Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Favourite Posts from the 4th quarter of 2009

Ah, nearly up-to-date at last with these 'best of...' anthologies for the sidebar!

This one could take a while, though.  These few months seem to have been a particularly prolific - and a particularly rich - period for me.  I am tempted to just say, "Go and read everything I posted in October 2009; it's all gold!"  (And I start to worry that my quality of output has fallen off since then....)

I'm out of Beijing this week, and unlikely to have Internet access - so I hope my readers can keep themselves busy with this selection (while waiting patiently for my return, on or about the 1st March).

Pick of the Archives:
Favourite Posts, October-December 2009

1)  Do you find me WISIBLE? - 1st October
My commentary on the irresistibly ludicrous (and strangely camp) parade to celebrate the PRC's 60th anniversary (preceded by some observations on the extreme weather manipulation required in preparation for this, here and here).

2)  Shameful Pleasures  -  3rd October
My 'List of the Month' catalogues some of my unexpected private indulgences - that I cannot practice when anyone else is around!

3)  The fears that bind us  -  6th October
One of my more serious posts: my view of the Chinese Communist Party and its approach to maintaining its power here.

4)  Whose birthday is it anyway?  -  7th October
A slightly more humorous - but possibly even more bitter - reflection on the 60 years of Communist rule in China.

An observation on the bizarrely mangled pronunciation which characterizes China's laughably bad English-language TV channel, CCTV9.

6)  Let your NO be NO  -  October 15th
My experience of acting in a short Chinese video - never again (until the next time...).

7)  My philosophy of teaching  -  October 19th
A couple of important observations drawn from my long - if intermittent - career 'at the chalkface'.

8)  The sea inside  -  October 19th
A brief appreciation of the latest quirky creation of my artist friend Wu Yuren (unjustly imprisoned since the end of May last year, as a result of his activism).

9)  Good beginnings  -  October 20th
San Francisco literary agent Nathan Bransford's annual competition for opening paragraphs of novels prompts me to ponder on what makes a good opening for a novel, and to dig out some examples from favourite novels that I've read; and also to invite my readers to submit their own favourite opening chapters of novels in an ongoing 'collecting box'.

10)  The wall of silence (AGAIN)  -  October 23rd
I fume (not for the first time!) about the vexing Chinese predilection for avoiding giving you bad news by.... ignoring you altogether.

11)  A Classical Sunday  -   October 25th
A favourite anecdote from my time as a Latin teacher, and a superb poem on a Classical theme, Graham Hough's Andromeda (long lost to me - rediscovered thanks to my wonderful blog-friend JES).

12)  Don't say I didn't warn you  -  October 29th
Some gloomy observations on road safety (or, rather, the complete lack of it) in China.

13)  Let The Right One In  -  October 29th
My review of Tomas Alfredson's impressively creepy vampire flick set in a Swedish small town kicked off an unexpectedly lively comment thread  (which in turn provoked me to write extended follow-ups here and here, on the plausibility - and the population dynamics - of vampires, which led to even more vigorous comment threads).

14)  12 spooky vignettes  -  October 30th
I 'celebrate' Halloween with twelve micro ghost stories (later brought up to the baker's dozen with this wicked pun!).

15)  Up yer bum!  -  October 31st
I flaunt my Classical education again with this essay on the possible implications of rhaphanizo - a terrifying piece of Ancient Greek abuse.

16)  Possible opening for a novel  -  November 7th
A sketch of the first few chapters for a story about sniper duels; an idea I dallied with a dozen or so years ago, but which has long lain in neglect.

I thank Mr W.B. Yeats and his poem The Scholars for possibly saving me from a life of confinement in The Ivory Tower.

18)  Plumbing the depths  -  November 13th
Amongst the many, many, many very bad 'academic' articles I have had to edit, this is possibly the worst ever.

19)  Chinese plastic  -  November 19th
How do they make it so brittle?  And how do they get away with it, why does anyone buy it??  Unfathomable mysteries!  (There's a companion piece - from my frantic phase of moving house in this month - on the unstoppable accumulation of Dust in a Chinese apartment.)

20)  My Fantasy Girlfriend: Kate Beckinsale  -  November 21st
Less an appreciation of the lovely English actress, and more an excuse for some autobiographical anecdotes about the occasions I nearly met her - when she was a student at Oxford, and later, when I was a trainee lawyer.  Ah, Cruel Fate....

21)  Accumulator  -  November 29th
I analyse why my packing took so long (further elaborated here).

22)  The leaders leave first  -  December 8th
Another of my utterly serious posts, commemorating the 15th anniversary of the appalling Karamay theatre fire, in which nearly 300 schoolchildren were killed.  (I followed up with the text of a scathingly satirical song which references the tragedy, by blind folk singer Zhou Yunpeng; there's a video clip of him performing it posted over on The Barstool.)

23)  Poetry, with Chinese characteristics  -  December 13th
A recent lecture I attended on the interplay between Chinese and Western poetry leads me to post a fascinating rendition of a well-known piece by the great classical Chinese poet, Du Fu (Chinese original text added later in the comments); the fine English version is by an America academic, Frank Bidart - who speaks/reads no Chinese.

24)  Go out and buy!  -  December 15th
An anecdote of my father's about his National Service in Palestine in the 1940s illustrates the power of advertising - and especially the power of a good, cheesy slogan!

25)  A motto, or a name?  -  December 16th
I am asked to translate a bon mot into Latin.  It is hard, I tell you, hard.

26)  My favourite pun  -  December 17th
Of course, it could only be from Flann O'Brien's masterful Keats & Chapman series!  And yet another Classical reference!! (I attempted my own pastiche of O'Brien's genre here.)

27)  My Fantasy Girlfriend: Dorothy Provine  -  December 19th
The '60s actress/singer is inducted into this series primarily because of her turn as Western saloon floozie Lily O'Lay in the Blake Edwards comedy The Great Race, performing the rambunctious showstopper He Shouldn't-a Hadn't-a Oughtn't-a Swang On Me - check out the video.

28)  Waking to strange sounds  -  December 20th
After only three weeks in the new apartment, I'm struggling to get used to its idiosyncrasies; but at least it teases a new poem out of me for the first time in.... many, many months.

29)  Scary Santa  -  December 24th
My Christmas 'treat' for my readers this year is the terrifying opening sequence from Jeunet et Caro's dementedly Gothic fairytale La cité des enfants perdus. (There was some rather more lighthearted seasonal fun with this post on snowball fights.)

30)  The Tea Tower (A Christmas Story)  -  December 27th
An anecdote about my first-ever Christmas in China.

31)  Among the musicians  -  December 29th
My new digs are in a building owned by a Chinese classical musicians' guild; being surrounded by people practising music almost constantly arouses some guilt in me about my long neglect of my guitar, my harmonica, my paper-and-comb, my....

32)  Guanxi explained  -  December 30th
I describe the Chinese approach to 'networking', with the invaluable help of a cartoon diagram by the Chinese artist Yang Liu.

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