New Keys to the Middle Kingdom: Luxury SUVs – China Real Time Report – WSJ

New Keys to the Middle Kingdom: Luxury SUVs – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

I quote

“When we buy a luxury car, we’re telling the world that we’re rich,“ Cai explains. “But with a luxury SUV, we’re saying look at me: I’m rich – and different and powerful.”

What Noddy forgot to mention is how vulgar and arrogant SUV drivers are, and how ghastly these things look.

No, what SUVs say in China is that the driver is some coarse, ill-mannered, lower-middle-class parvenu.

Infographic: Historical Chinese and foreign-inflicted deaths: Shanghaiist

Infographic: Historical Chinese and foreign-inflicted deaths: Shanghaiist.

I’ve long suspected that if you looked at who has killed whom in China over the centuries, foreigners were mere amateurs in comparison with the Chinese themselves. Assuming that the true figures are somewhere in the graphics, even the Japanese are barely as murderous as the Party has ever been.

If it was possible to compile the figures for deaths over the past 2,500 years, then I wouldn’t be surprised if deaths in various wars against foreign powers would still be dwarfed by deaths inflicted by the state.

New Chinese superstitions: horoscopes and blood groups ~ Lost Laowai China Blog

New Chinese superstitions: horoscopes and blood groups ~ Lost Laowai China Blog.

Yes, I’m afraid to say that imperial citizens are prone to the most ridiculous medieval beliefs. The one which really annoys me is the claim that certain types of fruit or vegetables are particularly beneficial to certain organs or the blood or some function of the body.

I can only assume that the Imperial Fruit and Vegetable Marketing Board, aware of the gullibility of its customer base, made various ridiculous claims to shift mountains of produce.

As for that part of the article which discusses astrology, it makes a mockery of the imperial obsession with science. Both this piece of idiocy and the previous one demonstrate just how badly the Empire needs classes in critical thinking. But so long as imperial citizens believe any old rubbish, rumours and stupidity will continue to abound.

Never so down

That it can’t be kicked a good deal more.

Freegate is still groaning under the strain of whatever is, er, straining it. It comes (here I am on WordPress), and goes (there I am not on WordPress), and at the time of writing, is going again. This has got to be the most sustained bout of buggering that Freegate has suffered since I started using it although some of the earlier versions didn’t last long.

Unfortunately, the story of Bo Xilai isn’t going to go away any time soon, and given that Britain plays a small supporting role in the drama, there’s going to be a fair amount of attention from the foreign press. I observe that no one has yet commented that if the Bo family had amassed a fortune of US$126 million, then it implies that all the Party boys have troughs of swill similarly overflowing with lolly. I wouldn’t be at all surprised that the distribution of wealth in the Empire is so uneven that it makes Western countries look like models of equality and fairness.

The other scandal that’s popped up is the use of shoes (don’t ask me how) in the production of the gelatine from which capsules are made. The real problem is chromium in the material although don’t get me started on the shoes. From what I’ve read, this only affects products within the Empire, but not the stuff for export.

Meanwhile, one of my little darlings wrote a response to Exam Exercise 7 for my perusal, but in a bout of nationalistic overexcitement from him, I was informed that his family celebrated the founding of the Republic of China, which occurred “several years ago”. The former was an oversight; the latter probably a reflection of a very poor sense of imperial history. I’ve asked students for instances of this or that from history, but it seems that anything before 1949 or even 1911 is a vast void. But perhaps the same is true elsewhere and my knowledge of history, which isn’t especially broad or deep, is exceptional.

The speaking exams finally finished yesterday and I took care of the aftermath (“Colour the rectangles HB”) this morning. The rest of the exams are little more than a couple of weeks away. At best I can keep throwing listening, summarising and writing at the PAL classes, but whether any of it penetrates is another matter. It’s too late.

Oh, bloody hell. I stumbled across another album I’d like to buy. I’m still vacillating about Couperin’s Apothéoses, but found William Byrd: Complete Consort Music from Linn Records. I have The Great Service, but little else by Byrd, who I don’t think of as a composer of instrumental music. What’s a boy to do?

Actually, he’s to go and buy some water from the shop.

Really? How interesting.

I quite agree.

The speaking exams this year seem to have been more tiresome and tiring than usual. I think that may be because we did the practice not that many weeks ago, and like relationship between Christmas and the Spring Festival, the celebration of the former turns the latter into an indifferent shrug. But the process has been a tiring one. Yesterday afternoon I had to force myself to go and do some (necessary) shopping at Carrefour because  I felt utterly drained. I did think about tea at McDonald’s, but also concluded that if I’d come home, I would probably not have bothered going out again.

I have managed not to drift off into some reverie, but there are times when I pick up some feature of the student’s English, make a mental note, and have completely forgotten it in the next instance.

I have sped things up a little by copying sound files onto my computer and renaming them between breaks so that I don’t get left with such donkey work at the very end. It’s helped to have dictaphones this year, and software which copies the files straight off them. Nonetheless, I note that some of the students aren’t that audible although I’m not sure whether that’s because of the positioning of the recorder or some other factor. Still the sound quality seems better than it did on those laptops we used previously.

The IB students also continued their record of less than laudable practices in exams. My lot never seem to indulge in such things. So much for the philosophy of the IB programme.

Speaking of sounds, my latest musical acquisitions are Bach’s Cello Suites (played by Richard Tunnicliffe; Linn Records), the remaining volumes of Lute Suites by Silvius Leopold Weiss (played by Robert Barto; Naxos), and Handel’s Conceri Grossi, Opus 6 (played by the Avison Ensemble; Linn Records). I will buy Bach’s Lute Music played by Jakob Lindberg, which is what I was thinking about buying when I bought the rest of the current Weiss collection. That’s the second time I’ve been contrary in this way: I want this, but I buy that.

My collection of new music has got so big that I’m trying to break albums up when I listen to them, or everything starts to sound the same or just vanishes into a morass of pleasant sounds. The result is going to mean more and more play lists as I put each suite or concerto in a separate box so that I can distinguish one from another.

My other woe (if you want to call it that) is my camera. When I took it to Zhouzhuang last weekend, it turned out to be a paperweight because the batteries appear to have died even although I’d recharged them. I had thought this was a consequence of ageing rechargeable batteries as the camera enters its 7th year, but I bought some new batteries and the same thing has happened. They’re all right at first, but after a few minutes the indicator claims that they’re at half power, and it doesn’t take much for them to seemingly go flat.

My conclusion is that the problem lies with the camera rather than the batteries. I know I’ve been thinking about buying a new camera for about a year and a half, but I’ve never quite plucked up the courage. Having taken all the photos I’m ever likely to take in Wuxi, I don’t feel inclined to buy a piece of kit which will mostly sit round gathering dust; but there are those occasions (such as last weekend) when I need a camera.

You rang, milord?

No one is wiser than Socrates.

Our newly appointed English HOD is going to be my esteemed colleague, Mr V., whom I must congratulate in the most effusive and grovelling tones because it never hurts to flatter the boss. Fortunately I, on the other hand, have sufficient wit to know that there are certain things I should never do such as be in charge of other people. In this respect I’m as wise as Socrates.1

The weather (yes, the weather) has been up and down (repeat ad naus.). The current forecast says it’s raining. I look out of the window. The leaves on the trees are a bright spring green and the scene is less bleak than it was not all that long ago. Birdsong sometimes strays in, but all I can hear is Couperin, La Piémentoise, and the sound of my typing. There will probably be rain later although it may not amount to much, and the longer term forecast is for more of the same without precipitation.

It feels like the calm before the storm. Next week will be the storm with wall-to-wall speaking exams with copious quantities of brain-numbing, spirit-crushing drivel.

Notes.

1. On the other hand, I suspect Socrates was a smug, querulous, right-wing git whose actual philosophy was, “My way or the wrong way”.

One answer per line

And other suggestions.

Qingming wasn’t a complete loss because I managed to get through about five papers in the morning and five in the afternoon before I’d reached my limit… [Topic sentence? –ed.] With diligence and the desire to clear up the mock exams without too much prevarication nipping at my heels… [What’s nipping at your heels? Diligence and desire, or prevarication? –ed.] In other words, I didn’t spend the whole of Qingming marking the mock exams, but by marking papers steadily, I managed to get most of them done.

The results in the Listening were not so great, the average being around 55%, which is only a little shy of what the classes get when I give them practice listening tests. The results in the Reading and Writing were quite good at an average of 68% although most of the marks come from the reading. This is also in spite of my policy to be strict in my marking: if there was a wrong answer on one line, the whole thing was wrong; the address on the form had to be a proper address; and the summary had to adhere to the word limit.

The writing, on the other hand, was the usual dull unimaginative stuff I’ve come to know and loathe. PAL 1 did give me a variety of cities as their weekend destination in Ex. 6, but PAL 2 saw the picture of the Eiffel Tower in the paper and told me all about their clichéd trips to Paris (or Pairs as one student persisted in calling it). (The other two pictures were Italy [probably] and the Netherlands, but I doubt whether any of the students recognised this.) Ex. 7 was the same thing 66 times over with not the slightest sign of originality to be seen.

12.04.12. I should add that although the marks were actually quite good, the grade thresholds we actually used pushed the grades down a level, and while I thought this was deserved in some cases, it also meant that students who got above 70% (the typical boundary for an A) mostly got Bs. In the end, I think only one student got an A. I’m not expecting any A*s out of this year’s classes, but I think these thresholds (which came from where?) were overly harsh.

With that over, we have a respite of a week before the speaking exams commence, which is going to take the whole week to complete and probably leave me blind, bald, deaf, daft, and dumb. Because the boys messed up the accreditation and we can’t pull in teachers from other schools (admittedly impractical because of the complications which would entail), it’s going to be me and Michelle with some extra help for a couple of days to deal with 195 students. Speaking exams are draining at the best of times. This won’t be the best of times.

Then there will be one more week and the final exams will be upon us. That’s not so bad until the actual exam is over and the classes just become one prolonged exercise in babysitting.


Couperin, Pièces de Clavecin. A limited buyer’s guide.

The reason why I have two copies of Couperin’s Concerts Royaux is because I thought the second album by the Smithsonian Chamber Players was actually of his harpsichord music. In fact, it only contained two pieces, one from the 9th Ordre [sic!] and one from the 15th. This is a good illustration of the problem with Couperin’s Pièces de Clavecin, which seem to be used as filler on other albums or as part of an anthology of pieces (e.g. La Sophie CHAN 0598 by Sophie Yates).

I have the album by Bob van Asperen, which contains the whole of the 8th Ordre, and extracts from the 3rd, 7th and 13th. Three other albums contain the 8th Ordre in its entirety. From a search of The Classical Shop, the only harpsichordist who has produced albums containing whole Ordres was Alan Cuckston with the 6th, 8th and 11th (Naxos NA 0460); 13th, 17th, 18th and 21st (Naxos NA 0461); and the 22nd, 23rd, 25th and 26th (Naxos NA 0462).

Via Presto Classical I can now add Pièces de Clavecin IV by Mitzi Meyerson (Glossa GDC 921802), but the only new piece she brings to the party is the 20th Ordre with the rest already covered by Cuckston. On their Accent album, Robert Kohnen and Barthold Kuijken add the whole of the 14th and 15th Ordres

But if you’re trying to amass all of Couperin’s harpsichord music, it might be hard to avoid either buying up some pieces all over again (probably in Couperin’s case, the Concerts Royaux) or paying way over the odds for a set of tracks which bought separately cost more than the whole album. (In which case buy the album and only download the part you want.)

If, on the other hand, you live in a civilised country, you can always buy the lot on CD played by Michael Borgstede (Brilliant Classics 93082); but I live in a world which is a.) not civilised and b.) where digital music is more convenient.