Wednesday, April 25, 2007

His name is Gok and, ladies, he might change your life.

Stereotypical bbc jobs? What stereotypical bbc jobs?

I mentioned a few bbc/British Chinese celebs in an earlier post and what with Dr. Rob Yeung having his on BBC TV series on careers and confidence, there is a growing pantheon of individuals who are disproving the old bbc stereotypes on our screens these days.

The latest addition is Gok Wan, a bbc fashion guru from Leicester who's TV show (and book) is entitled 'How to Look Good Naked'. He was doing a book signing in London today, an advertisement for which prompted me to post this.

Gok's speciality is taking women who dislike their bodies and building up their confidence using fashion and style tips. At the end of his coaching sessions, his subjects pose nude to demonstrate their new found confidence.

UPDATE: Gok Wan's TV show begins on Channel 4 on May 1st, 8pm

Read about Gok and hear an interview with him here.

After some Googling, here's a post about Gok from a blogger friend of his.

And finally, Gok's book is out now.

Spot the difference: Maths test in China vs. England

This article from the BBC website made me chuckle.

The first question is aimed at pre-entry university applicants in China.

The second question is aimed at 1st year students already at university in England.

Now, I'm not a maths whizz by any means (perhaps because I went through the English school system rather than China's?) but the difference between the two tests is surprising. So much so that it has raised concerns that English standards are not high enough.

If you can solve the Chinese test question, a £500 prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry is on offer (and perhaps a place at a Chinese university, I presume?).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

bbcs on the BBC: 'Chinese in Britain' (Radio 4, Mon April 30th, 3:45pm)

A new radio series charting the early history of the British Chinese community begins on Radio 4 on April 30th. Presented by Anna Chen, the series will cover a variety of topics, some familiar, some less so, as you can tell from the programme titles:

1. The First Chinese VIPs
2. The Creation of Chinatown: the myth and the reality
3. From Ship to Shore: experiences of Chinese seamen in Britain
4. Steam and Starch: life in a Chinese laundry
5. Educated in Britain : the history of Chinese students
6. Feet unbound: pioneering Chinese women in Britain
7. Mixed Blessings: growing up half Chinese
8. Artistic Pursuits: stepping out on Britain ’s cultural landscape
9. Screen Beginnings: the first British Chinese screen actors
10. Peking Duck… and Chips: early Chinese restaurants

The shows are on at 3:45 in the afternoon which means a lot of people won't be able to listen, but they should ber available on the BBC website after they've been broadcast. I'll update with links as I find them.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cho Seung-Hui an untreated autistic?

The UK's Daily Mirror reports that Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui was diagnosed as autistic at an early age but his parent did not have "the time or money" to get him specialist help.

Yang-Sun [sister of Cho's grandfather] revealed the eight-year-old was diagnosed as autistic soon after his family emigrated to the US.

She said: "He was very quiet and only followed his mother and father around and when others called his name he just answered yes or no but never showed any feelings or motions.

"We started to worry that he was autistic - that was the big concern of his mother. He was even a loner as a child.

"Soon after they got to America his mother was so worried about his inability to talk she took him to hospital and he was diagnosed as autistic."

It wouldn't surprise me if, in a Chinese or Asian family, a mental problem was brushed under the carpet or not given much attention as these things are often not taken seriously. Meanwhile, the Cho family have made a moving statement about the Virginia shootings and how they are trying to cope in its aftermath.

The family of Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho told The Associated Press on Friday that they feel "hopeless, helpless and lost," and "never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence." "He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare," said a statement issued by Cho's sister, Sun-Kyung Cho, on the family's behalf.

"Our family is so very sorry for my brother's unspeakable actions. It is a terrible tragedy for all of us," said Sun-Kyung Cho, a 2004 Princeton University graduate who works as a contractor for a State Department office that oversees American aid for Iraq.

"We pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief. And we pray for those who were injured and for those whose lives are changed forever because of what they witnessed and experienced," she said. "Each of these people had so much love, talent and gifts to offer, and their lives were cut short by a horrible and senseless act."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

'Quiet' South Korean student kills his way into history.

"Oh, great," I thought as it began to emerge that the person responsible for the bloodiest mass shooting in modern American history was Asian. His face will be on every newspaper tomorrow morning, accompanied by lurid, terrifying headlines. He will quite likely be the most famous yellow person in the world - at least for a short while - and it will be for the most vile and tragic reasons.

My sympathies are with the victims' families (and I include the shooter Cho Seung-Hui's own family - who knows what they must be going through right now) but I can't help feeling embarrassed that an Asian person has found global fame for the worst possible reasons. Luckily, the effect on people's perceptions of Chinese people here in Britain will be minimal because our media here has so many positive images of Chinese and Asian people to balance it out, doesn't it? Perhaps not.

Will there be a backlash in the States? Time will tell but I'm interested to hear how Virginia Tech's 1600+ Asian students feel in the aftermath of the shooting.

As a sidenote, it was also interesting to see how UK media handled the news that the shooter was 'Asian'. Over here, that word has been partially 'claimed' by the Indian and Pakistani community and sometimes excludes Chinese or Far Eastern people. To start with, all the UK news channels fell right into line with America and referred to the suspect as Asian, conveniently forgetting that the term is used in a completely different way here. Suddenly it was okay to call us Asian. But then it all got too confusing and some reports started calling the suspect 'Chinese' which is actually less accurate because Cho Seung-Hui was South Korean.

Now that the incident has passed hopefully some measures can be taken not just to increase the security of students but also to help combat the alienation and rage that causes individuals to commit such acts.

Someone ought to tell America that angry, young loners and easily available guns are a very bad combination.

Monday, April 16, 2007

'Ghosts' (More4, Tuesday April 17th, 9:45pm)

I first wrote about 'Ghosts', the Nick Broomfield drama based on Morcambe Bay tragedy, back in January.

If you missed it at the cinema, More4 are showing it on Tuesday night. Full details on the Channel 4 website here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

MC Jin tells it like it is, ABC style

Jin is a noted freestyle American rapper , winner of numerous rap contests and perhaps the only Asian person to have made a name for themselves in the American rap/hip hop scene.

His new album is called ABC and is his first all Cantonese release. With track titles like 'Speak Can't Read' and '1997' it looks like bbcs will easily relate to the kinds of topics Jin raps about. And isn't it great to hear someone rapping in Cantonese and not sounding incredibly naff (yes, Cantopop stars who rap, I'm talking about you)?

If the first single (video below) is anything to go by, it should be worth checking out. Jin's new website is here (click on 'Launch Site' see see the latest news)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Architects' concept for 人-shaped building

Spotted this cool design concept on

It's purely an idea at this stage but you have to admit it would be one cool-looking building! The Ren building - it's proposed - would house a hotel, conference and sports centre and would form a part of Shanghai's World Expo 2010.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

'Mission Implausible' Treasure Hunt-style event

Some details of a bbc charity fundraising event I got in my inbox.

More details on the 'British Chinese Society' homepage here:

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Chinese folk religion

As it's Easter time I thought I'd post something on the topic of religion and bbcs.

"Are your parents religious?" is a question I've been asked a couple of times by non-Chinese people who are unsure what religion Chinese people actually follow.

Well, my parents (like those of many bbcs) are believers in what I've just discovered is termed 'Chinese folk religion'. It's a mixture of ancient myths and ancestor worship and takes in all those beliefs and customs that bbcs will be familiar with, from astrology to 'Fook, Look, Sau' to 'bai neen' ceremonies.

The worshiping of ancestors is a major part of Chinese folk religion - Your parents may even have a shrine in your home to your grandparents. I think ancestor worship, whilst it seems outdated and bizarre can provide believers with the peace of mind that comes from a belief in the afterlife (common to most religions) and can be a humbling influence too (i.e. we are not more important than our predecessors). The downside is that it can encourage the belief that our lives are more determined by mystical outside forces than our own thoughts and actions.

Traditional folk religion is losing some ground to Christianity in Hong Kong. Some say it is because it is simply a more attractive and more 'modern' faith that appeals to young people but I've also heard it said that people just like that the fact that it is easier to follow with less ceremonial duties and complicated, archane customs. For bbcs, though, many of our parents brought folk religion over with them and will more than likely continue to follow it.

It's often said that there is nothing wrong with religion, it's organized religion that seems to create so much strife and conflict in the world. If that's the case then Chinese folk religion might be a better way to go! It's far from organized and has no powerful church watching over its believers. It's quite a personal faith and does not encourage evangelism or conversion. Now why can't all religions be like that?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

From Potter to Popworld...The bbcs are coming!

OK maybe that's slightly over-dramatic but we are currently in a period when bbcs or British Chinese people are getting quite a bit of media attention.

Are we finally reaching the tipping point where Chinese and Asian faces can be seen in other situations besides adverts for noodles and martial arts parodies?

U.S. magazine Entertainment Weekly recently showcased the stars of the next Harry Potter movie including, of course, Katie Leung as Cho Chang. Katie has gone from total obscurity to playing a key character in one of the biggest movie franchises in history. Not bad when you consider the usual role for bbc actors is 'waiter #1' or 'bloke in the background in the Queen Vic'.

The new movie will apparently give her a larger part than her brief introduction in the last 'Potter'. Did you ever think you'd see a day when a bbc would have fansites on the internet? Well here are three of Katie's:

Hitting cinema screens right now is Danny Boyle's Sunshine, featuring (besides Michelle Yeoh) Benedict Wong. Benedict has already been in numerous productions and is a more established actor (I thought he was really good in the British film Dirty Pretty Things). Again, the characters he plays are much more than the usual stereotypes and his profile as an emerging British actor is growing.

And finally, a bbc celeb getting a lot of attention at the moment is model and TV presenter Alexa Chung (in fact she was interviewed in the Metro newspaper this morning).

Technically I believe she is only a quarter Chinese as she had a Eurasian father but hey, a glamourous presenter fronting a pop show who has the surname Chung? Who'd have thought it?

Does any of this matter? I think so. It's always good to see people of your own race in the media - it breaks down barriers and makes the media feel more inclusive. This is especially true when it comes to young bbcs growing up here. Even something as seemingly trivial as having a cool TV presenter with a Chinese surname can make a difference, I believe.

Other races are already well represented in the media so what Katie, Benedict and co. are doing is nothing new - it's just that we are finally starting to catch up. So here's to more bbcs on our screens.

Has Hong Kong changed for better or worse since 1997?


The 10 year anniversary of the handover is fast approaching. That's ten years out of the fifty that Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy without any major changes enforced by China. So, is it a case of "so far so good?"

Despite the 50 year pledge, China does of course influence Hong Kong politics in a way it never used to with regards to its endorsement of candidates. But at the same time, the handover has, I think, pushed democracy and civil liberties right to the forefront of Hong Kong political life and in people's minds. That's got to be a good thing.

I always hoped that in the post-1997 years, China might change more to become like Hong Kong, rather than vice versa. I'm hoping that between now and 2047, democracy not only fully takes root in HK, but starts to make inroads into China.

In this article, the Times' Gerard Baker assesses how Hong Kong has fared since June 30th, 1997.

Hong Kong had a disastrous few years straight after 1997: financial crisis; a property crash; severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and political crises. It seemed to superstitious locals as though some evil feng shui had unleashed a dragon to devour the place.But it is back now, perhaps stronger than ever.

You can be cynical about this success. China has wisely decided it doesn’t want to kill the goose that lays its golden eggs of international finance. Journalists rightly worry about self-censorship by media owners eager to mollify Beijing. But China is changing too, not just in its economic character. It is quite feasible now that at the end of the 50-year period China will have moved much closer to Hong Kong’s system than Hong Kong will have shifted to China’s.