Archive for January, 2010

Chinese tennis assault!

January 31, 2010

Zheng Jie

The Australian Open concludes today, with the much anticipated battle between world number 1, Roger Federer, taking on UK hopeful, no.5, Andy Murray. While I am sure most of England (who has no problem claiming the Scot as their victory drought breaker) will be behind Murray; personally I’d like to see Federer destroy him.

On another note, the Open has been great for Chinese tennis, in particular Zheng Jie and Li Na, both of which made it to the semi-finals – only to be eliminated in very different ways. Li Na was put up against the veritable mountainous Serena Williams – and one would assume would be drilled accordingly – but not so! Li Na truly took it to the American champion, and while losing, the game could have gone any way.

On the other side of the fence, Zheng Jie (who I had the pleasure of watching last season), came up against Justine Henin – who is newly returned to the game from a some two year ‘finding herself’ period. Making it to the semi’s was likewise a first for Zheng, instantly propelling her to Chinese stardom back home – but unfortunately, unlike comrade Li – Zheng was textbook destroyed, 6-1, 6-0 with what was described as a clinical victory for Henin.

Li Na - Check out those arms...

While in China, many of my students mentioned that they loved the tennis, and I was always only too happy to discuss it with them. It makes me happy to think that these two woman’s tennis players will no doubt be their next heroes. While last year, they might have said Federer was their favourite – this year, I have no doubt that Li  and Zheng are getting honourable mentions.

If there’s one thing about China and sport however, there is no doubt that on the backs of these victories, it could potentially fuel massive funding into developing future tennis stars. China is all about harvesting the glory – and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if within the next ten years, more and more Chinese players appeared on the scene – each seeking their own little slice of cultural pride.

Give us back our Avatar!

January 22, 2010

Since the announcement that Avatar was being yanked from 2D screens across the country, there have been outcries across  Chinese internet from angry fans – many of which believe that it was rather to promote the new release of Chow-Yun Fat’s latest movie, ‘Conficius’, which unlike Avatar, is most definitely patriotic.

It’s not like it’s a real issue however, as already there would be millions of pirated copies of Avatar on the streets of China. Take your local Blockbuster store; full of dvds – take away those dvd’s and replace them all with pirated copies, and you’ll have the kind of stores that you can find in practically every location. It’s actually quite amazing the level of work that goes into creating the packaging for these pirate copies – particularly when you consider how cheap they are to purchase.

Avatar – thought provokingly dangerous.

January 20, 2010

Over the past few weeks, the release of Avatar has seen yet another James Cameron movie storm to the top, pulling in over a billion dollars and possibly (if not already) becomming the highest grossing film in history. James Cameron seemingly cant lose when it comes to making movies, having created some absolute classics, and I can say that I too am a fan of his work.

Having been somewhat sceptical myself of this latest blockbuster, I was refreshingly surprised by just how good Avatar actually was. I was certain from the trailers that it would be all fx, no substance; not unlike George Lucas’s abortive Star Wars prequels. The opposite was true however, and whilst the story wasn’t particularly original, it was suitably epic, and the world that James Cameron created was simply mind-blowing.

Now Avatar also had the honour of being one of a small selection of foreign movies to be released in China. Every year only a certain amount are allowed to be screened in what I assume is the result of vigorous censorship. I saw Iron Man whilst living in China and it was heavily edited in parts – and since seeing an unedited version, some of the removed scenes were completely odd, and this particular whitie cant make sense of it.

Avatar was released in 2D and 3D (go see it in 3d, seriously!) across China, and as of the 23 January, will cease playing on 2D screens in China. As only a handful of cinema’s in China are equipped for 3D, this effectively means that the general release across the country has been canned.

Why do you ask? Well supposedly, the plight of the native Na’Vi in Avatar is a little too close to comfort for the Chinese government. As the blue skinned race is in danger of losing their homes from power hungry mega-corporations, it is drawing uncomfortable parallel’s with reality, with the millions of Chinese who have been forcibly removed from their homes by developers. As with all issues that can possibly invoke feelings other than those of a dog on a leash, the government has stepped in and pulled the plug. Sometimes, I can only shake my head at the antics of the Chinese government. I only hope that one day, the people really do wake up and realise that their lives are being dictated from above – though considering it’s been that way for thousands of years, it’s possible that will not happen anytime soon.

For everyone else who can see Avatar in cinemas, I highly recommend it.

One year on:

January 7, 2010

I have just realised that this site is now exactly one year and two days old and damn, does time fly. Since that time, we passed the one year anniversary of our return from China which forces us to reflect on everything we have achieved since. Depressingly – well partially anyway – we haven’t come all that far since when we left off, and the whole venture to that other most interesting of countries, didn’t change as much as we would have liked.

On one hand, Courtney has changed more than me, though it’s funny how quickly we get back into new routines. I myself have found my way into a different industry, but the work itself is not what I would call ideal, and I had hoped things would be otherwise. Then again, we have just entered into a new decade, and with various activities on the side, I hope this next ten years brings considerably more change than the previous.

Beyond that, life is good. Both of us still maintain a heavy interest in Chinese culture, news and current affairs, and continue to spend time learning Mandarin. We’re still not conversational, but between us we know quite a lot now, and I would be interested to return to China to test just how far we’ve come.

We still struggle with actually speaking the language however, as even though we live in a suburb that has a huge Chinese population; so much so that when we go into town, we once more feel more in the minority (except this time we enjoy it!), and despite the fact we hear spoken Chinese all around us, we still never seek to actually use the language, feeling absolutely foolish whenever given the opportunity. I bet there are devout learners out there who use it to order meals in restaurants, or when dealing with various shop-keepers, but not us.

It cracked me up the other day how I specifically was talking to Courtney about random things we have learned. While we can not hold a proper conversation as such, we do know a considerable amount of Mandarin snippets. Is that your pen? Those adults are running. What is that? It’s a cat! How much is this? That’s too expensive! Where is the restaurant? Is it far? yadda yadda yadda…..specifically though, I said to her, “It’s funny, we know so many things, but never really anything relevant. Like we’d go to China and have no use for, How many people in your family?”

And then Courtney goes into Box Hill and is buying groceries from one of the local Chinese supermarkets. An old guy working on the register was super chatty and asked her specifcally, “How many people are in your family!”

And goddamn if we both don’t know how to answer that in Chinese! I definitely had a go at her over that one, talk about perfectly missed opportunity! Then again, I likely wouldnt have either, but…I wish I could have!

Anyway, happy one year and two days Life After China, sorry I have been neglecting you lately!

Happy Site Birthday!

In my next life, please don’t let me come back as..

January 7, 2010

…A Chinese miner or perhaps worse, an employee of a Chinese fireworks factory! Friday saw yet another explosion in a Chinese fireworks factory, reportedly killing nine workers and destroying seven buildings. Obviously this is the prime time of the year for the Chinese fireworks industry, with the Chinese New Year just a month away it’s time to stockpile en masse, yet as we see almost every year – and sometimes multiple times, there seems to be little in the way of safety procedures.

Fireworks may be wonderful to look at, and the Chinese; who happened to invent them, set them off to celebrate an absolute plethora of occasions, but despite their colourful charm, they are also extremely dangerous. Only recently in Australia, a man barely survived one going off in his face, losing most of said face and a whole bunch of teeth. They’re banned in Australia for a reason – though that doesn’t stop people from trying to set off their own little shows.

While in China, I witnessed many local firework displays with absolutely no care for safety. They approached them like a child would,  excited and completely without regard for safety. I have to wonder what goes in the fireworks factories to chance set them off, and while I have no idea what caused it, my money’s on a worker taking a time-out with a cigarette, surrounded by combustibles.

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