January 2, 2012

Kim Dun Rong

Filed under: asia,politics — Kim @ 9:43 am

While it is an undoubtedly splendid idea to have a country permanently ruled by Kims, these North Korean Kims seem to be letting the side down somewhat.

The juxtaposition of these two quotes helps explain part of the problem:

North Korea warns the world: no change in policy under Kim Jong-un

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results”

February 13, 2009

Chris Devonshire-Ellis is a top bloke

Filed under: asia,blogs,food — Kim @ 5:24 pm

The good old humanaught surprised me the other day by posting about a certain Mr Chris “Devonshire”-Ellis. Check it out.

But I don’t want to talk about the article or any of the claims and counter-claims that pinged around the comments section – until Ryan had to delete them because of threats from the litigious Monsieur Ellis.

No…what I want to say is that Chris Devonshire-Ellis is undoubtedly, and forever, a top bloke in my humble estimation. The reason why I think so is simple. I met him once in a bar in Dalian and he bought me a beer. More precisely he bought me two, and they were both Duvel.

I will forgive him anything after that. I will support him through thick and thin. I will never say a bad word about the man.

I do, however, feel that he probably shot himself in the foot by trying to get rid of online gossip about him. He is a very successful businessman now and has built up a company that is just too strong and established to be shaken by online twittering about him. So why sweat the small stuff?

Also, he reminds me very much in looks and attitude and demeanor of Felix Dennis. Who is another absolutely top bloke who gives away top quality wine at his poetry readings.

How I would love to have a drinking session with those two! Samuel Johnson once said, “let me smile with the wise and eat with the rich” and those are wise words.

So here’s a big “Cheers!” to the swashbucklingly entrepreneurial and magnificently magnanimous Mr CDE! (Mine’s a crate of Duvel.)

January 25, 2009

Wired on House

Filed under: asia,culture,east-west — Kim @ 4:09 pm

My name is Kim and I am an addict.

Over the last 2 months I have been working fairly hard….lots of essays to mark and no days off! Diddums. But I have also become an addict. After a hard day’s work followed by a couple of hours playing with baby, tickling the missus, etc etc, I somehow found the time to work my way through all 5 seasons of The Wire and the first 3 seasons of House.

All of which led to lack of sleep, irritability, dyskinesia, loss of concentration, pulmonary edemas and vasculitis…no it can’t be vasculitis, there’s no temperature.

DVD box sets can be the saviour of some expats. We need a prolonged dose of fantasy/western culture delivered in English to get us through the “bad China days” and keep our mental health.

Movies are OK and have their time and place, but they don’t really do it for the authentic addict. I need to spend long long hours with these people to get to feel at home with them. I need to watch them talking about lots of different topics, fighting their case over more than a few issues, eating various types of food, interacting with multiple people, and tested by a myriad circumstances before I can know them well. I need to make friends with my box set characters and making friends takes time.

It’s also nice to get to know a new city. David Simon, the brains behind The Wire once said in an interview about the show that “My favorite character would be the city of Baltimore, god bless her.” Now, I have never been (and seriously doubt I will ever go) to Baltimore but The Wire has helped me see the place’s soul a little. The camera went all around the city and into people’s homes and hearts and minds. Baltimore is a beautiful fucked-up place and The Wire is a wonderful show.

But it’s not all about the soulful stuff. I get kicks out of simply watching somewhere which is not China and seeing westerners doing familiar things. It must be something about having lived in Asia for a long time that makes it so deeply satisfying just to watch Doctor House eating a Reuben sandwich. I am not American and have never even had a Reuben sandwich….but still, it feels comfy.

And I need the English too. Living in China, I occasionally crave an infusion of English the way I used to crave crack cocaine back in the bad old days. Dr House and his medical pals give me a huge hit of medical jargon, and The Wire had me saying “alright” in Ballmer-ese (aaah eye-t) and learning sum street slang like hoppers and shorties and re-ups.

Getting hooked to a TV series is like gorging on a long novel. Part of it is the power of the art to pull you into the story and make you care about the characters, and part of it is about escapism, and some of it is because you feel you are learning something as you watch. House is obviously appealing to the amateur Doctor inside all of us, but The Wire can make you feel like you know a bit about the druggy subculture of the Baltimore streets and the life of a Police in a big bad American city.

For an English expat in China, getting lost in an American TV series makes the escapism part kind of sweet and sour. I am “escaping” from China into a “home culture” that is not my home and is not somewhere I particularly want to live. Actually, I have never been to America but in many ways I know that life there would feel familiar. Asia does not do cynicism, irony, individualism and immorality (immorality on TV that is) to the extent that the west does.

And now I’ve finished my feasting, what is there to say? Well, there are a couple of coincidences that recently occurred to me and the first of these is that in both The Wire and House the central character is an intelligent, unconventional, and stubborn American male; acted by an Englishman. I think it’s fairly well known that Greg House is the well known English actor Hugh Laurie, but it’s also true that Detective Jimmy McNulty is a rather less well known Englishman called Dominic West. Both do a nice job with their accents.

I hereby resist the urge to indulge in snarky comments about how Americans need to hire Brits in order to come across as intelligent.

The other rather more meaty thing the two shows have in common is that they both have drugs at their core. This is not a weak pun on medicinal drugs vs recreational drugs but what I mean is that Dr House is by far the most important character in the show and he is hooked on Vicodin, and the whole of The Wire revolves around the Baltimore drug trade.

Americans, it seems, cannot bear too much reality. What I mean is that Americans don’t like being straight and sober very much, and so be it booze or coke or Vicodin they want to use and abuse some substances to soften the blow of life in modern America. The question is: why? And the answer is because they aren’t high on nationalism like the Chinese or high on religion like the Iranians. Drugs and drink are filling the meaning-shaped hole in the post-modern western soul. Discuss.

So this is my America of the last two months: fiercely competitive, drug-riddled, gun-ridden, crime-ravaged, riven by race and poverty…and completely absorbing.

Thank God for Obama! He’ll make it all better. Oh no, wait! He’s a smoker, so we can’t trust him either. Damn.

Next box set please! (Any recommendations?)

PS. Happy Chinese New Year. MOOOO!

October 15, 2008

A young Asian hero is something to be

Filed under: asia,culture,east-west,teaching — Kim @ 1:23 pm

With thanks and doffed cap to John Lennon, the following is a not entirely fair, not entirely untrue take on my experiences of the Japanese, Thai, Chinese, and Korean education systems.

As soon as you’re born they make your world small
By feeding you country instead of it all
And you need to get outside to see it at all
A young Asian hero is something to be
A young Asian hero is something to be

You’ll get spoiled at home and then stifled at school
They love you to pass tests and swallow their drool
Till you’re so used to follow you follow the rule
A young Asian hero is something to be
A young Asian hero is something to be

When they’ve bullied and cowed you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to slave at a career
And you don’t try to object because of your fear
A young Asian hero is something to be
A young Asian hero is something to be

Keep you doped with the papers and crap on TV,
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free,
But you’re still cannon fodder from what I can see,
A young Asian hero is something to be
A young Asian hero is something to be

There’s room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the fools on the hill
A young Asian hero is something to be
A young Asian hero is something to be
A young Asian hero is something to be
A young Asian hero is something to be

If you want to be happy, don’t listen to me
If you want to be happy, don’t listen to me.

September 9, 2008

Rich man’s club

Filed under: asia,culture,politics,Thailand — Kim @ 4:00 pm

Recently there have been some street scuffles in Bangkok between pro and anti-government protestors. The anti-government posse is called Pad and according to the Guardian:

The People’s Alliance for Democracy (Pad) is a collection of rightwing activists, business people and former army chiefs…The movement wants to replace the country’s electoral democracy with a system that would be dominated by appointees from the bureaucracy and the military. It claims the country’s rural majority is not sophisticated enough to choose good public servants.

Bloody peasants keep on voting for the wrong party! Suggestion:Why not switch to the Chinese system?

Anyway, during the street fights one of the pro-government peasants, a 55 year old man, was killed. He was beaten to death with golf clubs. Apparently, golf clubs are “the weapon of choice” for the Pad and this speaks volumes. Golf encapsulates very aptly the gap between the prosperous, leisured, often right-wing urbanites, and the great unwashed of the countryside. What…those Lao bumpkins have the temerity to vote for a party we don’t like? Let’s batter them with golf clubs.

I’ve nothing against the game of golf of course, just what it has come to stand for. Most “golfers” are not really that interested in golf and are arrogant cocks, and the golf courses themselves gobble up water at an alarming rate.

I say ban it! Anyone who disagrees gets pummeled with a pool cue.