Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
This was the last item featured in the highlights, so it was presumably late in the game (although that might be a large assumption; chronology - or any other kind of logic - does not always figure in the structuring of these little roundups of the action on Chinese television). It was only shown once: there was not even a single replay, much less the multiple views and diagrammatic analysis we usually get for narrow offside calls. And there was no sound commentary over the top of it (even with my limited Chinese, I think I would have been able to recognise if the goal had been disallowed for a foul or an offside, if anyone had told us).
Since the game ended goalless, I gather this strike must not have counted for some reason; but on the very brief glimpse of it CCTV5 afforded, it looked perfectly good to me. And let me repeat: there was absolutely no explanation of this incident at all.
Just when I think CCTV5 can't possibly get any worse, they come up with some new way to astound and annoy me!!!
Saturday, June 26, 2010
[Update: The remarkable JES added links in the comments below to a couple of much more interesting (and arguably much better) lists of this ilk: Time Out's Top 50 Animated Features, and this article from The Guardian in which film-maker Terry Gilliam introduces his top ten short animations. Those are both well worth checking out.]
Friday, June 25, 2010
The brain wilts from the effort
Living in two worlds
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Here's a quick roundup of all the football-related items from the past week or so (adapted from this post I added yesterday to my burgeoning World Cup discussion thread [thanks to The British Cowboy, The Swordsman, Stuart, Tony B, Richard P, Mr G, JK, and Gary for joining in the griping, jesting and prognosticating so far]).
A couple of days ago, I added the updated 2010 version of our rousing English football song, Three Lions (complete with a very good - and refreshingly high picture quality - fan video of some the the great moments in England's footballing past), to the 'Great Songs' series on The Barstool.
A week ago on Froogville, I had posted a selection of great England goals, including Gazza's impish piece of wizardry against the Scots at Wembley in Euro 96 and John Barnes out-Brazilling the Brazilians at the Maracana Stadium (in '84, was it?).
Amongst the other football-related frippery on my blogs, we've had a wonderfully barbed observation on Lionel Messi from JK, my favourite bar owner, and a deft metaphor of my own drawing on the Robert Green cock-up to comment on my state of being (it's not only Nick Hornby who can play that game), a headline from an American tabloid celebrating their 1-1 result against England as "a win", a LEGO re-enactment of the two key moments in that game.... and some speculation on how they might be reporting the World Cup in the DPRK.
And of all the many (more serious) articles about the tournament I've been reading online over this weekend, I think this blog post from the Football365 website best sums up what's going wrong for Capello and England. We still have a couple of days to try and put some of that right....
(of whom the Internet seems strangely ignorant: I doubt if it's this one; more probably an inadvertent misspelling of this one)
Sunday, June 20, 2010
When you’re lost in the Wild, and you’re scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you’re sore as a boil, it’s according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: “Fight all you can,”
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it’s easy to blow . . .
It’s the hell-served-for-breakfast that’s hard.
“You’re sick of the game!” Well, now, that’s a shame.
You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!” I know—but don’t squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it’s so easy to quit:
It’s the keeping-your-chin-up that’s hard.
It’s easy to cry that you’re beaten—and die;
It’s easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight—
Why, that’s the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each gruelling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try—it’s dead easy to die,
It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.
Robert W. Service (1874-1958)
Saturday, June 19, 2010
I don't think this makes things any better at all. Funny, yes; but still very, very painful to watch....
Friday, June 18, 2010
Single shared experience -
The beautiful game
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I also turned up this '10 Best England Goals' selection. Some fun stuff, but mostly long-range efforts (and, even on that criterion, there are some strange omissions - such as Joe Cole's corker of a volley against Sweden in the last World Cup). Goals that had a critical importance in major games linger longer in the memory: Shearer's emphatic finish to complete the rout of Holland in Euro '96, for example; or David Platt's last-gasp winner against Belgium in the 1990 World Cup; or, well, Lineker's hope-inspiring late equaliser in that agonising 1990 semi-final against Germany. [Update: I've just added the 2010 version of Three Lions over on The Barstool; the accompanying fan video has an even better selection of great England moments.]
Nothing before the '80s either - and even there they miss Butch Wilkins chipping the ball over the top of the Belgian defence, and then repeating the feat with the keeper in the 1980 European Championship, Chris Waddle covering half the length and rather more than half of the width of the pitch in running the ball through the hapless Turkish defence [Ah, I don't know how I managed to overlook it, but actually that one is in there, at No. 4. It's probably even better than Barnesey's romp below - although in both cases the defences just stood by and watched, mysteriously failing to offer a single challenge.] in the 1985 game at Wembley that secured our qualification for the World Cup, and, of course, this..... John Barnes walking the ball into the net from 40 yards out...... against the Brazilians...... in the Maracana. Fantasy Football indeed! Of course, it was only a friendly; and, alas, he never managed to play quite this well for us in a major tournament.
Unfortunately, I can't envisage there being anything like this to lift the hearts of England fans this time around. On the contrary, the earlier we crash out of the tournament, the less pain we'll have to suffer.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
She was, of course, one of the great movie stars of the later silent era, establishing herself in an all-too-brief career as one of the most iconic beauties of the 20th Century (the inspiration for, amongst many others, Liza Minelli's 'look' as Sally Bowles in Cabaret). The distinctive short bob hairstyle which she popularized (and perhaps created: she claimed to have been wearing her hair like this, at her own insistence, since childhood) will probably bear her name for eternity.
There's a wonderful slideshow of black-and-white portraits of her on YouTube here, and an interesting selection of painstakingly colourized ones here.
I think there was something more to such potent and lasting appeal than just the beauty of her face and figure, or her acting ability, or her alluring aura of innocent-but-naughty sexiness. There's a hint of fragility, vulnerability about her photographs too - that quality that arouses the male protective instincts. (She had a pretty unhappy life in many ways: blighted by an instance of sexual abuse when she was a young child, she struggled for many years with debt and alcoholism, and went through a string of unsatisfactory relationships.) But there's also a suggestion of great strength, and self-confidence about her.... and an unusual intelligence.
I love the attitude of the woman: protesting that she hated Hollywood, and walking out on her Paramount contract at the height of her fame to go and make a remarkable trio of films in Europe with the great German expressionist director G.W. Pabst - the films (Pandora's Box, Diary Of A Lost Girl, and Prix de Beauté [the latter written and produced by Pabst, but directed by his friend, the Italian Augusto Genina]) on which her reputation now rests. She later claimed: "I just didn't fit into the Hollywood scheme at all. I was neither a fluffy heroine, nor a wicked vamp, nor a woman of the world. I just didn't fit into any category."
She also delighted in titillating and scandalizing people - cultivating the reputation of being a lesbian out of sheer devilment (late in life, she said: "Out of curiosity, I had two affairs with girls - they did nothing for me.").
She was one of a kind. She refused to fit into any conventional template or to acquiesce in others' expectations of her. It was perhaps both a blessing and a curse, this rebellious individualism: it was what made her such a compelling figure, but it also condemned her to a life that was mostly marginalized and unfulfilled. She wrote of this 'flaw' in herself, her "failure as a social creature":
My mother did attempt to make me less critical of people's false faces. "Now, dear, try to be more popular," she told me. "Try not to make people so mad!" I would watch my mother, pretty and charming, as she laughed and made people feel clever and pleased with themselves, but I could not act that way. And so I have remained, in cruel pursuit of truth and excellence, an inhumane executioner of the bogus, an abomination to all but those few who have overcome their aversion to truth in order to free whatever is good in them.
Now do you see why I love her so?
Friday, June 11, 2010
City never felt so clean -
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Monday, June 07, 2010
Saturday, June 05, 2010
Back at the dawn of the Noughties, the number of laowai in Beijing was probably only in the few tens of thousands (well, at least if you exclude the very large - uncountable - numbers of Koreans, Japanese, and Asiatic Russians, many of whom seem to have become permanent residents, and who 'blend in' to the local population much better than other varieties of foreigner), and the number of anglophones perhaps only in the few thousands. And because of that compact size, we had a shared sense of identity, of common purpose - perhaps a slight feeling of being beleaguered in the midst of a very strange and occasionally hostile city, and needing to club together for support. Of course, the city itself was far smaller then (with the 5th Ringroad just beginning construction, and very little development out beyond the 4th). And the 'bar scene' was tiny. Well, there were the old stagers: The Den, The Goose & Duck, Frank's Place, the John Bull Pub, The Mexican Wave, Maggie's. There was Poacher's and Jazz Ya just off Sanlitun. And there was the good old Sanlitun South bar street. And that was about it. Houhai didn't start to take off as a bar area until 2003; Nanluoguxiang not until 2007. Even the student enclave around Wudaokou was pretty rudimentary in those days (when did Lush open? '03??). Ditto Shunyi: it was already being promoted as a 'luxury villa' community removed from the hubbub of the city, but all those fancy malls and restaurants and coffee shops that make it such a comfortable home-away-from-home for expat families have sprung up just within the last half dozen years or so.
In those days (7 or 8 or 9 years ago), everyone hung out on Sanlitun South - regardless of disparities in age or income, regardless of place of residence. 'Year abroad' students from Wudaokou would rub shoulders with big-hitting executives from Shunyi in places like Nashville and Jam House and Tanewha and Hidden Tree. Even lowly language teachers would be welcomed to the party, so long as they didn't talk shop (although they might prefer to hang with the teenage expat brats in ultra-cheap dives like Black Sun or Pure Girl). Oh yes, the old 'Bar Street' was a great leveller. But then it got levelled.
I think it would have lost that unique 'melting pot' character anyway by now, even if it had somehow survived Beijing's merciless obsession with 'progress'. I'd guess that the expat population is now 10 times what it was back then (certainly the number of language students has gone up by rather more than that); average levels of affluence are rather higher (even poor old English teachers are getting paid ever so slightly more these days); and the number and diversity of bar and restaurant offerings has seen a corresponding boom.
It's hardly surprising, then, that there should be less coherence in the community now, and less coincidence of tastes on the nightlife scene. The people who voted for Xiu in those recent awards are unlikely to have much if any overlap with the people who voted for Paddy O'Shea's. And the people who would have voted for Salud (if it had been nominated) would not have overlapped very much with either grouping.
The Embassy Crowd
These are the 'aristocracy' of the expat community, too high and mighty to socialise much with us ordinary mortals. The nature of their job generates a sense of superiority, or at any rate of 'separateness' - and they seem to do 90% of their socializing with staff from other Embassies. (It was different in the olden times, when they might have only a few hundreds or a few dozens of their citizens residing here, and so felt at liberty to invite them all to the Embassy bar for a social evening once a month. [The New Zealand Embassy still used to do this until about 5 years ago, but I don't think the tradition continues today.] Now, with thousands of us here - constantly getting into 'trouble' with lost passports, traffic accidents, violent altercations with landlords or employers, etc. - they have to set up professional barriers to discourage us from bothering them. And that on-the-job aloofness too often carries over into their private lives as well.)
"The rich are different." (Fitzgerald) "Yes, they have more money than us." (Hemingway) "And they live in Shunyi." (Froog)
I have nothing much against Shunyi, really (nothing that a small thermonuclear warhead wouldn't put right, anyway). Nothing, that is, except its isolation and its unreality. It is not Beijing. It is nearly 20 miles outside of Beijing, and it is a completely different world.
The Hipster Rich
People With 'Real' Jobs
The Expat Brats
International School Teachers
The Mandarin Students
The Frat Boys
Friday, June 04, 2010
Say not the struggle nought availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not nor faileth,
And as things have been, things remain;
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers—
And, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves vainly breaking
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look! the land is bright.
Can't be washed away by lies;
Its stench still lingers.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Her most recent project, in collaboration with a journalist friend, Gabrielle Jönsson, has been a photo-essay called 'Lethal Leather - A Journey Through The Leather Industry In Bangladesh'. She has made it available as a slideshow on her site.
As Amy and Gabrielle say in their press notice about this:
The leather industry is one of the world’s most harmful, posing great risks to human health and the environment. Leather is treated with a number of dangerous chemicals to prevent it from decomposing. In Bangladesh, leather production takes place in the heart of the capital Dhaka, home to 12 million people. Nearly two hundred tanneries across the city manufacture products to sell to international fashion labels. It is rare for workers to wear protective clothing at these highly toxic production plants, which are dotted between residential housing. 150 tonnes of industrial waste are produced here every day, much of which is channelled into the city’s rivers.
That is certainly a disturbing thought. China's record on environmental pollution is pretty atrocious too, but at least they don't usually site hazardous industries like this right in the heart of cities.