Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Goodbye 2013; hello 2014!

Well, 2013 is almost over for me, and what a year it's been! My highlights have been putting 'The Fox and It' out and learning to connect with you online.

'Mirrorverse' is on hold at the moment, because it's the festive season and because I have decided to actually plan what's going to happen next instead of making it up on the spot so that it can be more structured and make more sense. I think what you have on Twitter is just the start of something :-). Bear with me while I figure out what happens next. That's my resolution for 2014.

2014 will also see me attempt another illustrated kids' book and another script. Fingers crossed I will actually finish them!

I am grateful to you, whether you're on Google or Twitter, for making my year awesome. Honestly, I'm shocked at how many of you actually read the stuff I post. Thank you for reading, commenting, reviewing and connecting; I look forward to reading / viewing more of your works.

Happy New Year, I hope 2014 brings you whatever you wish for :-)!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Something worth reading before watching the new 'Hobbit' film!

I hope you had a nice Christmas and festive season! Following a not-so-traditional Christmas dinner which is the tradition in my family (we had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding because that's what we wanted), we ended up watching telly after our attempts to play a game turned into a recurring round of 'Who's Got the Loudest Hack?' (yes, we all got the flu!).

When I had a moment, I read The Soddit by ARRR Roberts:

Don't let that title and the fact that this contains British humour put you off. It is a very funny parody of The Hobbit by Tolkien, and well worth the read!

I found the jokes and humour easy to get, but perhaps that's because I'm familiar with The Hobbit and with British English. With Bored of the Rings, I had to work out what a frito was and even then, I couldn't get the frito jokes because there are no fritos where I live. Are Doritos fritos?

Anyway, some scenes in the first Hobbit film made so much more sense after The Soddit. For example, I always suspected that Tolkien's dwarves spoke with Welsh accents and that his elves sounded Irish, and wondered why the dwarves sounded Irish in the films and the elves sounded, well, like elves. Now I know why. Oh, and I will never look at wizards and dragons the same way again. Ever.

So yes, read The Soddit after reading The Hobbit and definitely before watching the Hobbit films. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

An open letter to Katy Perry and Johnny Wujek

Dear Katy and Johnny

Hope you don’t mind me addressing you thus – it’s quicker to type! 

Embarrassingly, I caught up with the world and watched the full video of Katy’s performance last night. It’s my friends, you see. The last time I ventured out onto the internet, they sent me some news of Rowan Atkinson’s (Mr Bean’s) passing. I was absolutely gutted until I found out that this was yet another hoax. Since I always take a break after going on a rollercoaster of emotions, or indeed any rollercoaster, I came off the net and watched the telly, which, being British telly, didn’t mention ‘Unconditionally’ in the headlines.

Anyway, I watched Katy’s performance of ‘Unconditionally’ at the AMAs, and I loved it!
The colours were gorgeous and went so well with the aesthetic, and as for Katy’s dress, it was sooo pretty! Given how hot a stage filled with lights can be, I can understand why a furisode - qipao/cheongsam cross came about; for me, the blending of these two iconic styles of dress give Katy’s performance a pan-Asian look that is heavily influenced by both Chinese and Japanese culture.

Katy, I felt that all your dancers were treated with respect by you and your team, and that by adopting the gestures and dance moves you and your dancers used, you didn’t denigrate. You didn’t portray East Asian culture, Asian women, and all women in general, as second-class, ie I saw nothing to suggest that the women were submissive, ‘hos’ and ‘bitches’, and I saw nothing to suggest that East Asian culture is ‘ching chong’, ‘cheesy’ and ‘corny’. 

However, I think the sentiments in ‘Unconditionally’ are applicable to anyone who loves (Christian marriage vows, anyone?) and that perhaps many people felt quite uncomfortable at your choosing such a quintessentially East Asian look when you expressed such powerful emotions through your song. 

They saw what they wanted to see, but here’s what I see (and I am speaking as an overseas Chinese / fake Englishwoman): I see a singer about to release a new single, and who had to tour the world to promote this single, and who found inspiration for presenting this new single.
It just so happened that the inspiration originated in Japan and because of staging practicalities, necessary adaptations were used.

In short, Katy, I feel that though you did use pan-Asian culture to get attention (and in honesty, I think you need to, given the industry you’re in), you didn’t exploit pan-Asian culture for shocks, jests and jeers. 

What you and Johnny did wasn’t racist to me. All I saw was kungfu, hard work, respect for yourselves and others; plus reverence, thoughtfulness and respect for East Asian culture. Please take comfort in that.

By doing what you both did, you’ve introduced many to East Asian culture and opened up dialogues on what racism really is, and for that, I thank you. 

Congratulations on the release of ‘Unconditional’; I hope to hear more soon!


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Lost in Translation and other Film Titles

You've got to give it to those unnamed translators of film and TV titles. Somehow, they've got to come up with a cool phrase in Chinese that indicates what an English-language film or TV programme is about without spoiling it.

Sometimes, films get new titles of their own. Some of these are funnier than others:

Star Wars: 星球大战 'War of the Planets'
(Spoiler Alert) Deep Impact:  彗星撞地球 'A Comet Crashes Into Planet Earth'

There're times when overthinking happens when it shouldn't, leaving a single English-language title with many Chinese-language ones:

The Lord of The Rings: 指环王 'Finger-Ring King' 魔戒之主 'Lord of the (Evil) Magic Rings'
Mortal Kombat: 魔鬼帝国 'Empire of Demons'  格斗之王 'King of Fighting Tournaments' 魔宫帝国 'Empire of Demonic Palaces'
As Good As It Gets: 猫屎先生 'Mr Cat Poop' 尽善尽美 'Doing Good Makes Everything Beautiful'

Having said that, a new Chinese-language title can sometimes be far better than the original English-language one:

Gone With the Wind: 飘 'Floating / Drifting in / with the Wind'
The English Patient: 英国病人 'The Sick Englishman' is a literal translation and car crash of a film title, but 英伦情人  'The English Lover'  and 别问我是谁 'Don't Ask Me Who I Am' save the day
Highlander: 时空英豪 'Heroes in Time'

And when it comes to English-language titles that are steeped with lots of cultural references in English and different ones in Chinese, then the translator's role becomes even tougher. Zombie series 'The Walking Dead' has become, very brilliantly I think, 行尸走肉 ('Walking Corpses and Walking / Running Meat / Flesh'). This isn't an accident, but a clever title which is intriguing, informative, and educational once you realise that in Chinese legends and myths, corpses lie still; zombies can only move by jumping, with their arms stretched parallel to the ground; and a corpse always becomes a zombie because of someone's actions.

As for Lost in Translation it nearly did end up lost in translation with the literal 迷失东京 ('Lost (and Confused) in Tokyo') and the metaphorical 爱情,不用翻译 ('Love, Needs No Translation').

And what about Chinese film titles that get translated into English? I'll leave that for another day!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

It's Bonfire Night tonight! And 'The Fox and It' has another great review!

The lovely Nayu on the book blog Nayu's Reading Corner has given 'The Fox and It' a maximum ten stars out of ten! She says:

"I laughed so much reading this funny tale - the illustrations are spot on with the hilarity - it's the expressions of the characters which makes me feel as if I'm watching a cartoon in slow motion. There are positive messages of not being too nosy, helping others and picking up any rubbish to keep everywhere looking nice. I confess to rereading this straight away for the sheer fun of it!"

Take a look here: http://nayusreadingcorner.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/the-fox-and-it-by-beanie-lei-childrens.html

And on other news, it's Bonfire Night today!

When I was younger, I used to see kids walking around with a bunch of rags they'd made up to look like a man-doll every fifth of November. They'd knock on doors and ask for 'a penny for the Guy', and my dad always obliged. 'It's only a penny,' he'd say, tossing some more change into the hat they shoved in front of him.

I haven't seen a Guy for some years now; he's been replaced by imps and ghouls who show up on Halloween demanding sweeties and throwing eggs on your front door when you don't answer. But at least bonfires, bangers and mash are still around.

For me, Bonfire Night was when I first learned that sausages weren't sausages anymore, but 'bangers'; before, I'd always thought that 'bangers' were 'boobs'. Apparently, sausages are called 'bangers' because they get noisy when cooking over an open fire.

I'll be firework-gazing and bangers-and-mashing this weekend because that's just me, but if you're celebrating tonight, have a great evening!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

I just had to wake up to this!!!

Woke up to news, sent to me by a dear friend I trust, that Jackie Chan, phenomenon, is dead.

My initial reaction was shock, until I remembered that this was the fourth time I'd read this announcement this year.

I'd dismissed the previous announcements I'd heard because I wasn't close to the sources. However, I'm close to the fourth source, so I believed them, especially after they assured everyone they knew that they saw the news on CNN.

At the time I heard this, I was listening to the news on BBC radio, and nothing was mentioned, so I concluded that it had to be another hoax.

And it was. Jackie Chan's alive! I was pleased at that, because I actually liked his films Shanghai Noon and Rush Hour and find his stuntwork amazing.

And that's yet another hoax debunked.

Friday, 6 September 2013

My very own First World Problem

I guess I wrote so much over August that when September crept up, I'd run out of Things to Blog About. What a First World Problem I have.

Anyway, by forcing myself to type, I've gotten yet another post here.

Speaking of First World Problems, in other news, I did a summer clearout of some old drawers (no sniggers, please) and discovered a box of multicoloured gel ink pens that I'd gotten a few years ago and then totally forgot about. I couldn't believe how happy I was to find them again! And they're still usable!

I have decided that I will keep the pens away from the drawers so that I will remember their existence and remember to use them.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

A lesson I learnt from a squirrel

A little grey squirrel decided to approach the glass patio door earlier today. I was sitting on the other side, watching the squirrel as it scurried around. I could see every strand of hair that made up the fur on the squirrel's body, how fine the lines on its toes were, and how yellow its front teeth were.

The squirrel was so cute that I wanted to take a photo of it. Taking care not to make any noise, or to cause too many vibrations, I gingerly stood up and tiptoed away to find my camera. But by the time I tiptoed back, the bushy-tailed one was gone. I'd missed my chance.

If ever I felt like I'd missed a chance to capture a perfect moment and freeze it in time, that was it. I think I will have my camera beside me more often in case the squirrel decides to come back and say hi. Happy Thursday!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Satire, humour, racism

I've seen instances of racism against the Chinese this week, and it ain't pretty. I am proud of my Chinese roots, and frankly, I get quite cross when any aspect of my heritage is used to make grotesque images that are used to generate laughter directed against people who look like me.

Or am I? Here's a clip from a comedy series called Father Ted

I find it hilarious. You will, too.

Anyone who wants to write a comedy about racism (this clip shows that this is neither an oxymoron nor a paradox) should study every frame of the episode of Father Ted this clip came from.

This is genius, pure comedy gold.  It shows the absurdly funny caricatures that racists use to mock the Chinese while making it clear that not all white people are racists. Though this clip only lasts for 1 minute and 16 seconds, it highlights particular actions that make all the white and Chinese people I know laugh (now that's what I call universality!).

@codyinvegas was right when he said that you should never point out a pimple on someone's face; they already know it's there.

Since all publicity is good publicity, I won't describe who did what, and where, and when. I will not give you racists publicity, because you don't deserve it. Though you offended me this week, thank you for reminding me that satirical comedy once existed, and that I was privileged to have watched it.

I miss Father Ted. Why don't they make shows like that anymore? RIP Dermot Morgan.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

My tuppence on...

In the UK, the saying 'a penny for your thoughts' is sometimes answered by 'here's my twopence worth', and though no-one's offered me a penny for anything, I thought I'd write my thoughts on things down with the tag 'My tuppence on...' just for the sake of blogging.

To start off, here's my tuppence on, erm, the topic of 'blogging'. I think it's easier to blog every few weeks than every day. It's hard to pick topics, and I like typing with a keyboard and not a tablet or a phone. 

But the thing is, once I get the words out, I actually feel that little warm glow inside that comes with having finished something I set out to do. I wanted to update my blog, and I've done it. Nothing can stop me except myself. It's the same with all writing, I suppose. That shoe company was on to something when they proclaimed, 'Just Do It!' So if you're stuck, take a breather, then get back to what it was you were doing. Just finish it. The correcting, the editing and the weeping over poor word choices can come later. Remember, just finish it.

Monday, 19 August 2013


I spent nearly every night of last week thinking about meteors. They were on the news; apparently, a group of them were making their yearly appearance in the night sky, and this year, conditions were clear enough for them to be visible.

Telling myself that I ought to catch them, I made a note in my diary to stay up late on Monday. It didn't work out. It was the same for Tuesday, and Wednesday. And then on Thursday, I finally managed to wake up at what used to be called an ungodly hour of the morning, only to find out from an equally insomniac friend that I'd missed the show. It rained on Friday, so I couldn't see anything.

What did I learn from all this? That I can't stay up late anymore, even with an alarm blaring at me. Oh well.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Happy Qixi Festival! 七夕节愉快!

Today is the seventh day of the seventh moon of the Chinese lunar calendar. The evening of this day, 七夕, means ‘seventh evening’. There are many other names for this day, many ways to celebrate it, and many stories behind it, but the most famous story is ‘The Cowherd and The Weaver’, which is shown in the picture above (from www.zhymw.com.cn).

The Cowherd 牛郎 was a mortal human boy who, as his name suggests, herded bovines for a living. The Weaver 织女 was one of the daughters of The Emperor and Empress of Heaven. This being Chinese Heaven, The Weaver had to work for a living, too. Her job was to weave coloured clouds in the sky.  But she didn’t mind, because she was brilliant at it.

One day, The Weaver and her sisters went to bathe in a pool on Earth, and they flew there from Heaven after wearing feather dresses that turned them into birds.

The Cowherd turned Peeping Tom. Being a typical bloke of the times (this story is ancient), he watched the Heavenly Princesses as they bathed, and stole one of the feather dresses. All the Princesses grabbed their dresses and flew away, except for The Weaver, who couldn’t escape because The Cowherd had her dress. She and The Cowherd fell in love, married, and had children.

I was then told two versions of What Happened Next. In Version One, the Empress of Heaven wasn’t pleased that her new son-in-law was a cowherd, a mortal and a human. In Version Two, The Empress of  Heaven approved of her new son-in-law, but got upset that her daughter spent too much time on her husband and children. Either way, The Weaver wasn’t weaving anymore, and as a result of this, the Empress sent Heavenly Soldiers to take The Weaver back to Heaven.

The Cowherd happened to have an old water buffalo who knew how to get to Heaven (in Chinese myths, old animals are smarter than humans), and who, after taking The Cowherd and his children on his back, ran after the Heavenly Soldiers. But the Empress of Heaven was prepared; she took off a hairpin from her own hair, and drew it across the sky. A river was formed, and as the current was too strong for the old water buffalo to cross, the poor Cowherd and Weaver were left stranded on opposite sides. 

The Cowherd refused to leave, and he and his children sat on the riverbank, while The Weaver gazed at them from the other side. When the Empress of Heaven saw this, she melted slightly, and allowed The Cowherd and The Weaver to meet just once a year. She ordered a flock of magpies to form themselves into a bridge every seventh evening of the seventh moon, and told The Weaver, The Cowherd and their two children to meet on the bridge of magpies for a night.

The family is literally a family of stars. The river that separates them, 天河(’The Heavenly River’), is known as ‘The Milky Way’ in English. The Weaver is known as ‘Vega’, while The Cowherd and his children are known as ‘Alpha, Beta and Gamma Aquilae’.

This story was mentioned in ‘The Karate Kid’ starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, and nowadays, Qixi is known in English as ‘The Chinese Valentine’s Day’. I’m not too sure about that, but hey, the story of The Cowherd and The Weaver does involve a pair of star-crossed lovers, so in way, it is the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

To all the lovers out there, if your Valentine's Day sucked, here's a chance to make up for it, and if you had a great Valentine's Day, here's another one for you to enjoy! Have fun ;-)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Three Diamonds in the Rough

Ah, Twitter! Through it, I found three diamonds in the rough: Emily Bibb, Chris Jay, and their film, Porcelain Presence.

The trailer for Porcelain Presence looks like one for a horror film at first glance (if you are easily scared, I suggest viewing it during daylight hours), but if you stick on, you'll see that what you'll get is an intriguing psychological study into relationships.

The passion and vision Emily and Chris have for films and filmmaking are evident in the trailer for Porcelain PresenceWhat's even more amazing is that Emily (scriptwriter and producer) and Chris (producer and cinematographer) are genuine independent filmmakers who funded the creation of Porcelain Presence and its trailer by all themselves. The Bibb-Jay partnership is a phenomenon in the making, and Emily and Chris have my utmost respect for being an inspiration and for making their dreams a reality.

To support them, please like the Porcelain Presence Facebook Page (again, if you are easily scared, please view this during daylight hours), and do also check out the links to their sites, and to the trailer, in the 'In the Movies' and 'Music, Videos and Podcasts' sections of my blog. Enjoy!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Crazy Rich Asians

If there's one book that'll blow any preconceptions away, it'll be

by Kevin Kwan. But be warned: before reading this, you must suspend your disbelief as you hurl yourself into this speedy glimpse into an ultra-luxurious world where 'Beyond 5-Star' hotels exist. I've only read the first three chapters but already feel that it comes across as being more authentic and more current than other contemporaneous English-language novels or media that depict China, East Asia, Southeast Asia and Chinese people. And it's funny, too!

Now, given what happened with Avatar: The Last Airbender and Cloud Atlas, how will Hollywood deal with the cast and setting of any film based on this book?

Saturday, 10 August 2013

My Geek IQ Score

Youtube has been emailing to tell me about Geek Week, and after some resistance, I finally did one of their 'Geek IQ Tests'. To be honest, I was expecting questions along the lines of  'what is the size of the angle between the carbon and hydrogen atoms in a molecule of water' but instead, I got things like a photo of a cosplayer, and being asked to identify who he or she was. 

I always thought that 'geeks' were people who were obsessed with science and technology, while people who were obsessed with other things were known as 'hobbyists'. I'm glad to stand corrected, and to know that the net of geekiness is wider than I thought.

Based on Youtube's quiz, I have a Geek IQ Score of 149 out of 300 points, which makes me a geek in training. I thought it would be fun to try some more quizzes, so I did. 

My subsequent answers relied on a lot of guesswork, and I couldn't help but snigger as my score shot up to 230 points out of 300. That meant I was officially a Youtube Geek, so I stopped at the third quiz before I did myself any more damage. 

It was all a bit of fun while it lasted, and I'm glad to know that I still remember That Guy's Cat :-). Happy Caturday!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Pic Ask's Little Helper

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a cute website called 'Picask.net' which intrigued me.

The premise of the site was simple: if you'd ever come across a creature of some sort and wondered what it was called, all you had to do was click on a link and upload a photo, and someone would respond.

The site also contained a fun quiz which seriously tested my knowledge of the animals, plants and organisms around me. I did well enough to answer the site's call for volunteers.

I was accepted as a volunteer! As of today, I'll be adding 'Pic Ask's Little Helper' to my list of stuff about me.

Pic Ask is still being developed, but don't worry, the team are accepting photos! And if you'd like to give them a hand, pop over and let them know.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Ooh, some more reviews for 'The Fox and It'!

'The Fox and It' has two Amazon reviews [I love my puns, sorry!]! 

Thank you, Dibeen and Kristin, for your kind words!

From Dibeen, 31 Jul 2013, on Amazon.co.uk, 5 stars

'Loved this short, playful and punchy story. I'll be reading it to many of the little people in my family as a valuable lesson in "Mum knows best"!'

From Kristin, 28 Jul 2013, on Amazon.ca, 5 stars
'This is an awesome tale about the (mis)adventures of a little fox. I love the themes of the importance of listening and being kind to the environment. The rhyming story and the adorable, colorful pictures make it perfect for my little girl who is almost one year old.'

Buy 'The Fox and It' here:
Amazon India (http://goo.gl/7U4t7a)
Amazon Japan (http://goo.gl/rAbDKN)
Amazon Germany (http://goo.gl/474uuS)
Amazon Canada (http://goo.gl/4YZyIw)
Amazon Spain (http://goo.gl/S2zpqK)
Amazon Italy (http://goo.gl/nrxftO)
Amazon Brazil (http://goo.gl/BGYTO8)
Amazon France (http://goo.gl/qYTPoe)
Payhip (http://goo.gl/wkvlT)  

Sunday, 28 July 2013

'The Fox and It' is now available on Amazon

So, 'The Fox and It' is now available on Amazon! The links are as follows:

Amazon UK (http://goo.gl/HTSa5T)
Amazon US (http://goo.gl/Kr9Egp)
Amazon India (http://goo.gl/7U4t7a)
Amazon Japan (http://goo.gl/rAbDKN)
Amazon Germany (http://goo.gl/474uuS)
Amazon Canada (http://goo.gl/4YZyIw)
Amazon Spain (http://goo.gl/S2zpqK)
Amazon Italy (http://goo.gl/nrxftO)
Amazon Brazil (http://goo.gl/BGYTO8)
Amazon France (http://goo.gl/qYTPoe)

Happy shopping! 

Saturday, 27 July 2013


I was in town with a friend, and as we walked down a street we thought an alarm had gone off, but it turned out to be a choir. My friend couldn't identify the song they were singing, and it took a while before I heard the unmistakable chorus of David Guetta's classic, 'Titanium'.

'What a horrible song,' my friend said and, shock horror, I agreed with her, and was torn by that! I love, love, love Electronic Dance Music (EDM), but hearing that choir forced me to accept A Sad Fact of Life: some successful EDM songs do not have a tune and meaningful lyrics, and no amount of rearrangement by a choir can disguise that.

I started kicking myself there and then, mentally, with my invisible third foot, because I refused to accept that all EDM is less than perfect.

Actually, I still refuse to face this! I don't want to be a grumpy old woman way before my time. I'm not becoming one, am I? I can't be! 

But when I got on the bus home, a little girl of about four started humming. Again, it took me a while to figure out what she was singing. This time, it was the otherwise otherworldly 'La La' by Naughty Boy and Sam Smith.

My family and friends will tell you that I'm the biggest EDM nut, and yes, I'm pleased that EDM has always been big in the UK and in Europe, but I wasn't raised on an EDM-only diet, and now, having been forced to endure the mangling of two, yes, two anthems, I don't think an EDM-only diet is good for anyone. I listened to other genres of music as well, and only appreciated EDM after comparing it to those other genres. This has led me to conclude that kids and choirs, if they can't sing properly, should be given the option to learn to sing songs with lyrics and tunes before rearranging any EDM song to their taste, otherwise they'll wreck EDM songs and alienate people from EDM, which is not what I want and which I'm sure many people would want to avoid!!! So record companies and music industry moguls, take note and try and sign up as many musicians from as many genres as you can, so that you can expose people like that choir and the little girl to music genres that are more suitable for singing along to!

Have a great weekend! :-)

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A post that isn't about the Royal Baby

It's really sweet that there's a new baby boy in the Royal Family, and I wish him all the luck in the world! I'll leave the news and views on him to the BBC and others as I think they'd be better placed than I am to write about him. 

I'm not a Buddhist, but I like learning about languages, and this video shows something which I think is very interesting from a linguistics point of view:

(No, it's not what's on his chest, but having said that,  I'll just point out that in China and Chinese-speaking communities, the swastika is a good-luck charm and a character that means '10,000', 'eternity', 'myriad', 'blessings' and 'goodness'. It is pronounced as 'wan4' in Mandarin.)

The soundtrack is a Buddhist chant called 大悲咒 ('The Mantra of Avalokiteshvara' / 'The Mantra of Great Compassion') and what's really interesting is that many thousands of years ago, Buddhist monks used Chinese characters to record the sounds of Sanskrit. This is akin to using the Latin alphabet to render 大悲咒 as 'Da Bei Zhou' instead of 'The Mantra of Great Compassion'. 

The first two lines are written as 


which not only look nonsensical, but are normally read in Mandarin as 
nan2 wu2 he1 luo2 dan4 na4 duo1 luo2 ye4 ye1 etc.

But in the chant, they're read as 

ná mó ·hé là dá nā ·duō là ya yē ná mó ·ā lì yē pó lú qié dì... 

while the original Sanskrit is rendered with the Latin alphabet as: 

Namo Ratna Trayaya, Namo Arya Jnana...

So the language of the chant in the video is neither Mandarin nor Sanskrit, but a hybrid. In addition to the sounds of Sanskrit, the meaning of each Sanskrit word was also noted, so monks nowadays do know the meaning of what they're chanting.

I think it's possible to use the surviving Chinese texts and chants to reconstruct Sanskrit texts and pronunciation, and to infer that modern Mandarin wasn't the language the Chinese characters were originally read in. I don't know if this is the case, and which Chinese language could have been used, so if anyone knows this, do let me know!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

'The Fox and It' has a foxy-tive review, yay!

It's only been a day, but 'The Fox and It' has already received one glowing review from Singapore!! I am so chuffed! Here it is in full:

By Anne Leong,  www.alhrd.com, Twitter: @anne_leong

      'I really liked the story because of Runty. Being inquisitive, being a little daring, not waiting for Mum's go ahead, wanting things all to himself,......and OOPS!  Well, at least he learns a lesson at the end. Phew, what an adventure!'

Thank you, Anne! 

Get 'The Fox and It' here!

Have a great evening!


Monday, 8 July 2013

My children's picture book 'The Fox and It' is out, yay!

Morning everyone, I hope you enjoyed watching the tennis at Wimbledon and learning the inspiring stories of Murray (the winner) and Djokovic (the runner-up) over the weekend as much as I did!

Last week I wrote about finishing my children's book; well, here is the front cover!

'The Fox and It' is 99 pence (£0.99) and if you recommend it to your friends, you will get a discount! Buy it here: http://payhip.com/b/qYJD. At the moment, it is only available as an ebook.

Runty, a curious little fox who lives in the English countryside, stumbles across It one day. Find out why, and what happens next in this rhyming poem for very young children, complete with bright, colourful pictures. 

I'm pleased with how my book looks because the illustrations and text were all by me. Many people I know have black-and-white Kindles and I hope that by using Payhip, they can download a copy of the book to colour devices. Enjoy!

Friday, 28 June 2013

What I've been up to

Hey everyone, hope you've had a great week! I'd like to use this massive block of space here to say hello and thank you to my Twitter followers and to the readers of my blog, old and new, for your accompanying me as I wander towards my Grail, which is to actually finish, and I mean *finish*, something that I've started.

Well, I have some news: I've actually finished something! Yay! As is most things in my life, it's turned out to be a lovely surprise from what I was expecting.

I have been co-authoring and co-illustrating a kids' picture book, and writing my London-based sci-fi novel as well as my Twitter novel on the side. In June, my poor, trusty laptop refused to switch on, and I lost a few days trying to get it fixed. When I finally got it running again, I found out that the picture book was ok, but my sci-fi novel was gone. I had a backup of both docs, which should have been the end of it all, but instead of working from the backups, I then spent a few days worrying about how a document could disappear from a computer, which meant that I wasn't actually completing the writing of said document in the first place, as you do (I think this, by the way, is a much better excuse than 'my dog ate my [insert item]').

Anyway, inspiration struck again, and I had yet another story. As I wondered how best to tell it, I realised that writing my Twitter novel had taught me one thing: that it's possible to tell a story in a few words if you pick the right ones. My story became a picture book, complete with pictures, for 0 to 7 year-olds and as far removed from sci-fi and London as it can possibly be. And I am chuffed to bits with it.

So it's on to the next step, which is finding my story a home. In the meantime, I'm glad to say that I added another 200 words to my novel. Stay tuned!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

A memorable occasion I should've marked last week!!!

Or, how to blog, and what a blog is for!

Last week, @bbcthree and @bbcgoodnews challenged the viewers of the BBC Three comedy-news-satire show 'Russell Howard's Good News' to write a poem about Russell on Twitter. The prize? The pride of having your poem retweeted by someone in the Beeb.

If you aren't familiar with 'Russell Howard's Good News', it is worth watching; you can find clips on Youtube. Better still, you can get DVDs. I can count, on one hand, the number of comedians who can make everyone in my family laugh, and as Russell Howard is one of them, he's in my top five.

Naturally, me being me, I didn't find out about the challenge until late in the day. The BBC had written a poem using 'RUSSELL' to begin each line/stanza, so I thought I'd rise to the challenge and do the same. I noticed that just one other person had used 'HOWARD', so I thought, well, why not?

The next step was to figure out what to write about Russell Howard. I mean, I don't know him personally, and I could only go by what I see on his show. I made the decision to thank Russell for making me and my family laugh, and to write about what I see his talents to be, and what I like about his show. 'Laugh' had to be there, and 'W','A',  'R' and 'D' were quickly sorted. I toyed with beginning with 'Russell', but then realised that wasn't necessary. I felt I ought to describe his show instead, so 'R', 'U', 'S' and 'S' were sorted. And before I knew it, I had a poem.

In the end, I submitted this:

'Real, Utterly Silly Story Elicits Loud Laughs and Hiccups Owing to Witty And Rapid Delivery'.

That was last Thursday.

The next day, I woke up to a surprise: @bbcgoodnews and others had retweeted it! The rest of my day was lovely. 

BTW, his show comes on on Thursday nights on BBC Three in the UK. I forgot to post this on my blog, until his show coming on reminded me, hence the week-long delay :-). Happy Friday!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Happy Dragon Boat Festival! 端午节快乐!

'The Dragon Boat Festival' is the English name given to  端午节 the Duanwu Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, and which has other Chinese names. People celebrate this festival for different reasons; the following is the main one.

Back when China was seven kingdoms, a poet named Qu Yuan 屈原 (c. 340 - 278 BC) served as a minister of the Kingdom of Chu 楚国. Qu Yuan pointed out that Chu ought to attack the neighbouring Kingdom of Qin , which was growing stronger by the day, but the King of Chu banished him. Chu was later destroyed by Qin. 

Incidentally, the succeeding King of Qin and eventual First Emperor of China, Ying Zheng 秦始皇, then unified the other kingdoms and built the Great Wall of China by linking their city walls together. 'Qin' is the word from which 'China' is derived.

Qu Yuan was overwhelmed with grief when he heard of the destruction of Chu. He tied a large stone to himself, and flung it into the Miluo River 汨罗江.

Onlookers rowed themselves out in boats to search for him, but they couldn't find him, so to stop the fishes from eating him, they boiled rice with meat and packed this into bamboo before flinging it into the river.

To commemorate Qu Yuan's life, the ritual was repeated yearly and gradually, people started eating the rice and meat, and wrapping them in leaves to form zongzi 'dumplings' 粽子 of which there are many recipes, shapes and sizes. My grandmother made pyramidal, rice-only versions, while my aunt loves fish in hers. Here's what a dumpling looks like, with and without its leaf-wrap. The savoury pork- and chestnut-filled versions taste even better than they look :-).

As for the search for Qu Yuan, it morphed into Dragon-Boat Racing, which is a fun hobby in the UK (the photo is from Wikipedia (but having said that I had a whale of a time banging the drum :-)) and taken very seriously and at a large scale in the Far East. 

Dragon boat budapest 2010.jpg 

I'm off to grab some dumplings now; Happy Dragon Boat Festival!

Monday, 13 May 2013

A Chinese Joke / Folk Song - Updated on Valentine's Day 2016

There seems to be no translation into English, nor explanation, of this funny Chinese song on Youtube: 

so here's the gist of it and some background info at the end!

The song is sung in the Yunnan dialect, which I had to decipher with the help of subtitles. It features three characters: Little Big Brother, Fat Sister and Younger Sister.

[Update, Valentine's Day 2016: This is apt for Valentine's Day methinks. A source from China has provided an explanation into Standard Chinese here, and my updated translation into English is based on that source's explanation. AND THAT SOURCE HAS PROVIDED THE FINAL VERSE OF THE SONG!!! :-D Enjoy! :-)]

Title: Hit the turtledove first to reveal its plier-plucked feathers 

Younger Sister: Little Big Brother, come and listen to Younger Sister as she tells you / not to laugh at Younger Sister for being a bag of bones / skinny people are so very good-looking / [Update: (you're such a plonker that Younger Sister) isn't willing to even let you smell (her) farts]

Man (Little Big Brother): The sun is red when it rises / I have a small turtledove nesting at home / the mouth of this turtledove is most clingy [Update: (selective?)] / it only eats little mudskippers from Little Sister's home

Fat Sister: Listen to me, kiddo / how can piss be drunk as water? / Younger Sister's in a strange mood / [update: (she'll)] take and cut you up

Man: This fat cow has no shame / why should the turtledove be caught? / be careful of the turtledove taking flight / and pecking the little mudskippers in your home.

[Spoken interlude: I'm guessing the guy is asking Fat Sister to continue the song.]

Fat Sister: Little Big Brother is shy when he speaks / you say you have a nest with a small turtledove / be careful of Younger Sister catching you / and [update: helping to] pluck the feathers (hairs) off until your body is bare

Man: Don't boast, fat cow / I have a small handgun / I'll aim the gun squarely / at your head and shoot
Fat Sister: Younger Sister's house is open to you / if only you dare to fly over / if you don't believe this, take a look / hit the turtledove first to reveal its plier-plucked feathers

Man: I'll stand on a high mountain and shoot once / the shot will reverberate everywhere / ears will be covered to listen to that noise / which will cause Fat Little Sister to quake so much, she'll shout that she's flustered

Fat Sister: You may have a small handgun / but I have a pair of hands / if you aim the barrel of that gun at me / I'll rip the gun in half and toss it aside

Man: It doesn't matter if you're satisfied and willing or not / you go crazy in bright daylight / I'll kick up a fuss tonight until you admit defeat / and will yourself not to eat anything for three days

Younger Sister: Not being willing equals not being satisfied / Younger Sister has been thinking of you for a few nights now / at least she got to see you today / and to ask if you knew how (to set traps? [Update: my source says they have never heard of 打干绊.])

Man: I went to Younger Sister's house the night before / and saw Younger Sister giving birth to a baby / whose rough feet and large hands were like mine / but whose fine skin and paleness was like his (or her) mother's

[Spoken interlude: I'm guessing Younger Sister is asking Fat Sister to continue as she can't rebut Little Big Brother, but Fat Sister tells her to keep on singing.]

Younger Sister: This Little Big Brother shouldn't boast too much about himself / he's too young and his body is reedy / if you don't believe this, wait and see / him running around and shouting for his parents

Man: I advise you, Younger Sister, not to prostitute yourself / if you prostitute yourself you'll catch an STD that's hard to cure / I can see that you'll be very sick,
Younger Sister / and the King of the Dead will want to take that one life of yours

Fat Sister: I went to Big Brother's house yesterday / watched Big Brother cut up some beef jerky / you didn't cut the beef jerky up, Big Brother / instead, you kept holding onto it

Man: You're talking nonsense, you fat cow / when this audience starts spreading rotten medicine (the wrong medicine) / your nerves will get frazzled and you'll try to hook me / you'll take off your trousers to scare me 

[Update:  撒烂药  literally means 'spreading rotten medicine / the wrong medicine' and my source says that this is a metaphor which equates to 'spreading malicious gossip about someone', in this case the man.]

Woman: I advise you, Little Big Brother, not to be a skirt-chaser / your lust will lead to illnesses which will cause flesh to become numb and devoid of sensation / Elder Sister, I will visit you / treat (?light, as in 'not serious'?) brains like a pole (that is) to (be) climb(ed)]

This style of music is called shange 山歌 'mountain song'. The tune and lyrics are improvised, and whilst the lyrics will always differ, the tunes have a characteristic flourish to them. It's like listening to country and western, or blues, or rock and roll, and knowing what genre of song you're listening to.

Each song may be a love song, a verbal duel of wits or simply a means of communication between two or more people who are great distances away from each other. It used to be sung by peasants, and always consists of rhyming couplets.

The leader and the respondent can either be an individual or a group. There's a refrain between verses, like 'ey', 'hey ya ya yo', 'heeeeyyyy', 'hey hey yo', 'yo yo ee', or 'Eeyore, Eeyore', which serves the same purpose as the the 'na na na' bit in Kylie Minogue's 'Can't Get You Out of My Head'.

Spoken interludes which either egg someone to continue the song or tease them are present, and sometimes there will be a message at the end, with the beginning and middle consisting of metaphors and allusions.   

My grandparents used to sing similar songs with much blander lyrics than this one, which is from Yunnan 云南 in Southern China. 

I actually think this song is a new and most unusual way of preventing STDs :-) so to the person who uploaded it first, you have all my respect :-). And if anyone has the lyrics to the last verse, that'd be cool, too :-). [Update: Found it! Thank you for posting the last verse, mate!]