Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
This in turn put me in mind of one of the great closing scenes of a film, in Stephen Frears' Dangerous Liaisons, where the Marquise de Merteuil, finally exposed for her wicked manipulation of others' love lives, is driven from the theatre in shame by the jeers of Parisian high society; returning to her boudoir, she gradually dissolves into silent tears; again, the camera keeps a tight close-up on her face as she slowly begins to remove her make-up. Not many other actresses could have pulled this off, but Glenn Close does it superbly.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Update: Karen was forced to give up this business - and the studio she ran it from - at the end of 2010, partly as a result of all of the hassle and anguish she'd had to go through over the extended detention of her artist husband, Wu Yuren.
She had been hoping to find someone to carry on the brand/concept, but that seems not to have materialised.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Home thoughts, from abroad
Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there!
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops - at the bent spray's edge -
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
Robert Browning (1812-1889)
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Frozen marrow will not thaw
Still in Winter's vice
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
While, in general, having people practising music is not one of the more unpleasant neighbourly noises one might have to suffer, the sheer repetitiveness of it can start to wear down your forbearance after a while. Most of my neighbours are professional musicians who will practice the same short piece for hours at a time, day after day after day.
And there's something about the balalaika...... that makes all balalaika tunes sound like the Z Cars theme after a while.
Now, I am usually rather fond of the balalaika. And I have a nostalgic soft spot for the Z Cars theme (a favourite BBC police show from my distant childhood). But there's something about the thought of the Z Cars theme played incessantly on something like a balalaika that is eroding my sanity just at the moment....
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
However, every once in a while, a Chinese girl, despite her tiny stature and boringly black hair, will somehow insinuate her way into my thoughts, get under my skin, worm her way into my heart. And Betty Wang, captain of China's Women's Curling Team, is just so gosh-darned cute.
Naturally, I am impressed by exceptional prowess in any field of human endeavour, and Betty's achievements in her sport are quite remarkable: leading the national team while still in her early twenties, and winning both individual and team World Championships last year. (Having to settle for the bronze medal place in the recent Winter Olympics, and then failing to qualify for the final play-offs in the World Championships last month has been seen as something of a national disaster after the heightened expectations she and her team-mates have generated in the last year or two. So, now sympathy for her in a time of trouble is added to my admiration for her abilities.) Such success - particularly in an event requiring such sustained levels of concentration and elaborate tactical thinking - is suggestive of an unusual intelligence and strength of character.
What is it about curling? In many ways, it seems an extremely silly game (especially that business with the brooms, or mops, or swiffers, or whatever it is they use these days to buff the ice in the path of the stones) - but it is remarkably TV-friendly. There's something about the pace and rhythms of the play that is insidiously compelling, especially when you're watching late at night after a few beers (which always seems to be the way it is for me). There's a beguiling accessibility about it as well: the tactics, although fairly subtle and complex, are also quite readily comprehensible after just a few hours of study. [I'm not sure that it really gains anything, though, from being played on ice. I much prefer its non-icy precursor, Flat Green Bowling.] And, since it doesn't require any great strength or athleticism, its female exponents do not need to be muscle-bound or masculinized, and many of them are strikingly good-looking. I confess to having been at first rather more distracted by some of the Swedes and Germans when I found myself watching more and more of this event during the Vancouver Olympics, but amongst the Asian competitors Betty Wang is the real charmer. (I've said pish-tosh before to Dottie Parker's over-quoted line about men spurning the attractions of "girls who wear glasses", and I'll say it again now. The glasses are a key part of Betty's appeal. That, and the wonderfully calm intensity of her demeanour when she's playing her game.)
Friday, April 16, 2010
I have also introduced my readers to the usefulness of injecting some extra randomness into your lives by consulting THE COIN (with further elaborations of the madness in my method here and here).
And just yesterday I posted this piece, What's your -ism?, on the fine art of beermat flipping.
However, it was a Chinese guy. I've never seen his name in the magazine. And he left a very cheap and tatty personal business card rather than a The Beijinger one, with only a private e-mail address rather than a The Beijinger one.
So, forgive me, but I'm just a mite sceptical about that "journalist" cover story.....
Probably I'm fretting over nothing; but after a good friend's little run-in with the authorities a few weeks back, I am in state of heightened alertness. Please don't be offended if I treat attempts to contact me by strangers with extreme suspicion.
Early starts at work fatigue:
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The Comedy/Movie Channel
Snow business - a couple of seasonal clips of mass snowball fights, from Leuwen in Belgium (the current world record holder) and the University of Wisconsin, Madison (an almost-annual challenger).... and a famous Budweiser commercial with horses having a snowfight.
I think Mr Garrison says it best - a fun slide-show illustrating the song Merry F**ing Christmas! sung by demented 4th Grade teacher Mr Garrison in South Park.
Scary Santa - the deeply disturbing dream sequence from the beginning of oddball 1995 French film La cité des enfants perdus.
My Fantasy Girlfriend - Dorothy Provine - my profile of the lovely '60s actress/singer Dorothy Provine concludes with a clip from her show-stopping turn as Wild West saloon chanteuse Lily O'Lay in Blake Edwards's slapstick comedy epic The Great Race (see also 'Great bar fights' below).
Great bar fights - classic film brawls from The Great Race, Blazing Saddles, Shane, and Ride Beyond Vengeance, with a link also to the marathon fistfight between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen in John Ford's The Quiet Man. [Damn - it looks like a couple of these might already have been deleted by jealous film studios!]
An omelette of peace - I conclude the answers to my recent 'Film Quotations Quiz' with the scene from wonderful foodie film Big Night where Italian chef Secundo (Stanley Tucci) makes up after a big fight with his brother Primo (Tony Shalhoub) by sharing a frittata with him. Just magical.
The Music Channel
Snow Song - the wonderful stop-motion animated video for White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes. (Also, links to some others of their songs, including the video for Mykonos.)
He Shouldn't-a, Hadn't-a, Oughtn't-a Swang On Me - a great Henry Mancini-Johnny Mercer song from the film The Great Race (see 'Dorothy Provine' above).
Don't Be A Chinese Child - I commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Karamay theatre fire on 8th December (in which 325 people died, the majority of them young schoolchildren) by posting a video of blind Chinese folk-singer Zhou Yunpeng performing his bitter song on the subject. I posted the lyrics, in Chinese and English, here on Froogville, and wrote more about the Karamay fire here.
Tell me WHY - Bob Geldof and his Boomtown Rats pianist Johnny Fingers perform a stripped-down version of I Don't Like Mondays for the 1981 Amnesty International fund-raising show The Secret Policeman's Other Ball.
The Sports Channel
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
It seems a bit of a wonky criterion to me. Two or three days of reasonably mild weather, or a single properly warm one (and it's not unknown for us to have the odd day nudging above 20 degrees C in early March) will easily bump up the 5-day average to that kind of level - even though the temperature may plunge again subsequently, taking 5-day averages back below the 'Spring threshold'.
I would have thought that a more reliable test would require not just an average over a number of days, but a sequence of days - perhaps three or more - each reaching the required temperature. I would also have thought that it ought to take some account of how long the temperature has been near the highpoint, or above an agreed threshold. We have a lot of days where there's a 20-minute interval of strong sunshine, and the rest of the day is at least 5 degrees colder. If it's not feasible to measure the number of hours at or above a certain temperature, then I'd suggest that the critical threshold temperature needs to be considerably higher; 10 degrees C is still pretty nippy, anyway - I would have thought 12.5 degrees would be more like it (with a requirement of something like 5 hours a day at or above that point), or 15 degrees for an isolated peak.
Oh, and of course, it mustn't freeze overnight. The really odd thing about our weather over the past few weeks is that, although the sunshine has sometimes been quite bright and warm, the weather systems are still predominantly coming from the north - so the air is far nippier than it should be at this time of year, and the wind has a keen edge to it. We've had several nights lately where, despite Spring-like weather during the day, the temperature plummeted perilously close to freezing again overnight. Last night was definitely a good few degrees below, probably the coldest we've had since January.
The Beijing meteorologists claim, of course, that however cockeyed their definition is, in practice it seems to work well enough: for the last several years, at least, it has managed to coincide with the arrival of sustained warm weather, the end of overnight frosts, and the massed, synchronous blossoming of trees around the end of March.
This year, however, the appearance of blossoms has been sporadic thus far; and those trees that have put forth most fully will have been most severely rebuked for their optimism last night. Spring still doesn't feel like it's here, despite what the weathermen were telling us last week.
All of which is merely an excuse for a song..... It Might As Well Be Spring, from Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair. There's a very good rendition by the now largely forgotten Dorothy Collins, performing it live on a 1950s TV variety show here; and the classic Dick Haymes recording (no video) here; though the best of the lot is surely Ella Fitzgerald's (but again, no video). But here's Jeanne Crain singing it (well, apparently she was being dubbed by one Louanne Hogan) in the movie...
Monday, April 12, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Musée des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.