Well, of course I’m Gordon Brown

I am the revolution. But I’m wearing my pyjamas.

Nick Cohen has written an entry (A connected world proves no threat to tyrants) in the comment is free section of the Guardian about how bloggers aren’t changing the world after all. He says

…most bloggers aren’t interested in the democratisation of opinion. They write about their lives, what books they are reading and music they are listening to.

which is something I’ve already said here.

Contrary to the optimism of the Nineties, that it would allow oppressed peoples to escape censors and read forbidden opinions, the net is proving surprisingly easy for dictatorships to control.

Well, sort of. In spite of all the hype about the Great Firewall, if Nanny wanted to be a total bitch, she’d block access to all foreign news sites because I’m still able to read plenty of stories on line that are unflattering to the image of the inGlorious Motherland. Take ESWN, for example. Somehow it remains accessible from the mainland in spite of much of its content. If I mention stories from there, there’s a good chance that I’ll be returned as a search result for the same subject. But none of it is leading to any sort of change in the politics and political structure of China because the audience is external to the country. Unless the stories are translated, very, very few foreign journalists have the faintest idea what’s getting Chinese netizens agitated because of the language barrier.

The Chinese part of Cyberia remains closely monitored, but from what I’ve read, it seems people go online, have a rant about some controversial issue, it gets deleted, end of story. It seems to have been awhile since there was any Internet story from China which stirred the foreign press into the usual denunciation of Internet censorship. When I remember him, I keep wondering whatever happened to Mr Anti. It seemed that if anyone was going to get Spaces blocked, it was him, but he’s disappeared into the void. There haven’t been any stories about prominent Chinese bloggers losing their bus passes to the Web in ages.

However, I’ve just found that I still can’t access the Peking Duck blog. I happened to click on a link to it from Chris’s blog a few days ago and got a 403 Forbidden message. The blog doesn’t appear to have been blocked. Perhaps it’s local Nanny being quirky.

Sanxian Bridge

Not much of a picture.

I see that my most recent hit resulted from a search for Sanxian Bridge. I had a look through my pictures, but find only a couple, neither of which is particularly good because the bridge is in the background. If the weather behaves tomorrow, I’ll see if I can get something better, although I might wait until the sun reappears.

The Queen

Betty Windsor’s big blunder.

I dropped by the DVD shop after tea this evening and found a copy of The Queen. Russian soundtrack? No. English soundtrack, yes, but only after switching it from Italian. Good copy? Yes.

The film is about the events following the death of the Princess of Wales, and how Mrs Windsor of Buck House completely misread the mood of the public before submitting to the popular mood.

Helen Mirren definitely deserves a few gongs for this one. The credits should read something like

The Queen
Helen Mirren
A bunch of other people

Mirren rules the film, which allows no real space for other characters to develop beyond the second dimension. Phil the Greek behaves badly; Charles “Jug Ears” Windsor snivels; the Dear Leader grins inanely, but though he motivates HM the Q to pull the stick out, the character is a caricature (Rory Bremner should’ve been playing him); Mrs Dear Leader behaves as if she’s lower middle class; Alastair Campbell is a vulgar little oik.

26.02.07 Helen Mirren has won the Oscar for Best Actress, and Forrest Whittaker landed Best Actor.

The day the news of Diana’s death broke was the day that I moved back to Cambridge after five and a half years in Manchester. I woke up, switched on my radio, and heard the news. Of course, the news got boring quite quickly because there were only so many times the Beeb could say that Diana had died before you realised that Diana had died. It was a little surprising that Auntie reverted to normal programming. I had been expecting that when Granny croaked, we were going to get unrelenting wall-to-wall coverage, so that when the most popular former member of the royal family died and normal transmissions were resumed, it gave me some hope that after a respectfully short period of time, normality was going to reassert itself.

Although the death of Diana and the fire at Windsor Castle changed the relationship between the monarchy and the public, I’m not sure whether all that much has changed in the past ten years. I imagine the Queen will soldier on until the bitter end, which could well be another ten years or more. It’ll be interesting to see whether Jug Ears wants his go in the Big Chair even although he’s probably going to be the wrong side of 75 by the time he does or whether he steps aside in favour of Prince William who’ll probably be about 40 himself. Out for the count: Princess Margaret and Mummy. Next for the chop: Phil the Greek. Most likely to do something tabloidworthy (or get shot in Iraq): Prince Spliff. Next marriage and divorce candidate: Bill.

Personally, I don’t really care one way or the other about the Windsors. I think I’d prefer their random presence as monarchs of the realm to some elected head of state who would be some sort of political animal. But if they simply became prominent private citizens tomorrow, it wouldn’t bother me. Who then would be in charge of all the kit that the monarch keeps not for him- or herself, but for the nation? There could be a job in it for Mrs Windsor as the curator, and Phil the Greek could be in charge of the car park. Jug Ears could be a tour guide, and Carmilla could be the museum char lady. Andy could perhaps run the museum shop (what the hell does he do these days?), and Eddy would probably be in charge of the CCTV system since he has a background in broadcasting. There’s a sitcom to be got out of this.

Buck House Museum
Curator: Mrs E. Windsor (By Royal Appointment)

You go bald

But no one notices when you’re wearing glasses.
I was off on my adventures after tea this evening when I noticed, as I passed one of the many shops which sells glasses, that they were using an image of Britney Spears as window dressing. That’s Britney Spears wearing photoshopped glasses in an undoubtedly unlicensed use of her image. I didn’t even notice whether she was bald.
It’s kind of like that Clark Kent ~ Superman thing. If Superman suddenly put on glasses, would Lois Lane say, "Clark, why are you dressed like Superman?" Or if Clark removed his glasses, would she say, "Sharp suit, Superman"?

Mental Day

Total diurnal nutter.

I was having a look at the first book of Mickle’s translation of The Lusiads when I found this couplet:

Given to the world to spread Religion’s sway, [45]
And pour o’er many a land the mental day,

Mental day? I’m guessing this is a scanning error for “menial”.

I’m not overly impressed by what I’ve seen of Mickle’s paraphrase so far. The great age of the heroic couplet has passed and I get a sense (although I don’t know quite how) that these are mere shadows of heroic couplets. Take this couplet, for example:

O young Sebastian, hasten to the prime
Of manly youth, to Fame’s high temple climb: (ll. 57-58)

which really reads as

O young Sebastian,
hasten to the prime of manly youth,
to Fame’s high temple climb

because Mickle has enjambed the couplet in the middle of the phrase [prime [of manly youth]] instead of, say, between the subject and the predicate where there’d be a much better sense of a pause. Mickle gets it right in

And safe to harbour, through the deep untried,
Let him, empower’d, their wand’ring vessels guide; (ll. 297, 298)
Where black-topp’d islands, to their longing eyes,
Lav’d by the gentle waves, in prospect rise. (ll. 315, 316)

I also get the feeling the Mickle was merely imitating the diction which he thought was appropriate to the style, but in line 15 (And where, erewhile, foul demons were rever’d), he slips in an “erewhile”, a word which seems to have escaped from 16th century English and may be a harbinger of Victorian Archaic English. I have no doubt that Mickle was familiar with the works of Pope and Dryden, but his English has moved on and he’s merely imitating the verse of the Augustan Age rather than writing it.

A Google search suggests that “erewhile” was probably used used much more often in the 19th century than it ever was in the 16th and 17th. Spenser used the word five times in The Faerie Queene and Fairfax once in his translation of Jerusalem Delivered. Milton used it twice in Paradise Lost. Probably between 1660 and 1800 the word was barely used at all if the small sample of texts I have is any indication.

Mickle would’ve been much better off translating The Lusiads into ottava rima. It’s a pity that Fanshawe’s translation (sv.) isn’t the one generally available online.

I searched for other translations of The Lusiads into English and found that one by Sir Richard Fanshawe had been published in 1655. It seems to be the best of the bunch until the most recent translations. Unfortunately, it’s not available on the Net unless you can get to a library which has access to Early English Books Online. I couldn’t even find a stanza or two because most of the information about Fanshawe is entries in online en­cyclo­paedias. [06.08.14. Seven years later, this still seems to be the case. On the other hand, the memoirs of Lady Fanshawe are freely available.]

For Spanish…

Please try another number.

I see I was returned as a hit for “alveolar obstruent Spanish”. Unfortunately, I can’t be of any help since my knowledge of Spanish barely extends beyond knowing that it’s the language of Spain and one or two other countries. I do have a Spanish friend – Ricardo –, and there was this Spanish girl I once seriously fancied, but that was a long time ago.

And since we’re on the Iberian Peninsula…

I was looking through a list of links last night when I saw one to a French text which reminded me of the Portuguese epic The Lusiads by Luis Vaz de Camões. (There was a Portuguese name in the title which is how I got from French to Portuguese. If you’ve been reading the blog long enough, you’ll know perfectly well that this is how my scatter-brained mind works.) I think it was the OUP World’s Classics translation I bought about five or six years ago but never got round to reading. I did a search for the text online and found that William Julius Mickle’s 1776 translation has been posted online at Sacred Texts (The Lusiads).

[06.08.14. I admit, sort of shamefully, that I still haven’t read The Lusiads even although I do have the Oxford translation with me.]

Things they just don’t teach you at school

Fart jokes are always funny.

I happened across the Early Stuart Libels website which, as the name says, is all about libels from the reign of James I. When I was in the 6th form, we studied the history of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. I don’t recall the exact theme, but it may have has something to do with how events led to the English Civil War.

Anyway, the poems include one about how Henry Ludlow farted during a parliamentary session in March 1607 which caused much mirth. It wasn’t, apparently, malicious. (His dad, Sir Edward, had once farted during a committee meeting; I suspect that people tended to approach the family residence upwind, and beans and cabbage were off the menu.)

Such a Fart was never seene
Quoth the Learned Councell of the Queene.
Noe quoth Mr Pecke I have a President in store [35]
That his Father farted the Session before
Nay then quoth Noy ’twas lawfully done
For this fart was entail’d from father to sonne

Now, we studied this period of English history, and I can’t for the life of me recall anything about the farting incident in the House of Commons. Our teacher must’ve got wind of it before we did.

I see from the material that’s covered by the libels that the current cash-honours scandal is a pitiful affair compared with the sort of mischief that abounded at the Stuart court. No one much liked the Scots; there was a huge scandal over the annulment of Frances Howard’s marriage and her subsequent marriage to Robert Carr (James I’s boy toy) along with the death of Sir Thomas Overbury (foul play suspected); the influence of George Villiers who was James’s new boy toy; Parliament went after abusers of patents and monopolies granted by the Crown (used by James to raise money), which led to the impeachment of Sir Francis Bacon.

All right, so that cash-for-honours affair is a serious matter, but it’s hardly going to go down in the annals of history as a great scandal.

The Tenth Don’t

A cultural interpretation.

Just recently I posted a picture of ten don’ts from Machang Lu. The tenth was the somewhat baffling 不说服务忌语 (bù shuō fúwù jì yǔ) “Don’t say service language”. As I was having a shower this evening, I suddenly realised what the tenth don’t might actually refer to. In Tongzhou, the scrap merchants would prowl the streets once in a while and dispense their cries via a megaphone. In Changzhou, they bang enamel pots with spoons. Here, they call out as they lug around their lumpen handcarts. Their cries might be “service language”, hence the injunction.

It makes sense because they can be annoying if you don’t want to be importuned.

[06.08.14. Youdao translates this as “Don’t say service JiYu” and won’t even attempt to render 忌语 into English. Is this another instance of some sort of resultative clause in Chinese? Or is it a separate clause? For example, the phrase might mean “Don’t offer services, refrain from speaking.”]

Irony bonus.

The eighth don’t is against graffiti and posting bills. What is there on the sign but un graffito: 办证刻印 (bàn zhèng kèyìn), which, I assume, is an offer of the noble art of forging stamps for official documents. These signs, with various phone numbers, are all over the place around here.

Year of the Pig 2007

Well, it was wet.

When I stepped forth from my decaying domicile last night, the livid aspect of the sky sent me scurrying back home for an umbrella which, as the subsequent torrential downpour proved, turned out to be a wise decision. The rain turned Shang San Lu, which rises as the road heads towards Sanxian Bridge, into  a shallow, fast-flowing stream. The rain dampened down the fireworks, but had abated by midnight when things went wild as they always do.

The combination of being on an hillside, the narrow lanes, and the multi-storey buildings made the fireworks sound much louder than previous years and the area was enveloped in a thick fog of smoke which must’ve reduced visibility to about 10m at most.

We had a few bursts of fireworks early this morning at a time I didn’t appreciate. New Year’s Day has been damp and dull, but the fireworks have started up again in spite of a little light rain. I got a few blurred pictures earlier this evening, as you can see below.

I went to Jazzy Pizza near Jintai Lu for tea tonight. I have a card for the place, but it gives the address as the alley to the side, whereas if it’d said “Bayiqi Beilu (八一七北路) on the corner opposite Jintai Lu and nowhere near anywhere that you’ve never heard of”, the taxi driver might’ve known where I meant. I got there in the end. It was nice; I didn’t pig out which is easy to do with pizza. I used a knife and fork. Yeah, I know most of you don’t care about the last detail, but I’ve been using chopsticks for most of the past four and a half years so you tend to notice knives and forks. Damn! I should’ve ordered a pork pizza, if they had one, to celebrate the Year of the Pig.

24.02.07 I happened to run across this strip about the Chinese New Year from Dinosaur Comics.

I don’t understand No. 18

British yoof.
For those of you who don’t know who Dave is, he’s David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party in the UK. It was revealed just recently that he smoked dope while he was at Eton. Big non-story, but worth milking anyway.
It seems that the general view of young people these days is that they’re all innately criminal – a bunch of ASBOs waiting to happen. A recent Unicef study also painted a bleak picture for children in Britain.
Anyway, that’s a brief explanation of the stories behind today’s I don’t understand.