a new one.)
6) There will be NOTHING happening in any of the various freelance markets I like to operate in until the other side of the Chinese New Year..... i.e., I am facing about 3 months of enforced idleness and zero income. Not good.
I mean, really insulting. Most of the old college buddies I discussed it with during the summer were guestimating I'd be on up to 6 or 8 times as much. OK, some of them are completely out of touch with reality (that's why I love you, Dr P), but...... I learned at that time that the average starting salary for a graduate in the UK these days is well in excess even of what my salary would have been on a full-time basis, nearly twice what I was actually making for my 3 (or so) days a week. I know 'local hires' always get screwed, but really - for someone of my experience, and with the huge responsibilities of the role (with a crucial 'business development' dimension in a key new market: the whole of East Asia!), it was a pretty bloody contemptuously paltry remuneration. And significantly less than I had been earning from my bits-and-pieces of freelancing earlier in the year. From the financial point of view, it should be quite easy to say good riddance!
2) My immediate 'line manager' bugged the crap out of me.
Not that they were a bad person, or bad at their job particularly (non-ideal in some ways, but not at all terrible) - it was just a personality-grate:
their accent/tone of voice/manner/opinions/decisions invariably acted upon my psyche as the scraping of fingernails down a blackboard.
3) It was office-based.
Offices and I do not get along. I hated my desk, my computer, my chair, the neon strip-lights, the tinted windows, the fact that I could fail to notice what the weather was like outside for the entire fucking day.....
4) It was a 'teamwork' culture.
And I am, I confess, ultimately more of a 'loner'. Oh, I'm also 'a people person'. I like to get along with co-workers. And I enjoy co-operating with them one-to-one..... when it's actually necessary, and when we actually get something done. But having to put in half a day of "please" and "thank you" and fucking ego-massage every time you need to send an e-mail? Christ! No thank you.
5) It involved a lot of business travel.
And business travel is never much fun. In China in particular, it can easily degenerate into a slice of hell-on-earth. Better off without all of that.
6) Our Chinese partners are all dipshits.
Really. ALL of them. There's a spectrum, of course: it runs from "shouldn't trust these people as far as I can spit" to "nice, bright, sincere, enthusiastic people - who haven't got a fucking clue what they're doing". In a good-natured parting meeting with the boss this morning, I shared with him this little riddle, a bitterly jesting observation of many teachers I know who've spent more than a couple of years here: "What's wrong with the education business in China?" "Everything!"
7) It required a rush-hour commute into the CBD by Subway.
That's not fun in any city in the world. In Beijing...... it saps the will to live.
8) It was a long working day.
We were supposed to be in before 9am every day - just to set a good example to our Chinese staff (most of whom don't show up until at least 9.30 or 10!), just to show willing in case our Chinese partners wanted to contact us by telephone early in the day (they never did!). We were supposed to stay until at least 6pm every evening - just to give the UK office an opportunity to communicate with us (again, they hardly ever did). Last-minute shit had a habit of cropping up, which would tie you down until 7pm. And there was nowhere decent to have lunch in the vicinity, so I'd often stay in the office the whole time. That was a long fucking day!!! And 90% of the work I could have handled better from home.....
9) I had no autonomy.
No authority. No clearly-defined status, in fact. My line manager's job had grown unmanageably large, so I had been drafted in to pick up the overspill. But what that 'overspill' consisted of was largely down to their whim - and I couldn't do anything without referring to them. It was, really, a wretched skivvying role.
10) I had no real prospects there.
Even my 'superiors' aren't being that well paid, and they have years of seniority on me. It's a miserly little company. It's unlikely that I could ever have risen to a senior management position with them; and even more unlikely that they would have paid me what I think I deserve, even if I had. Better off without them.....
11) I'm never going to 'get rich' working for someone else.
Certainly not those jokers. Not that I really want to be rich..... but I'd like to stop being POOR.
12) It was consuming too much of my time.
The long days, the frequent travelling, the fact that I was (voluntarily!) doing additional paperwork and e-mailing on my "days off" - it was biting a huge chunk out of my week. Most of my previous lucrative freelance work has fallen by the wayside since I started with them. My jogging routine has faltered too. And it really wouldn't have been good for my prospects of forging any new romantic partnership to be 'on the road' two weeks out of every four.
Are you convinced yet?? I very nearly am.....