The Beijing Youth Daily introduces Chinese kids to serious world news via it’s new supplement Current Affairs Magic Mirror, which markets itself like this:
Dull current events × Magic = Beautiful fairy tales
Obscure international situations × Magic = Interesting cartoons
Unfamiliar world figures × Magic = Wildly interesting animated images
Wholly enigmatic changes × Magic = Virtual online literature
Well it wouldn’t have stopped me from watching Top of the Pops. Danwei takes up the story:
A column with the same title used to run twice a month in Beijing Children's Weekly, a newspaper published by the Beijing Youth Daily. Appearing opposite the "Young Pioneers" page, it offered a look at international affairs geared toward schoolchildren - short, punchy articles accompanied by colorful drawings. The promos for the new format, however, have been nothing short of bizarre. Take "The King of Terrorists' Four Ways to Die" for example:
Maskhadov--an unfamiliar name, perhaps? In Russia, whoever hears this name will be too afraid to sleep! This man is a ferocious terrorist. He engineered the shocking hostage crises at a Moscow theater and at the Beslan school, in which hundreds of innocent citizens lost their lives during the terror. Not long ago, this King of Terror was killed. But how was he killed? There are in fact four separate tales.
The ad goes on to promise cartoon drawings of the four possible ways Maskhadov died.
I seem to recall that Maskhadov was killed by being reduced to a grease spot after a direct hit by a missile from a Russian fighter, which honed in on the signal from his mobile phone. I’d like to see the Hello Kitty version of that.
Oh, why do they hate us. Sniffle. Much handwringing from Anne Applebaum, including this:
After all, pro–Americans will vote for pro–American politicians, who sometimes win, even in Europe. They can exert pressure on their governments to support U.S. foreign policy. They will also purchase American products, make deals with American companies, vacation in the United States, and watch American movies.
There always seems to be the same problem with these kind of articles. They assume that people are enthralled by the United States, one way or another .Well, my guess is that very few people anywhere make a decision to view a movie based on their opinion of the foreign policy of the government of its place of origin, that they’ll take whatever business opportunities seem to them to offer the most profit and buy anything that takes their fancy, wherever it happens to come from. Viewed in these terms, people are always going to be “anti-American” because realistically they can never be pro-American enough – unless you think that it’s a realistic goal for even the most banal consumer purchases to be regarded as a kind of referendum on its place of origin.
As for voting, in Britain at least it has always been the case that approval of the United States has been regarded as a benchmark of political seriousness, something which the Blairoids took to previously undreamed of lengths.
Tony Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, told Britain's incoming ambassador to the US to "get up the arse of the White House and stay there," according to the now-retired ambassador, Sir Christopher Meyer's forthcoming memoirs.
In which posture we went to Iraq. I think a lot of people would prefer slightly less intimacy than this. That's not anti-Americanism. It's just where reflexive philo-Americanism gets you.
The other night one of the neighbours fell over in her front yard. Nothing unusual there, except that she was sober and 96. This latter factor indicated that she wasn’t going to get up in a hurry so somebody went to call for an ambulance while a few of us stood around more or less uselessly on the grounds that you can’t just leave an old woman who’s taken a header on to the patio lying there on her own.
Actually, you can, at least if you’re the NHS. We were told that an ambulance would take “up to sixty minutes” to arrive. How the hell did they work that out? Were they short of crews? We’d got a collapsed biddy on our hands.
Nope. It’s just the latest little gift to the ambulance-needing public from the ever-grinding mills of public sector reform. These days, at least around here, you phone for an ambulance and get a questionnaire. The person who takes your call launches into a list of possible symptoms and checks off each as you say yes or no. These are then totted up into a formula which in turn allocates you an ambulance slot.
Fair enough, right? Not exactly. First off, it meant that at the first point of contact with the NHS you were treated like someone applying for a loan from one of those companies that advertise on cable TV. More importantly it meant that an elderly lady who turned out to have both a broken thighbone and a broken arm had to lie around in a concrete yard for - as it turned out – 35 minutes before an ambulance rolled up. Meanwhile, the rest of us waited around to see whether she would go into shock and one of us would have to go and do another survey.
And thirdly, it doesn’t work. If we’d had the wit to say she was suffering from chest pains there’d have been a wagon around the corner in a couple of minutes. Everything stops for chest pains, apparently. This is great if you’re having a heart attack. It’s also great if you’ve got a bad case of indigestion. It’s straight to casualty with you, perhaps catching a glimpse of collapsed old ladies waving feebly as the sirens blare.
Of course, the advantage of this system is that it makes it easier to measure outputs, in this case response times. And being measurable they can also be managed. And at the end of the year, some junior minister can flourish the accumulated figures that prove things are getting better in the NHS. The irony here being that it’s the things done to ensure that these figures are collated that convince people that things are going very badly wrong.
As to old Bella, I don’t think the suits will finish her off. She’s a tough old bird who never seems to sleep and lives off one of those bizarre old lady diets, in her case prunes and ham sandwiches. Sometimes she’d catch me leaving the house and shout “Alex!”
“That’s my stepson. I’m Jamie.”
“That’s right Alex. Can you gerruz a Warburton’s medium sliced when you go to the shop?”
William Donaldson, who died on June 22 aged 70, was described by Kenneth Tynan as "an old Wykehamist who ended up as a moderately successful Chelsea pimp", which was true, though he was also a failed theatrical impresario, a crack-smoking serial adulterer and a writer of autobiographical novels; but it was under the nom de plume Henry Root that he became best known.
The only thing that sounds like more fun than writing obituaries for the Telegraph is probably leading the kind of life that gets you an obituary in the Telegraph.
Alex the Yorkshire ranter thinks the ID Card Bill is doomed, and detects a cycle at work:
I wonder what will happen when the ID Cards Bill falls? After all, as I've said before and been proved right on, we are going to win. My bet would be that, in three or four years' time, the Home Office will bring the bugger back, or one of its many stealth versions, like the national database of children. This is a key feature of the Home Office. It has about three ideas, which appear in rotation. These are: Prison for everyone, compulsory boils for asylum seekers (or whatever), and ID cards. As far as I can see, defeat does not change them at all; they just shift on to the next stereotype. When ID cards fail, there will be a new assault on asylum seekers (hell, they are already happy to send people back to Zimbabwe), and when the limits are reached they will start bingeing on incarceration again. Once the prisons are jammed beyond capacity, the Treasury will call a halt and there will be a period of purging, before the next cycle begins with the ID Cards (2010) Bill.
Sounds about right. Now, the ID Card Bill’s problems stem from the fact that it’s an ill-conceived, incoherent, expensive project, destructive of personal liberty and contaminated by special interest lobbying, and designed to solve a problem set that’s either entirely inappropriate or not especially bad and whose nature tends to change according to the evolving requirements of the solution dreamed up for it. I am so looking forward to the details of Mr Tony’s plans for reform of the EU.
Also: the folks at Harry’s Place come out for wild justice. I don’t see anything odd about this. Heavily armed men pursuing their objectives by the use or threat of extreme violence have been the main beneficiaries of the invasion of Iraq. Finding some you feel an affinity with makes a certain kind of sense. The logical state building outcome of that approach is an “ordered society which exists in the shadow of the hangman”, to paraphrase, and the US already has a man who knows how to create such a state on hand and available for consultancy.
As one of a flurry of articles published in the anti-drug spirit, yesterday's Legal Mirror reported on an immense drug bust that took place in January. Police in Wuhan arrested a man responsible for the sale of 38 tons of......caffeine. This brings closure to a massive caffeine-trafficking case from 2002, in which police in Heilongjiang Province seized 16.5 tons but failed to nab the ringleader.
Back in the glory days of pacific century hype I once proposed an article saying that the preference of Asian kids for stimulant of various kinds showed how the rising generation of eager young munchkins from the Pacific rim were going to dominate the world economy while dope addled occidentals responded by pointing at the telly and going hurrrhurrrr. Our only hope would be to immediately abolish the welfare state and feed laptops to the poor. If that kind of reasoning doesn’t get you a place at the Economist, what does?
The Chinese were well-prepared. Armed with paper cutouts of their relatives' feet, they leaped from their coaches and headed straight for the racks of shoes at the Clarks shop. "It was a bit of a frenzy," said a staff member at Bicester Village, a collection of factory outlets near Oxford visited by a group of 2,000 Chinese salespeople this month. They bought up to six pairs of shoes each and the queue stretched out of the door.
Damn right. Clark’s shoes are less of a fashion and more of a mania in China. Mainlanders I knew studying or working over here would be constantly pestered to get hold of them and send them home. Any style would do, provided they were Clark’s. It’s not so much that they’re status goods – though they are – but they seem to symbolize lasting prosperity. I have arrived. I have comfy shoes. They’ll never take my comfy shoes away from me. Anyway, enough shopping. Let’s go and see the big stupid clock.
According to one current Chinese-language guidebook to Britain, Trafalgar Square, Karl Marx's grave and the British Museum are among the highlights. Westminster's Big Ben clock - Da Ben Zhong in Chinese, which translated directly means "big stupid clock" - is also praised. "The most precise time-teller in the UK! Although it did break twice."
It didn’t get much coverage in the UK - other than a gripping segment on Channel 4 News, I'm told - but 12 days ago the Washington Post released a video of an assault by a gang of thugs on a group of Chinese peasants resisting the expropriation of their land for an industrial plant. The reporter who helped smuggle out the vcd showing the incident later wrote up his field notes, which were then translated:
The villagers said that they were asleep at 430am. Suddenly, they heard the sound of footsteps and shouting. When they got up to look, they saw several hundred young men wearing combat camouflages and safety helmets charging towards them. The intruders killed one person first with a gunshot. The others then began slashing away with hook knives that were two to three meters long. The villagers used hovels and spades to fight back. But since their weapons were shorter, they said that they could only run away while the pursuers chased them and continued to hack at them.