August 10, 2009

1. On Saturdays, Sanjay and I get baozi (steamed buns with meat in them) from a nearby shop and sit outside our building to eat lunch and watch people desperately try to park. They are bad at it. For some reason most Chinese drivers insist on backing into parking spots, but they only ever use their side mirrors rather than look out the back window. There are assistants in almost every Beijing parking lot to semifore you into position. But even with that support 7 times out of 10 end up with someone parking somehow sideways or well outside the parking space. It's physical comedy with machines. Parallel parking is a donkey of a funnier color to watch, as you would think it damnear impossible by watching.

2. Sometimes ESL is a drag, but more often it makes me think. "How to spell?" is 100% Chinglish, yet "how do you spell it?" seems the clunkier and less direct of the two expressions. As most English speakers around the world are now non-native, I wonder what makes for "standard English" anyhow.

3. I still put the l in both and pronounce it bolth, like the rest of my working class friends from Detroit. Call it a shibboleth. That and the fact that the street named "Gratiot" is pronounced "Grashit." Ephraimites beware.

4. VOA (Voice of America), the US propaganda radio and web station, put out a list of the 2000 words you needed to know to listen to their "Special English" broadcasts. I used to be able to get the radio broadcasts in Nanjing on clear days, but Beijing either jams them too hard or they're aren't clear enough days, or both. The list is here: I am going to limit myself to only these words for my next project. It's more sophisticated than big blockbuster movie English -- which is dumbed down and meant to be translated quickly and easily -- but is a good representative of the vocab you need to know to understand most topics.

5. Reading Ian Fleming's "From Russia with Love". It doesn't seem as engaging as Casino Royale, but it's what I got to read on the ride to work. The bookstores in Beijing are filled with Great Books and the most recent supermarket pap. I've already read most of the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th century lit I want to read, and I'm not so hot on bestsellers. This leaves books (like Big Sur) that somehow make the bookstores' racks and seem like they will kill the 20-50 minute (depending on traffic) ride to work. Bond will kill the ride at least.

6. Christian Bale is an actor who destroys movies.

7. Recently rewatched "Singing in the Rain" and have to say that Gene Kelly did a bang-up job with the directing and choreography. I prefer other musicals to this one, but Kelly was making a stand for his artform with this picture, and it deserves to be recognized a little more than it is for being art, which it is.


Blogger rodney k said...

Hi David,

Just read this bio of Twyla Tharp, one of whose early failures was taking on a Broadway revival of "Singing in the Rain." Part of the problem was that they couldn't get any decent leads (Christopher Walken among them) to take the part, because no one wanted to dance in Gene Kelly's shadow. Forgot who they finally cast, but it was a flop.

Blogger Mr. Horton said...

Christopher Walken dances?

Blogger Ferndale Denizen said...

Thank you for this evening's nightmare image! I can imagine him in full skeleton regalia. Is that really him as the younger brother in Annie Hall? Yeah, the crazy one who wants to drive into oncoming traffic.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I say this to you because as an artist I think you'll understand."

Blogger Mr. Horton said...

I've been pointed to Flat Boy Slim's video "Weapon of Choice" as an example of Christopher Walken the dancer. Unfirtunately, China has blocked all the links I ran across. So I haven't seen it, but it's up on youtube.

Blogger rodney k said...

Hi David,

I saw Walken on The Actor's Studio a few years ago explaining he'd trained as a dancer, and came to acting later. I think he's still proud of his moves. I remember that video; can't fathom why China would block it. Does that happen a lot?

Blogger Mr. Horton said...


China blocks a lot of sites wholesale like youtube, blogger (which is why I'm using a proxy to post this), daily motion, sometimes google, sometimes the new york times, sometimes myspace, etc . . . .

They're gearing up for the big 60th anniversary of the Communist Revolution and shutting down anything they think might spin the gov't negatively.

It's how things are.


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