Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

1. Give Less of a Fuck
Don't confuse this attitude with nihilism - the most current form of human cowardice. I mean there are things that a person might worry about: reputation; causing offence to other people; the standard of service offered to customers. But life is way too short to be eager to please, and you can't please wankers, so don't try. And most people have undesirable criteria for being pleased anyway. But don't listen to me, watch this

2. Finish my second novella
This will require sacrificing other worthwhile activities, and maybe one or two friendships too. There are always excuses for delaying such things, but you can't wait to be old enough or wise enough. The future is now.

3. Finish Anything Goes: An Advanced Reader of Modern Chinese
It doesn't sound like a tall order to finish one textbook in the space of 1 year. But I am living in a 花花世界 (lit. Flower-flower world) a world of temptations so this will require willpower and involve fluctuations in enthusiasm.

4. Worry less about love
These things usually happen best when unforced. And living in the mysterious East has taught me that there's nothing natural or inevitable about how sex-obsessed our Anglo-American culture is. I have never been to Australia, and never watched a cricket match but I can't stop watching this

5. Push myself musically
I'm unlikely to improve as a guitarist, but my new hobby is learning and writing Chinese songs. I have no idea what this will lead to, but I like it a lot.

6. Just Do It
This is closely tied in with number 1. But as Baz Luhrman said in Sunscreen, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself too much either. Most of what you do is a matter of chance. On my Chinese blog, I recently wrote a post entitled "Words without Translation" words in both languages that had no translation into the other. One word I forgot to mention was "geek." In China, the concepts of looking down upon the bookish, or separating the real world from the world of books are very foreign. To illustrate this point, most people use the Sui dynasty poem 书中自有黄金屋/书中自有颜如玉 "In books there is always a Golden house, in books there is always a beautiful woman." I just like to use the fact that they're realy fucking into reading books to illustrate this. Nobody who has lived, or knows of the recent history of this country could be unaware of the limitations of being a 读书人 lit. "read-books person" or intellectual.
Anyway, I'm not sure where this is going, but somehow it leads to the conclusion, if you want to achieve something, just get the fuck on with achieving it.

Monday, December 15, 2008


If anybody still reads this blog, I encourage them to reply with their own answers.

Most Interesting Thing You Have Learnt
With learning a language, my growth in knowledge is much more obvious than in previous years. But I'm sure I've forgotten a lot of useful shit as well.
There's a particularly enchanting Chinese song that I sang at KTV the other night. Learning how to sing it hasn't made it any less mysterious. That is the response that springs to mind and I ain't gonna redraft this blog post.

Most interesting person you have met
Almost as much as the Southwestern bookselling experience, I've conversed with a higher volume of new people than some people do in an entire lifetime. But there's much more opportunity to get to know the person than when trying to sell them something, overall I'll go for Huizhou Train Station Lady, but there are numerous possible candidates who would be equally deserving.

Best Place You Have Been To
My current bedroom has a special place in my heart. Apart from the absence of any heating, it has no obvious defect.

Proudest achievement
It would be nothing related to teaching as I still have good days and bad days. It would be starting (and finishing) "Chinese Language and Culture" or finally getting my ass back onto Youtube. However imperfectly I did both of those things, it's still a huge step to have got them done.

Laughed hardest when
I asked a Student to describe an important friend in her life, and she went on to describe Adolf Hitler. For the next lesson, I got hold of a Chinese translation of "First They Came For the Jews" and read it out to the whole class.

Was at my lowest when
I broke up and had the most bone-chilling helloooooo-oooo within the space of a few seconds

Best Film You Watched
I'm now a card-carrying member of the Youtube generation, but the only trip I took to the cinema was a worthy one, so I'll say "The Dark Knight"

Best Book You Read
Again, I seem to be finished with books as physical objects, I have a pathetic showing compared to 2006, but I'll say for fiction The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton and for non-fiction Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler.

Best Memory
It's been an incredible year, I say that every year, but 2007 was a non-starter by comparison, but it would have to be saying farewell to the Students in Longchuan. We did karaoke and played Chinese party games in a hall usually reserved for the solemnest lectures, I'm sure you can easily picture what such a hall looks like.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Now I'm not normally comfortable with the idea of being obsessed over but...

but I'll translate this blog post about me by an 18 year-old English Major to the best of my ability
For reasons unknown to me, it was set out like a poem, so I won't deviate from the original. It has the quality of freewriting that reminds me of my most prolific period of blogging back in late 2005

Yesterday I went out with Kevin
Originally I expected him to have an entourage
But when I got to the school gate, he was alone
He took me to eat at a hotpot place
Unfortunately my skin is too sensitive
I couldn't eat that stuff.
I just sat and watched him eat
I watched him use chopsticks which was somewhat amusing
So I took it upon myself to try to help him.
He let me have a look at his notepad
He's written a Chinese song
I helped him correct the mistakes in his writing
His Chinese handwriting is just like a child-
How cute.
He was also learning a Chinese song
"Let the Whole World Love Completely"
After he'd finished eating we waited for xiaolong at the Technical School gates
Kevin used his gloves to wipe a place for me to sit
He's really worthy of the title "English gentleman!"
There a few strangers who only dared to say "hi" to Kevin
He had no opportunity to be friendly to them
Together we went to KTV.
He allowed his acquaintances in there to address him as orangutan
He sang the Chinese songs "Courage" "Allow the World to Love Completely" and "Let's sail together in a little row boat"
I quite admire him.
It was there that I discovered he has been different to us all along.
Cultural differences prevent him from understanding our behaviour
From now on, we must work together
to create some beautiful memories for him in Changde.