Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Essex-Jiangsu Festival 2008-2009

Did you know that the English county of Essex (whose women have the butt of some rather crude jokes in years gone by) is twinned with Jiangsu province in China?

To celebrate 20 years of this relationship, a big cultural festival is taking place in Essex between July 2008 and March 2009. Described as 'the biggest international arts festival Essex has ever enjoyed' it will include a variety of cultural shows and events all the way from Jiangsu.

To find out more, check out the official website.

I like the idea of twinned towns and cultural exchange although I'm not sure what forms of Essex culture are going to be showcased back in China.

I wonder if this means that there are a whole bunch of Jiangsu jokes out there? Then again, perhaps we shouldn't go there!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Re-education, China-style

After China's Olympic dream, a dose of reality...

I found this interesting report from about China's policy of 're-education through labour'.

Criticized by some both inside and outside China, the system allows detention without criminal charges for up to four years and is often used against local dissidents who wish to do nothing more sinister than stage a protest.

The Slate article begins with the case of Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying, two women in their 70s sentenced to year of re-education through labour because they wanted to complain about the amount of compensation they were offered for being forced to move as a result of local re-development works.

The emphasis in re-education-through-labor is on the labor: People sentenced to so-called laojiao may spend as much as 12 to 14 hours a day, according to some accounts, doing work like construction, making bricks, or mining. (U.S. Customs investigations have also implicated Chinese prison labor in the production of binder clips and diesel engines.)

That work serves as both a means of punishment and as a major source of revenue for a camp.

Full story:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Presenting EO2 and 'Ladies Night'

What can I say? Don't all rush to the stage at once, ladies!

This HK boy band is called EO2 and you find out more about them on their official website.

What now for Halifax star Thomas Yau?

It seems like Thomas Yau hasn't been off our TV screens since Halifax starting using him in their 'Something Good' TV ads.

But with news that the bank is to be swallowed up by Lloyds TSB, where does that leave the nation's favourite spiky-haired, singing bbc bank employee?

I know a lot of Thomas's fans have been to this blog. If anyone out there knows him, it would be great to hear how he's doing!

Related: Thomas Yau, star of new Halifax commercial.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chinatown to get £2million revamp

Photo: Wikipedia

The Evening Standard reports that London's Chinatown is to receive funding from Westminster Council to make the area more authentically Chinese.

The money will be spent on a number of improvements including the building of a wooden pagoda and the re-opening of a dedicated Tube exit from Leicester Square station.

The move is in stark contrast to the alleged plans to demolish the stone 'leung ting' shelter that sparked the 'Save Chinatown' Campaign back in 2004.

Key recommendations include:

• Basing future building projects on the principles of feng shui, an ancient system of design principles which claims to enhance health, wealth and positive energy.

• The reopening of Leicester Square Tube station's entrance of Little Newport Street and Charing Cross Road, which will give Chinatown its own dedicated Tube entrance. The entrance has been closed since 1978.

• The creation of nine dragons, replicating the carvings which adorn Beijing's Beihai Park and believed to be symbols of cosmic energy. These will help define the entrances to Chinatown.

• A new timber pagoda open to the public in Newport Place.

• Monthly craft markets showcasing the best in Chinese products.

• Gold lanterns to light the streets.

Full story: This is London

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Does China need to improve its Olympics medals table position? (Yes, I'm serious!)

By now we all know that China claimed the top spot of the Beijing 2008 medals table with a massive total of 51 golds.

OK, the USA disputes who the 'top nation' is; They prefer to count the total number of medals won rather than just golds. Surprise, surprise this puts the USA at the top of the table.

I'm sure they will argue that one for years to come but for me, the medals table gets a lot more interesting once you start taking into account the total population of each country competing.

Looking at the figures this way gives you a statistic of 'one gold medal for every _____ people' and it could be argued that the lower this figure is, the more of an achievement it is for that country.

A full medals table compiled using this method can be seen here:

As you can see the nation that tops the table is now Jamaica with one gold medal for every 452,333 people.

Australia, in 7th place, finishes above Britain (the country viewed as its Olympic rival) in this table.

Great Britain is 15th (one gold per 3,052,632 people) and China... well, China languishes way down the table in 47th place with a statistic of one gold medal per 25,991,431 people!

The question, then, is China's medal tally less of an achievement when viewed in this context? Or is it just the final total that matters?

I'm sure there will be differing views but personally I think it's an interesting, alternative view of the medals table. At least it gives Jamaica some recognition for achieving what it did whilst having a relatively tiny population.

At the end of the day, does it actually matter which country comes top of the table? This is a very interesting observation from Guardian blogger Andy Bull in his article "Why medal tables have nothing do with the Olympic spirit":

"The Olympic Charter ... bears increasingly little resemblance to the reality of the event. That does not mean that the charter is worthless. The values it defines are still worthy of aspiring to.

Article six reads: "The Olympics are competitions between athletes in individual or team events, not between countries."

Of all the sentiments enshrined in the charter, this is by far the most abused."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ah, those inscrutable Thais. Eh?

A moment of Asian fear and paranoia from elderly soap actress Wendy Richards who makes a classic 'they're all the same to me' observation about Kathreya, a contestant on UK reality show Big Brother.

I wouldn't say it was an outright racist comment but it certainly showed the kind of over-generalization that is all to common when Asian people are discussed.

Chinese, Japanese whatever, eh?

I've been following Big Brother and it's been disheartening to see Kathreya's popularity gradually fade over the weeks although I accept some of her traits can be annoying. What I still find weird is how many viewers seem to believe her persona is fake. She's always seemed like a totally genuine - if over-the-top - person to me. Here's a clip of her being not very inscrutable at all: