Saturday, April 30, 2005
I spoke to several (foreign journalists) struck by the aggressiveness, even downright rudeness, of the exchanges between candidates and voters. "I have never in my life seen a head of government treated that way," one US correspondent told me, shocked by the mauling Tony Blair received from the (radio and TV broadcast) Question Time audience on Thursday. Calmly and coherently, people first booed Blair then told him, to his face, that he was a liar - something no American had ever done to George Bush.Rest of that story here.
The foreign press have been impressed by the degree of interrogation the British party leaders face each day. "Blair takes more questions in a morning than John Kerry took all year," says another US colleague, envious of the British daily grilling. The Americans particularly admire our ban on paid TV advertising, which forces candidates to slug it out on "free media": news programmes where they are challenged at every turn.
Question: I remember someone telling me once, long ago, that actually the F-word is an abbreviation. The last two letters of the word were, I believe, contracted from the words "Carnal Knowledge". Could you help me out here, perhaps with some additional etymological data? [Heres Snijder, Canada]Quinion's knowledgeable and unexpurgated account will be here in a few hours. His newsletter goes out some hours in advance of the website's update. [Update: wrong, wrong, wrong. I checked his website and it says in small print somewhere: later in the week]. While you wait, you can always look at back issues, and subscribe to the newsletter.
The best thing is her glee, a pied-piperish glee at being in the world, which she evokes better than anyone else: "I go my way, and my left foot says Glory and my right foot says Amen: in and out of Shadow Creek, upstream and down, exultant, in a daze, dancing, to the twin silver trumpets of praise." When Dillard is in such a mood, it's hard not to follow her recommendation that, on an "excellent" day, you go out for a walk, and "take huge steps, trying to feel the planet's roundness arc between your feet."Still, when I am in that kind of mood, I don't think such walks are limited to the natural world. That glee 'at being in the world' can be experienced on any walk on the wild side, wherever that may be. Nevermind that beneath the pavement is the beach.
Friday, April 29, 2005
"Here is a natural history of sand, a catalogue of clouds, a batch of newborns on an obstetrical ward, a family of Mongol horsemen. Here is the story of Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin digging in the deserts of China. Here is the story of Hasidic thought rising in Eastern Europe. Here are defect and beauty together, miracle and tragedy, time and eternity. Dillard poses questions about God, natural evil, and individual existence. Personal experience, science, and religion bear on a welter of fact. How can an individual matter? How might one live?"Another book to add to my wish list.
"This is the first time that we've been able to show that ice cream makes you happy. Just one spoonful lights up the happy zones of the brain in clinical trials."Research paid for by Unilever, using their Walls ice cream. Report in the Guardian. Heh-ho, the Holy Grail here is understand where and how thoughts and emotion work in the brain and nervous system, then you can manipulate them. For good or evil. Old graffito: Walls have ears, I know I found one in my ice cream too.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Fast forward. Last December I had to fly to England. Family emergency. When it was over, before I left, I found myself in a record store... and bought my brother a copy of Astral Weeks. He may have played it, or not. Up to him.
I came back to a little island. Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year. Until three weeks ago, I thought: Yes! Astral Weeks.
So I bought a copy. The cd has been getting regular play eversince. From the begining. And what a beginning. Guitar and (acoustic) double bass, then Morrison kicks in:
If I ventured in the slipstreamSublime. Thanks, Van.
Between the viaducts of your dreams
Where immobile steal rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop
English, French, Finnish, German and Chinese (Putonghau), here: listen/download.
Tagalog or Farsi, anyone? Orchestral, military, brass bands? Norwegian a cappella?. The site has them all, and more besides. A one, a two... a one, two, three...
Quelle surprise! Yes, Long March is standing, forlorn and erect in the lower section where the kids usually play football. So what about the basketball area closer to the temple? Same as ever. The big bamboo opera house has already gone up.
However, there is still the usual clutter of bamboo and twine.
Why? The local bamboo-tower builder is putting his finishing touches to the three bamboo towers. The locals are going ahead as per usual. We have, ladies and gentlemen, competing towers.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Still, it is interesting. Life, that is.
I was reading today's NYT, about some gay Republican operative (42) who died in Carrie Fisher's bed. True, true, you can read it all here (reg required). What really caught my eye was this:
In 1992, Mr. Stevens, 30, went to work for the Republican lobbying powerhouse of Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly.Angola? Kenya? Nigeria? Thailand? The Philippines? Elections? Behind-the-scenes role? Among other countries? Our man must have really clocked up some air miles working for Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly.
Roger Stone, a former partner, remembered Mr. Stevens as a "very engaging, fun guy to talk to" and a "quintessential staff man, very thorough and focused."
Early on, Mr. Stevens made clear he wanted to work overseas, Mr. Stone said, and the firm, which played a behind-the-scenes role in elections in Angola, Kenya, Nigeria, Thailand and the Philippines, among other countries, was happy to oblige.
A Republican lobbying powerhouse? So, who were/are BMS&K?
Well, I dug around, and it ain't easy. They were part of Burson-Marsteller. The people who do PR on behalf of unsavoury dictators. Strike unsavoury. It's redundant. But what of BMS&K these days? I looked and looked, and then did what the NYT reported Mr Stone did -- rolled elsewhere.
Still, you know how it is when you don't see someone for three years and then bump into them twice in a week?
Why, look! The first paragraph of an awkward 15 April 2005 letter Melody Townsel wrote to the Senate committee:
I'm writing to urge you to consider blocking in committee the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.
In the late summer of 1994, I worked as the subcontracted leader of a US AID project in Kyrgyzstan officially awarded to a HUB primary contractor. My own employer was Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, and I reported directly to Republican leader Charlie Black.
Subcontracted leader, that I understand. What I don't understand is how she can work for one company but report to someone else. But it was for US AID, so I guess that's OK. What were US AID doing? USA Today, 21 April 2005 edition, (don't ask), to the rescue. Rather than just carry agency reports, USA Today also interviewed Ms T by telephone.
She (Ms T) alleged that Bolton harassed her in 1994 when she was working as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on an advertising campaign supporting privatization in Kyrgyzstan, then a newly independent former Soviet republic. [My emphasis.]An advertising campaign. Supporting privatization. Methinks that's code for: sell to foreigners.
Hmm, Angola, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan: oil, oil, oil.
What was the deal in Kenya, Thailand, and The Philippines?
People came from far and wide. On the inter-island ferry. From the Big Island. Several were in town for the FEER wake. Plus, the usual suspects. Old friends and new. I don't go to many parties these days, partly by choice. But I am glad I went to this. Again, thanks Fred and Delia.
Another party coming up on Saturday: The Finnish Labour Day Party!
Will post a bit more about that on Thursday. Stay tuned.
Oh, this in from Barbara in Brighton, the weird cycle lanes of Brighton. Thanks, Barb!
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
"Like Chamberlain in the 30s, Blair is an appeaser of a dangerous global power. He should be in prison, not standing for election."On Blair and Chamberlain, New Labour, the Tories, Lib Dems, tactical voting in the 5 May 2005 British general election, and the advantages of a hung parliament, complete article here.
Monday, April 25, 2005
Then the light went on: ask someone.
So I did.
The mini-festivities are in honour of Dao Ma.
Close, but no cigar.
Back home, a quick search finds this very useful Who's Who of Chinese gods and goddesses. Wherein is:
Goddess who supervises the register where all births and deaths are recorded. She is worshipped by those wishing a long life and personal compassion. Portrayed sitting on a lotus throne and has four heads, with three eyes in each, and eight arms.No photo, yet. Meantime, the first line of one of Samuel Beckett's last poems, Imagination Imagine, although apropos of something else may help here: Imagine yes all this.
Mid-afternoon, today, I cycled down to Sai Wan. I had a feeling something was going on down there.
Yes! Not only is there a temporary open-sided bamboo theatre, but there was a show.
Monday afternoon, full-house. So I sat on my bike.
A costume drama Cantonese opera in full throttle. With a reproduction of a Chinese painting in the classical style featuring a crane [the bird] providing the backdrop. The costumes, singers and sound of the production suggested this was the work of a professional company.
I know that sort of music is not everyone's cup of tea, but I can't resist taking a small sip from time to time. It seems to have some sort of restorative effect if taken in very small doses. For me, anyway. Your mileage may vary.
It was. Best one on the block. During the 1980s, the FEER was a must-read.
Then Dow Jones turned its minority share into full ownership. He who pays the piper, plays the tune. The tune became less and less interesting. Fewer and fewer people wanted to hear.
Fast forward: Dow Jones announces death of the weekly in October 2004. A day or so later, the South China Morning Post publishes a long article by Philip Bowring. Bowring -- who started working for FEER in 1973 and was its editor from 1987 until 1992, was understandably sad and angry. There is a naming of names, the whole kit and caboodle.
The piece later shows up in the International Herald Tribune. Without naming so many names. Perhaps the Trib's lawyers took fright?
Whatever, Bowring's original J'accuse is here.
Publish and be damned!
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Spectacle and September 11, blood for oil, permanent war and illusory peace...
An account of world politics since September 11, 2001. Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War is due to be published by Verso on 1 June 2005. The London Review of Books is currently featuring a long essay from the book. I suggest speeding through the first paragraph, to read the rest slowly.
One of the guests had just spent several days at some key international travel trade shindig hosted in Macau. I mentioned an article I'd read earlier in the week about Tony and Maureen Wheeler, founders and publishers of the Lonely Planet travel guides. The books, backpackers, the Lonely Planet effect, the ups and downs of the publishing business. Tony's seemingly compulsive quest to go down the road less travelled to discover what there is beyond the road's end.
Long, informative and often funny, an armchair traveller's read, it's in The New Yorker magazine.
Friday, April 22, 2005
WWF HK's awkward questions.
There is a Legco panel debate next week on long-awaited restrictions on fishing. Given the AFCD's apparent dismal record of leaning more to port than starboard, maybe WWF HK sensed how the wind was blowing and decided on a bit of pre-emptive boat rocking?
Thursday, April 21, 2005
So I did.
Stark, choppy, angular guitar work, a Sowff London singer, an awesome trumpet accompaniment toward the end. Once it had stopped, I asked my friend who the singer was. "Billy Bragg," he replied. Then we listened to the song again. Those of a certain age will recognise the name Levi Stubbs: lead singer of the mid-1960s Tamla group The Four Tops. Braggs' song is about the power of music to carry us through when the going gets tough.
Here's the chorus:
"When the world falls apart some things stay in placeSome things do stay in place. The music other people make, that's one of them. The friends who share their music taste, that's another. In truth, the list is long.
Levi Stubbs’ tears run down his face..."
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Extraordinary times when the great preponderates are like flood times when the lake rises over the treetops. But such conditions are temporary. The two trigrams indicate the attitude proper to such exceptional times: the symbol of the trigram Sun is the tree, which stands firm even though it stands alone, and the attribute of Tui is joyousness, which remains undaunted even if it must renounce the world.
36. 明 夷 Ming I / Darkening of the Light
Me: Time to go and make a cup of tea.
Read The Da Vinci Code? Half the world and his wife have. I found it a rattlingly good page turner, but as stories go not half as good as Umberto Eco's 1988 Foucault's Pendulum. I don't know what Opus Dei think of Eco's book, but this is what they say about Brown's.
Listening yesterday to the CNN-ized BBC Worldservice, I learned that Popes have taken a nom de plume since the sixth century when someone called Mercury was elected. Since that name was the name of a Roman god and thus "pagan", Merc chose a culturally and spiritually more agreeable name: Benedict.
Which prompts the question: why has Ratzinger chosen Benedict? Well, it means: bless well. But why stop there? A look at the life of the previous Papal Benedict may offer further clues. Or not, as the case may be. So who was Benedict XV?
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
For as long as anyone remembers, the Bun Festival was organised and put on by the locals. That has changed. Firstly, the quango-like and gormless Tourist Authority started pestering the locals to fix a regular date for the festival. The timing of which until then seemed to depend on lunar readings, tidal flows and how the incense sticks fell in the local temple. Nobody local seemed to know until about six weeks beforehand, but it all seemed to work out allright on the night. A fixed date, however, for the elephantine and over-bloated TA means: 'lead time'. It means a regular fixture in the annual calendar to 'target market' the Festival to its 'target markets'.
Whoever runs this island finally agreed.
Fifteenth of May, it is.
Somewhere along the way, the Leisure and Recreational Services Department also got involved.
This year, thanks to the TA, LRSD, and whoever on the island thinks they can make a buck, we now have a very tall steel, yes steel, structure going up. It really does look like a Long March rocket.
Bye, bye, three bamboo towers.
The powers that be have also recruited some people to climb this thing -- but they will have to do some sort of mountaineering course beforehand with helmets, ropes and buckles and stuff.
What was a vibrant and organic local event is now commodified and gutted.
Time to bring out the Blessed Oscar W: "they know the price of everything and the value of nothing."
So it goes.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Not much new here, but rupe is worried. Which in and of itself is cause to rejoice. But rupe is talking about the future not just for himself but for the whole industry. Paper and ink aren't going to disappear, but the times they are a-changin'. Yes, indeed.
Rupe, however, really ought to hire a new copy editor to sort out that lower case "napoleon" and "1990's" business.
April 16, 2005
1. Maggie's Farm
2. Forever Young
3. Cry A While
4. Bye And Bye
5. Ballad Of Hollis Brown (acoustic)
6. If You See Her, Say Hello
7. Lenny Bruce
8. Honest With Me
9. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
10. High Water (For Charley Patton)
11. Every Grain Of Sand
12. Highway 61 Revisited
13. Blind Willie McTell
14. Like A Rolling Stone
Hollis Brown! If You See Her Say Hello! Lenny Bruce! Every Grain of Sand! Blind Willie McTell! These are songs that Dylan has performed live only once in a blue moon. Two of them -- Lenny and Every Grain -- from the underrated album Shot of Love, which should also have included Blind Willie McTell, but didn't because Dylan vetoed it. Why? Who knows but he. That opus only surfaced later on the official Columbia bootleg 1-3 triple album. Anyway, although Dylan never plays the same songs from one night to the next, this set list is just awesome. I see I need to get to grips with figuring out how to do bit torrent. As no doubt at the show there were tapers in the audience... and this show will get distributed.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
The post-1917 Constructivists art movement in Russia is much admired in the West. Many of the works of the Constructivists never got built. Here is the 1930s unrealised Moscow House of Books. For more amazing-looking Soviet projects go here. Or you could take a trip to China, where loads of this stuff is going up right now in hundreds of Chinese cities.
"When all the poison gases are exhausted, a man, made like all other men of flesh and blood, will in the quiet of his room invent an explosive of such potency that all the explosives in existence will seem like harmless toys beside it. And another man, made in his image and in the image of all the rest, but a little weaker than them, will steal that explosive and crawl to the center of the earth with it, and place it just where he calculates it would have the maximum effect. There will be a tremendous explosion, but no one will hear it and the earth will return to its nebulous state and go wandering through the sky, free at last from parasites and disease."
A couple of years later, I went back. Ostensibly, for a job. But there was much more than that: a leaving and a going. Start anew. Reinvent myself. Learn French. Which meant, among other things, listening to the radio. Which is where I discovered the achingly funny Coluche. He must be one of the funniest political comedians that ever walked the earth. I am grateful I was around when Coluche was. I left Paris in 1980. Coluche? He died in a motor bike accident in 1986. Thus was a life cut short. I have added his name to the Wikipedia list of people known by ONE name -- there are quite a few. Enjoy.