Friday, 4 September 2015

An open letter to Boris Johnson

Hello Boris, I suppose I should start by saying that although I'm addressing this to you, I'm not really writing to you. You see, I prefer eating to talking, and you'll always find me by the canapes when the conversation turns to politics, but I am compelled to think aloud by that image of that little boy on the beach being coupled to the reaction which the Daily Telegraph (03 Sept 2015, heading '11.19') says is yours, especially this bit here: 

'Let us not forget that the fall of the Roman Empire was down to immigration. Massive movements of people in the end is not sustainable.'

Yes, the Roman Empire/Rome (and by this, I mean the Western Roman Empire, not Byzantium) had many positives, like lovely, enduring architecture, wonderful trade routes, roads with no potholes, the rule of law and an efficient bureaucracy, but let's not forget that there were some intangible bits and bobs which marked them apart from modern Britain.

For starters, Rome had legally-sanctioned slavery which, it must be remembered, was abolished by Britain in the 19th century. Rome's geopolitical reach wasn't as wide as Britain's, and the Romans had toga parties all day and all night long because they wore togas. Their gladiators had long, hard-to-spell names like Commodus and Spartacus, while Britain makes things simple with Gold and Wolf.  Britain's Christians are Lords and the ceremonial (if not actual) leaders of the country; the Romans used theirs as big cat food.

The leap in London's population in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from tens of thousands to millions, though initially traumatic, was certainly not due to lots of native Londoner babies surviving into adulthood, but to the influx of people from all over the British Isles and Europe who were looking for peace and a fresh start. Even white individuals whose work underpins the world we live in, such as James Watt, Count Rumford, Ernest Rutherford and Rosalind Franklin, either migrated or had migrant ancestors. Your own ancestors and the Royal Family's ancestors were relatively recent migrants to Britain (compared to the Roman Empire, the 18th century AD is relatively recent) and I am sure that between their arrival and today, you and they have also contributed massively to Britain.

Just as an apple isn't an orange, the Roman Empire isn't modern Britain for despite all that immigration, the Britain of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries flourished, and I am sure you, of all people, have an inkling why. There are some things in life which can work wonders, even in small doses. Just like canapes.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Jon Bon Jovi sings 月亮代表我的心!

I couldn't believe what I'd heard from this Bon Jovi video: did I just hear a Rock Legend of History covering a Chinese-language love song by songstress Teresa Teng? But I did! And he sang it two days ago, during the Qixi Festival.
Teresa Teng 邓丽君 was a genius polyglot singer from Taiwan who sang in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Malay, English and Japanese from the 1970s until her death in the 1990s. My family is absolutely bonkers about her, and even my grandma would let her hair down and sing her songs.

Will Jon Bon Jovi steal her sunshine? You be the judge :-). As for his pronunciation, I think his teacher could've done better by him. If you're wondering what he's singing, wonder no more, and here's Teresa Teng's version if you want to sing it properly.

月亮代表我的心         The Moon Represents My Heart
你问我爱你有多深    You ask me how deeply do I love you
我爱你有几分            And how I would rate myself in my loving you
我的情也真                [My answer is:] What I feel is true
我的爱也真                And my love is true
月亮代表我的心        The moon represents my heart.

你问我爱你有多深   You ask me how deeply do I love you

我爱你有几分           And how I would rate myself in my loving you
我的情不移               [My answer is:] My feelings won't shift
我的爱不变               And my love won't change
月亮代表我的心       The moon represents my heart
轻轻的一个吻           Just one soft and tender kiss
已经打动我的心       is enough to fire up my heart
深深的一段情           That period of feeling those deep emotions
叫我思念到如今        Still, even now, makes me think about you and miss you
你问我爱你有多深   You ask me how deeply do I love you
我爱你有几分           And how I would rate myself in my loving you
你去想一想               Go and have a think
你去看一看               Go and take a look
月亮代表我的心       The moon represents my heart
轻轻的一个吻          Just one soft and tender kiss
已经打动我的心      is enough to fire up my heart
深深的一段情          That period of feeling those deep emotions
叫我思念到如今      Still, even no, makes me think about you and miss you
你问我爱你有多深      You ask me how deeply do I love you
我爱你有几分              And how I would rate myself in my loving you
你去想一想                  Go and have a think
你去看一看                  Go and take a look
月亮代表我的心          The moon represents my heart

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Something I Learnt About the English Language (contains swearwords)

I would actually like to thank @rainbowspeckles, who doesn’t follow me (I have returned the favour), for inspiring this post.

A word of warning before I continue: If you’re a sensible, polite, well-mannered person who doesn’t like to see what would be labelled ‘cuss words’ and ‘swearwords’ in print, look away now, and read something else.

It all began when I whinged on Twitter about my crazy and idiotic reaction to a massive spider. Said @rainbowspeckles told me to ‘#manup’, and that gave me a lot to think about.

You see, the Asian languages I know don’t use ‘man up!’ as an expression which means ‘come on, be brave, don’t be scared, don’t be a coward!’. Come to think of it, they lack other interesting and colourful expressions like ‘ballsy’, ‘grow a pair!’ (ie grow a pair of testicles), ‘stop crying like a girl/woman!’, ‘stop being (such) a girl/woman!’, ‘so-and-so has got balls’ (ie testicles), ‘girly’, ‘booby prize’, ‘booby’ (ie women’s breasts),  ‘be a man!’ and ‘you’re such a girl!’.

It’s as if there’s all this talk about feminism, fighting for women’s rights, and equality between women and men, and yet paradoxically, many everyday English expressions are openly hostile towards women and girls and female reproductive organs.

If you have an aversion to seeing certain words in print, I now strongly urge you to look elsewhere, because in order to explain my point, I am obliged to mention these words.

This is your last chance to look away. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

But this proves my point.

The worse English swear word EVER, ‘cunt’, which is so evil and taboo that my friends in England have advised me to label it ‘the C-word’, refers to the vagina. Do not even call your enemy by this word, unless you are abroad (ie outside Britain) and you can be sure that your enemy doesn't know what you’re saying.

The same goes for ‘twat’, which is the equivalent of ‘cunt’ in the US. Although it also means ‘vagina’ in England, it is far more acceptable and widely-used because it is used to describe someone as an absolutely stupid and moronic idiot.

Then there’s ‘booby’, which refers to ‘a woman’s breast’ but also to something which is of inferior quality, eg ‘a booby prize’ for ‘a consolation prize’. The same can be said for ‘girly’.

There is much praise for being a man (NOT a boy; this is very important) and much admiration/yearning for testicles. ‘Ballsy’ means ‘brave’, and ‘having balls’ means ‘being very brave’. To ‘grow a pair’ doesn’t refer to getting a pair of big, jiggly-juggly breasts, but a pair of testicles, and it means ‘be brave; go out and face the world!’.

And penises? Yes, I’ve heard ‘you’re such a dick’, ‘you’re a knob(head)!’, ‘you knob(head)!’ and ‘you’re a dickhead!’ thrown about as a substitute to ‘you fool!’ or ‘you idiot!’, but when compared to ‘cunt’ and ‘twat’, these insults are mild.

‘Cunt’ and ‘twat’ are always used in anger and with malice.  ‘Dick’ and ‘knob’ can be affectionate, especially when the speaker is very drunk. ‘Dick’ gets away with being a surname (Dick and Dickens, anyone?), a boy’s name and the name of a dessert in England. And in England, when someone calls you ‘cock’, they’re not insulting you; they’re calling you ‘darling’, ‘dear’, ‘friend’.

It freaks me out to realise that if I had only been around the English language all my life, I would have been unconsciously programmed to think of my being female as a state of being inferior, constantly. What a way to live.

I never really thought about this until @rainbowspeckles, another laydee, told me ‘man up’. Darling, I can’t; it is biologically impossible for me to do so unless I undergo a sex-change, and even though I can, I wouldn’t want to physically ‘man up’ because I am happy with being a woman. And ‘man up’ MUST NOT equate to ‘be brave!’. If you were my real sister, or daughter, I would tell you that if you want to encourage someone to be brave, use another expression. Always remind yourself that you are a woman, and you are ‘It’.

Although I hate political correctness in general (that’s another post), I do think it is vital, in this instance, that political correctness prevails. Everyone has emotions, and they should be permitted to show them. The chains of ‘femininity = inferiority = showing emotions’ and ‘masculinity = superiority = suppressing/hiding emotions’ must be broken, and the tool to break these chains is language because if a conscious, habitual effort is made to change the way one expresses oneself everyday, then thought patterns can be changed, too. I think it is only once that is done that everyone of every gender and none in an English-speaking society can truly be equal.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Sir Tim Hunt vs Connie St Louis

Thanks to his gift with words, a trait which he happens to share with Glenn Hoddle, Sir Tim Hunt and what Connie St Louis said about him now need no introduction.

Sir Tim Hunt and Glenn Hoddle share some more things in common. They are both top talent in their fields, of world-class standard, and yet what contributed to their leaving their international-level jobs was not their performance in their jobs, but what they said and by extension, what they believe in.

I don't agree with their beliefs and what they said, and I think they and their comments are silly, upsetting and offensive.

But I don't think what they said should have contributed to their leaving their jobs. The only things that should've been asked were, did they do their jobs, and did they do their jobs well?

I was asked about my views on what I call 'Huntgate' by some friends who ran out of things to chat about; I have so far shrugged my shoulders, but the latest twist in this sorry tale has made me wonder.

Guess what?

Connie St Louis's professional credibility is now being called into question.

I don't know her. I am not defending her. I'm not saying that I'm on her side. What I will say is that she showed herself to be a true hack when she made that scoop at the right time. And by contrasting pictures showing that she's a black woman against Sir Tim's being a white man, and subtly bringing in extra dimensions of race, class, privilege and comprehension of / identification with culture and language, I think we're all missing the bigger picture.

Does this all mean that we're entering an age where we have to say the same things?

Must we believe the same things?

And do we now have to put up with idiots who don't work well, but who say the right things at the right time?

Oh dear. Whatever happened to the progress of the last few hundred years? Is this the beginning of the end of freedom of belief and freedom of speech?

Where Sir Tim Hunt is concerned, if I were his boss(es), I'd be looking at whether he carried out enough experiments over the years to justify what he said about women in the lab, rather than pointing out straightaway that what he said was a viewpoint / tasteless joke.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

My review of the film 'Into the Woods'

I am feeling rather chipper today because it's still the weekend, so here's my first ever written review of a film version of a musical! My (un)fortunate target is 'Into the Woods' starring Meryl Streep and James Corden. You can sing my review to the tune of 'Funiculì Funiculà' by Peppino Turco and Luigi Denza (arranged by Joel Perri) as I did.

Let's go, let's go, watch another show
Let's go, let's go, watch another show
Where tunes entrance
And lyrics dance
Where tunes entrance
And lyrics dance

This is not a musical, it is an opera!

Verse One:
I watched this show with such high expectations
It left me sad, it left me sad.
The songs were long and emptied of emotions
They were so bad, they were so bad.
The tunes seemed to be highly repetitive
They hurt my ears, they hurt my ears.
I think this show is the most tuneless songfest
I've seen in years, I've seen in years.

Chorus x 2

Verse Two:
The action moved fast and I didn't mind that
That was ok; that was ok.
The more I watched the more I was surprised that
This was a play; this was a play.
There were too many plots and subplots going
Who were the stars? Who were the stars?
As a musical this was confusing
It was a farce; it was a farce.

Chorus x 2

Verse Three:

The actors were all very good at acting
They weren't to blame; they weren't to blame.
And though there was much atmospheric lighting
The film was lame. The film was lame.
Men have always been favoured in folktales
So I asked why, yes I asked why:
Why, in this 'update', did the strong females
All have to die? All have to die?

Chorus x 2

Enjoy and have a fun Sunday :-)!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Curious Case of Jeremy Clarkson

For those of you in the know, Jeremy Clarkson needs no introduction.

For those of you who don’t know, the BBC announced, very publicly, that it didn’t want to renew Clarkson’s contract to present ‘Top Gear’ (a popular BBC show about cars) after it investigated an allegation that he had punched a colleague. 

The BBC also announced that during the investigation, it had found that Clarkson punched the colleague because the colleague had fed him cold scraps instead of a nice, juicy, hot steak after a hard day’s work, and that the colleague had to go to A&E.

After Clarkson’s sacking, the police announced that Clarkson’s colleague did not want to press charges against Clarkson, and that they weren’t getting involved.

Yesterday, the BBC rehired Clarkson as a presenter of another show.

Since the BBC declared so publicly and with certainty that it had found that Clarkson had punched his colleague, why does the colleague still have to press charges against him?

For the police and courts to be involved, did Clarkson have to punch that colleague harder? 

Surely it is the role of the police and courts to investigate and declare if a crime has happened, not the BBC. Whatever happened to toes getting stepped on?

Whether I’m a fan of Clarkson or not, it’s certainly complicated outside the cushty world of ‘Top Gear’!

Monday, 30 March 2015

My translation of 小苹果 ‘Little Apple’ by 筷子兄弟 The Chopstick Brothers into English

‘Little Apple’ by the Chopstick Brothers is a crazy Chinese music video which went viral last year. It contains one of the funniest and catchiest Chinese pop songs I have heard in a while. Showcasing one of the most popular dances in recent times, plus interesting parodies / interpretations of Cloud Atlas, Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and Andersen’s ‘The Little Mermaid’, this video stars the Chopstick Brothers, a comedy-pop-satirical-boy-band-duo from China.

In order to avoid spoiling the video, I’ve explained what the video is about (CONTAINS SPOILERS) after my English translation of the Chopstick Brothers’ lyrics. Enjoy!

Verse 1:
我种下一颗种子 I planted a seed
终于长出了果实 [which] has finally [grown into a tree that's] borne fruit
今天是个伟大的日子 Today is a great day
摘下星星送给你 Plucked a star [from the sky] and gave it to you
拽下月亮送给你 Hauled the moon [from the sky] and gave it to you
让太阳为你每天升起 And got the sun to rise, every day, just for you
变成蜡烛燃烧自己 Turned into a candle and burnt myself [away]
只为照亮你 [the] only reason [is because] [through] [my] shining [I] showed you [at your best]
把我一切都献给你 [I am] giving my all [and everything I have] to you
只要你欢喜 [I] only want you to be happy
你让我每个明天都 You have made all of my days
变得有意义 meaningful
生命虽短爱你永远 Life may be short, but [I will] love you forever
不离不弃 [I will] never leave nor abandon [you]

Chorus 1:
你是我的小呀小苹果儿 You are my little, oh little apple
怎么爱你都不嫌多 [No matter] how [I] love you, it will never be enough
红红的小脸儿温暖 [Your] small red face warms
我的心窝 The cockles of my heart
点亮我生命的火 and ignites my life’s fire (ie my life force)
x8 Fire x 8
你是我的小呀小苹果儿 You are my little, oh little apple
就像天边最美的云朵 [You’re] just like the most beautiful cloud at the edge of the skies

[There's an interruption]

Verse 2:
从不觉得你讨厌 [I’ve] never found you repulsive
你的一切都喜欢 [I] like / love everything about you
有你的每天都新鲜 Every day with you in it is fresh and new
有你阳光更灿烂 With you in my life the sunlight blazes even more brilliantly
有你黑夜不黑暗With you in my life the nights are never dark
你是白云我是蓝天 You're a white cloud, and I'm a blue sky
春天和你漫步在 We stroll together in the springtime
盛开的花丛间 Amidst blossoming flowers
夏天夜晚陪你一起 [I] accompany you every night in the summer
看星星眨眼 to watch the stars twinkling
秋天黄昏与你徜徉在 We walk together in circles during the autumn evenings
金色麦田 In wheat fields the colour of gold
冬天雪花飞舞有你 When flying snowflakes dance in the winter, you are there,
更加温暖 And your presence is a source of warmth

Chorus 2:
你是我的小呀小苹果儿 You are my little, oh little apple
怎么爱你都不嫌多 [No matter] how [I] love you, it will never be enough
红红的小脸儿温暖 [Your] small red face warms
我的心窝 The cockles of my heart
点亮我生命的火 and ignites my life’s fire (ie my life force)
x8 Fire x 8
你是我的小呀小苹果儿 You are my little, oh little apple
就像天边最美的云朵 [You’re] just like the most beautiful cloud at the edge of the skies

[There's an interruption; repeat Verse and Chorus 2 and continue to Chorus 3] 

Chorus 3:
春天又来到了 Spring has arrived again
花开满山坡 Flowers are blooming all over the hills
种下希望会有收获 [When one] plants [something], one hopes for it to bear fruit
种下希望就会收获 [When one] plants hope, one will most certainly have a good harvest

[Repeat Chorus 1, Chorus 2 and Chorus 3 and end].

Meaning of the Video – contains spoilers!

SPOILER ALERT – if you want to bask in the awesomeness of the ‘eh?’ that this video evokes, please read something else!!!

The video contains four stories.

The first, which is set in present-day South Korea, begins with a beautiful young South Korean girl enthusiastically asking her South Korean boyfriend if she’s beautiful, and getting a rather negative ‘So what? Are looks important?’ from him. 

She leaves in a huff and the next time we see her, she’s getting her face looked over by a plastic surgeon who fills her with hope.  She prays to God to make her even more beautiful, and undergoes surgery. Then the bandages come off, revealing that the girl really is... Ugly!

Note at this point that the girl has the face of one half of the Chopstick Brothers, but not the boy. This leads to the second story. 

Meanwhile, in the garden of Eden, Eve wants to pick an apple but Adam stops her, and tells her that the apples shouldn’t be eaten. A snake appears, and eggs them to eat the apples, saying that the apples are yummy. Eve, despite Adam’s protests, eats an apple; the song implies at this point that Adam stopped himself from stopping Eve so that Eve would be happy. Note that both Chopstick Brothers are starring as Adam and Eve.

Adam asks Eve if the apple tastes good, and she says it tastes wonderful! They dance around for a bit before Adam takes a bite from the apple. The song implies that Adam ate the apple because to heck with the consequences, he wants to be with Eve forever, and he is happy at his choice. It’s all very John Milton, baby.

After Adam eats the apple, he is changed and learns to shoot alien spaceships down, but the question of whether looks are important remains. He is reincarnated as an eighteenth-century European bloke on a beach who’s having language issues with a European girl who turns out to be a mermaid, the reincarnation of Eve, and an ugly mermaid to boot.  The bloke rejects the mermaid (it is not clear whether it's because she's ugly or she's a mermaid) and she crawls back into the sea. Note again that the Chopstick Brothers are starring as the bloke and the ugly mermaid.

The question of whether looks are important flashes, and the European bloke starts fishing. We realise he’s looking for the ugly mermaid (awww...) and once he does catch a mermaid, his hopes are raised and he reels her in, but she turns out to be another, prettier mermaid with an apple. 

He starts prancing around with the pretty mermaid, and leaves the ugly one to grieve. 

The prayer ‘God make me even more beautiful!’ echoes again, and leads to the fourth story, which is set in Korea before the 1950s (the clothes and houses are a giveaway).

A little Korean girl gives an apple to a little Korean boy, and tells him to eat the apple when he’s hungry. They play and grow up together; it turns out that they are the reincarnations of the eighteenth-century European bloke and ugly mermaid (the adult versions of the Korean boy and Korean girl are played by the Chopstick Brothers). 

The girl gives the boy an apple, and repeats that he is to eat the apple when he’s hungry.

The men in their town get conscripted, and before the boy leaves, he tells the girl not to go with any other men. She gives him another apple and repeats that he is to eat the apple when he’s hungry (in traditional Chinese culture, you never tell the people you love that you love them. Instead, you would give them something yummy and tell them to eat it when they’re hungry. I think it's the same in traditional Korean culture.) Then he leaves; he keeps promising that he will return to her.
He goes off to war, while she waits for him at home. 

She then receives a box with his belongings, including an uneaten, rotten apple with a bullet hole through it. 

In her anger and sadness, she calls the boy a liar, because he’d lied about coming home to her.

The past lives of the couple come and go, and everyone starts dancing. The dance moves don’t mean anything; they are for groups of people to have fun together and they form the ‘Little Apple Dance’, which is the Chinese ‘Macarena’, ‘Saturday Night’, ‘Gangnam Style’ etc.

This version of the video ends at this point, but I have seen a second version where the present-day first story is continued and concluded, and brings the other three past-life stories to an end.

In the second version of the video, after the present-day South Korean girl undergoes plastic surgery, the present-day South Korean boy also undergoes plastic surgery – it transpires that he is as insecure about his looks as she is. They both end up with the faces of the Chopstick Brothers and are happily reunited in present-day South Korea because they recognise the post-surgery versions of each other (ie who they really are). They both learn that looks are not important; what’s important is keeping the promises that are made, and continuing to live in love and hope.

Both versions of the video were created to advertise an unrelated gangster-comedy film starring the Chopstick Brothers, but that is a whole other blog entry altogether. I am positive that there's a parody about 'Cloud Atlas' in there somewhere, but I'm not sure about this. Enjoy, and toodles!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

It's the Election (no, not that one...)!

Hello blogosphere, here's my second post of 2015! Trying to figure out where 'Mirrorverse' was going and actually writing it have taken time for blogging away, but I will do my best from today to ensure that there will be no procrastination. 

According to the BBC, Britain does not have a national bird but if you take a look at Wikipedia, that's not the case. I think the problem arises when you consider that Wikipedia shows that the US has this:

North-American-Bird.jpg (bald eagle)

Columbia has this:

Colca-condor-c03.jpg (Andean eagle)

And India has this:

While Britain has this:
  bird in the hand: Photographer gets close-up as tame robin feeds ... (European robin)

Compared to eagles and peacocks, a robin's not very impressive, is it? The other contenders for Britain's national bird - the wren, blue tit, blackbird, kingfisher, barn owl, puffin, mute swan, hen harrier and red kite - now they look the business, but robins? They are meh.

It seems that the only positive about a robin is that it can fly. A robin's only as large as a hand, it's sometimes happy to eat from a hand, it has a small beak, and it looks too cute. What sort of message will Britain be sending to the world if it picks the robin?

Let's take a look at Robins vs the Other Contenders. Unlike puffins, kingfishers, red kites and hen harriers, robins are everywhere in the UK. Where there's soil and grass, chances are there's a human dwelling, and therefore a robin. Unlike barn owls, you know what you're getting with a robin because it's a daywalker, and compared to the wren and blackbird, the robin, with that red breast, is vibrant. Robins may be smaller than blue tits, but try telling them that; I have seen robins fighting blue tits, humans and cats, and am sure that if  robins had fingers, they would be constantly raising two of them at the world and pointing out exactly where their territory lies.

All this leaves the mute swan as the robin's strongest rival. Putting aside the facts that the mute swan is (1) very beautiful and (2) a favourite of the UK monarchy, robins are chirpy, and face it, when you're the size of a robin, no-one will want to eat you.

Though my money's on the robin to win, I still haven't yet decided whether I'll be voting or which bird I will vote for. Should be interesting to see what the final results will be :-).