June 2008 Archives
The huge performance project down at Goodrich Castle at Ross-on-Wye which I wrote about back in May and which can be seen at http://blogs.birminghampost.net/lifestyle/2008/05/forbidden-fruitful.html
has been proceeding apace with director Helen Parlor (above) and her team getting ready for the big day in a couple of weeks. Here's a picture blog of rehearsals, workshops etc
Since the age of about 18, when I found an old copy under my then boyfriends bed, I have been an ardent reader of Viz comic. Yes, it has been viewed as sexist and politically incorrect, but the humour is dry and satirical, something which you rarely find anywhere else these days, and something that I crave once every now and then. Having been in China for well over a year, I have felt a massive void when it comes to humour. And so, with a pleading email to my father every few months, he nips down to the local newsagents and hastily posts me a copy of the latest Viz. Good old Dad. Why is his 25-year-old daughter more interested in reading an adolescent boy's comic and not Heat magazine, he must wonder.
However, inbetween Viz comics I have found a satisfying relacement. The English language Chinese newspaper. The 'fillers' are my favourite. The fact that these are true stories that the Editor has selected out of all the happenings in China, I find delightfully amusing. It puts me in mind of the 'Letterbocks' pages from Viz, where readers write in with their own ridiculous tales.
Yesterday's paper entertained me with such newsworthy stories as the following, "a yellow-billed grosbeak slammed into a shop window and died in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province.
A second bird settled on the ground near the dead animal, appearing to keep vigil.
A woman passing by surnamed Liu tried to explain to the lingering live bird - which of course did not understand her flurry of excited hand signals - that she would give the dead grosbeak a proper buriel."
- Shanxi Evening News
How that didnt make front page, I will never know.
I like to imagine that lady frantically doing sign language to a bird, trying to tell it that she will give it's mate a plush funeral. And in my imagination, the bird is looking back at her with one of those "she's mental" expressions on it's little furry face.
Another one of my favourites from the same issue, is...
"A woman in Hankou, Hubei province, did not see her husband when she woke up on Tuesday morning. He did not answer her calls all day.
Worried that he might have been kidnapped, she alerted police that he was missing.
Later, officers found the man camping out on the roof of their home.He said he was hiding from a gang of criminals who had recently threatened him at the small grocery store he owns.
Both police and his wife wondered why the man, 42-year-old Huang Liang, had not informed his spouse."
- Chutian Metropolis Daily
Fabulous. Have I been away too long, or are these the kinds of newsworthy stories we find in western papers too? Perhaps it's the way that the stories are worded that amuses me.. Or perhaps i've just been eating too much street BBQ food this week.
The city council have said that whatever the result of English Heritage's attempt to get The Central Library listed, they still intend to knock it down. It's nice to have city planners with vision, but it's important to disagree when we think they're wrong. I do here.
This post is a slightly re-worked version of this one from Birmingham: It's Not Shit, as much as I don't like crossposting I think Josh in the comments there makes an important point about The Birmingham Post being where this debate is taking place. Sorry for the very rough 'artist's impression'.
Quite a few people have raised objections, which the council have decided not listen to, but so far I don't think anyone has voiced an opinion on what should be done instead.
One of the main arguments against keeping the library is that the whole 'paradise' development cuts one side of the city centre off from the other. People do see the divide as an effort to cross, the council is always keen to have events and focus in Centenary Square and these can be sparsely attended on occasion. It's a valid point, but knocking down the library and placing another building in its place (very probably one the public will have no occasion to use) won't solve that.
The council want to be able to see the Town Hall, they think the library cramps it -- but the beauty of the library is similarly cramped by truly horrible buildings.
So, lets open it up -- and knock every bit of Paradise Circus apart from the library down.
From an outside-of-a-relationship perspective, I have always advised my friends never to change for a man. Be who you are. And if he doesn't appreciate you as you are, then get rid and move onto the next. Being the supportive best friend, and the much hated girlfriend's best friend, has been a role that I feel I have excelled in. It's so much easier to be objective when you are not involved in a relationship yourself.
However, when you are the one involved in a relationship, the objective way of thinking becomes somewhat hazy, and you'll find that no matter how much your best friend demonises your boyfriend for making you want to listen to a different kind of music, this is just something that you find you want to do. It's about keeping your lover interested, finding a common ground, and adapting to maintain attraction.
When the relationship ends, perhaps you will find that it has changed you. Maybe you continue to listen to that new music and do those new things. The relationship has broadened your mind, and taught you something new. You live and you learn. The biggest lesson of all usually being, don't date someone like that again.
If Beijing were a person, like you and I, I would say that Beijing has been looking for some love interest for quite a while now. Beijing's not unattractive, in fact rather beautiful. It has a reputation, sure, but name one place or someone that doesn't...
After a long time 'developing' and doing it's own thing, Beijing now finds that it will finally be in for some romance this Summer. Summer lovin', if you please. In fact, this Summer will be like Beijing appearing on Chris Tarrant's Man-O-Man, as the only bear-chested contestant in front of an audience of over-sexed middle-aged women. The world's eyes, and not just those belonging to females, will be trained on Beijing for a whole four weeks while it hosts the 2008 Olympic Games.
In preparation for it's 'close-up', Beijing has already begun to change it's appearance. Obviously it wants to look it's best for this date.
So, it's cutting down on it's smoking habit. No more smoking in restaurants and taxi's, for this city, which is an achievement in itself. It has also noticed that it's a bit smelly, and err toxic, so it has cut down traffic pollution by alternating the days for which people can use their vehicles. And to show that it is the caring and environmentally aware type, it has placed charges on plastic carrier bags, in the hope that people will use less, and recycle more.
Commited, check. Hygenic, check. Caring of mother Earth, check.
Add a little bit of 'wow' factor by throwing in a few impressively big and odd-shaped buildings, and bingo. It's innovative and good-looking. Beijing could be the perfect man-o-man.
Now whereas I have always (hypocritically) advised my friends to never change for a man, a man changing for a woman seems...ok. I'm no Germaine Greer, but I do think that if there's something annoying about your man you could try your luck and ask him to quit it. I'm not talking about drastic things, like encouraging your lover to have liposuction or abandon his family... Really! But perhaps a well-timed hint that the moustache that he's trying, and failing terribly, to grow, makes him look like a reject from the village people. Or that when he chews his food with his mouth open it you feel an uncontrollable urge to spear him with your fork/chopstick. Not that I condone violence in a relationship. Or any place, for that matter.
Of course if changes are made, you need to know that they're going to be taken seriously. If I promise to not sing in the mornings, then he must promise to never expose his feet until they have been thoroughly bathed in dettol. And we should accept these little 'nit-picks' as friendly advice from a loved one that they are incredibly annoying and unattractive. We should be thankful that they have pointed out these things, because it means that by stopping you from doing this they have improved you as a person.
What makes Beijing the equivalent of the perfect man, is that it has made a commitment to stop all of these unattractive things, and prove to the world that it is wonderfully caring, hygenic, modern, multicultural and innovative, and not the slob that people have always assumed.
Ergo I find that I like my cities like I like my men. Willing to change and ambitious. Not to mention, big and rich.
I don't take this blogging thing too seriously - that's part of its attraction, unlike the 24/7 sweat of the last staff job I had, which was great, but extremely hard graft and which left the life-work balance tipping very much one way ... which translates as your work becomes your life (and then you die ... prematurely).
But serious or not, I must own up to waiting to see what my old friend/colleague Grovesy - aka Paul Groves, aka Shouty Villager (?), aka a certain model maker (?) - has to say about Dr Who developments. I trust his instincts, even if he has an unhealthy obsession with The Apprentice - we all have weak spots - and he is a serious cyclist, which has got to be weighed in his favour against the Sugar rush.
I am really grateful to replacement Turkish goalkeeper Rustu. No, you're not in the wrong section - sport is still that green-labelled bit where they talk about Bob Dylan lyrics (good collection of them in today's Guardian by the way).
I am as interested in goalkeepers as I am in typewriters, both slight obsessions. Last night against Croatia in some big tournament which we aren't playing in, the idiot 35-year-old ran out for a suicide tackle, leaving his goal empty and Croatia scored with less than a minute of extra time to play.
Amazingly, the keeper then made a huge clearance into the Croatian penalty area from which Turkey equalised with the last kick of the game.
I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Palin's diaries of his years in Monty Python, he's amusing, literate and as has been widely noted very very very nice, but reading them made me feel somewhat inadequate. Here's a man that was writing and performing not only in Python, but films, his own Ripping Yarns series, and various theatre appearances, he was on the board of Shepperton studios, partner in an arts publishing business, father to three small children, having "rather nice claret" at lunch with various luminaries of the day, but the killer was that he still found time to be on his local residents committee.
You can easily imagine the hopelessly amiable Palin, bumbling though life painlessly overachieving in all of his chosen fields, as well as the feeling of inadequacy it also inspires you a little that nice guys don't have to finish last. Especially if they don't consider they're racing anyone.
I'm glad I read it thirty or so years after the event though, imagine how wearing it would be to read Palin's blog each day or worse hear about every effortless triumph on twitter.
This chap, one George Lamb, is said to be the most annoying person on radio. Complaints about BBC station Music6 have gone through the roof since he started DJ duties there. But he's also won an award as best radio newcomer.
Apparently he's been on the box doing various presenting chores, but I've never seen him. He's floated around that strange metropolitan sub-celebrity world where people do promotion work, act as agents, generally know people. He used to manage Lily Allen, for instance.
He is, in fact, one of a rather large and growing number of people, events, bands etc who for me might as well live inside a black hole, another universe. I'm not saying it's good or bad, but certain things just don't make it on to my radar.
It has taken having a baby for me to realise that I am writer. I'm not saying I'm a good one. I'm certainly not a rich one. I am a writer because I'm desperate to write.
Apart from journalism, I have not been able to get my fingers to the keyboard since Arch was born two years ago. I have been totally fulfilled in some ways but parched in another way - parched of words.
Next week will be different. I am on holiday - and I'm not going anywhere other than my study. Arch will be off doing things with his dad and I will be alone. The computer screen will be my sea, the keyboard the sand, the mouse my sangria.
I'll blog again when I get back in the week starting 7 July. I will be drunk on words, bronzed by my thoughts, sharing my snaps of the country from which I've returned.
That, said beaming nine-year-old Jessica, was really, really good. The second 'really' is the one that counts, lifting a reliably entertaining family show into some kind of childhood superleague, a rather special theatrical experience.
Yes, as a hardened old critic I can wholeheartedly urge you to catch Dani Parr's terrific take on James and the Giant Peach, which grabs Roald Dahl's version of fairy tale darkness by the throat and shakes it into pure delight. I've got all sorts of sophisticated reasons for recommending the show and seasoned appreciation of some of the professional brilliance on display
A fantastic ensemble cast, for a start.