Saturday, 19 December 2009

Report Cards

I teach English at the local Normal University. The students are very young, between five and nine years old, which is new for me. I have never taught anyone younger than around 14, and the average age of my students when I was in Manchester was probably around mid-forties.

I haven’t enjoyed teaching children as much as I had always thought. With age and language as a barrier, it become infinitely harder to form any kind of personal relationship with them, to care about their lives, their families etc, which was what I loved about this profession. They aren’t yet fuelled with the passionate hormones of adolescence or the weathered wisdom of old age. They’re like half baked people; they have their own personalities and quirks, which are lovely, but there is nothing past that first layer.

This may make me sound cold and heartless, “children bore me”, and I always thought I would be good with kids; but having to be up-beat all the time whilst somehow trying to explain the present continuous to a five-year-old can be immensely exhausting. I miss the banter and the teasing that can happen when teaching older kids or adults. I have a new-found respect for primary school teachers.

At the end of every lesson I have to write a short comment on the students’ performances. It’s not expected to be in too much depth, it usually reads something like;

“Emily continues to have one of the highest reading levels in the class but still needs to look over grammar regularly. Keep up the good work!” – Mr. John

By the way, the students and parents all refer to me as Mr. John. Jazza provokes pronunciation problems in a variety of languages, and insisting on being called Mr. McMillan-Clenaghan would just be cruel to anyone, let alone five-year-old Chinese children. So we settled with Mr. John.

The parents are expected to read this report and take on any advice that I give them. Few of the parents, however, speak very good English. I thus decided to have a little fun with these report cards – shrouding them in metaphor, idioms and various other poetic devices. Yes, yes, maybe this is the cold, heartless Jazza rearing his head again. But, you know what, bugger it and screw your judgement that I am feeling through the computer screen right now.

Here are some of the reports I have sent home:

“Ringo may have entered into the class late but he is already become a dark horse of the competition. If he bears his current course steadily and is able to soar over the various hurdles that the English language throws at him he will most definitely continue to float my boat and ace whatever test I desire to launch in his direction. Keep up the good work!”

“Anna is like a hawk stalking her prey when it comes to her grasp of the passive voice. She has not quite tasted the sweet flesh of this grammatical structure yet, but so long as she keeps her eyes on the goal, not wavering for a second (be sure to practice for at least an hour a day at home) in no time at all she will soar to great heights. She continues to be one of the best students in the class. Keep up the good work!”

“It is as if Emily has the many arms of an octopus when one considers her amazing ability throughout her language learning. Her grammar is flawless, her pronunciation faultless and she is quite simple lovely to boot. I am confident that the fate of Nemo, getting lost, will not befall her and that she will become queen of the great sea that is the English language. Keep up the good work!”

Reading some of these back, I even struggle to remember what the hell I was going on about.

I would like to stress that I only do these elaborate report cards every so often, generally when I have nothing constructive to say apart from, “Keep up the good work!” I am sure that, when I do write like this, I do it in my most illegible teachers’ scrawl.

I am in Nanjing for Christmas, which is going to be a strange but interesting affair. Maybe I will take some pictures. God knows this blog needs some pictures.

Monday, 14 December 2009

blown up in my birthday suit

My Sunday morning started rather peculiarly. I was half way through soaping up in the shower when what appeared to be an air-raid siren sounded, rather loudly, across the city. Needless to say I was a little bit taken aback by this phenomenon, never having been in an air-raid before or, in fact, any other kind of situation that has needed an alarm other than a fire drill. I scanned my brain for some useful information; had anyone at work or Uni told me that there would be a city-wide fire-alarm today? Did someone fail to inform me that Nanjing gets earthquakes? Had someone declared war? Had an atomic bomb dropped? Was I going to be blasted to oblivion in my birthday suite and covered in Head and Shoulders?

In the end none of these happened. In 1937 the Japanese invaded the then capital of the Chinese republic, Nanjing. In the following six weeks a slaughter ensued which some estimate left over 300, 000 people dead, tens of thousands of women raped and a city in ruin. This incident is one of the forgotten war crimes of World War II, in the vast majority of the west at least, and was named the Rape of Nanjing. Those sirens that I heard were the same sirens used to warn the citizens of Nanjing of the coming of Japanese bombers during the weeks and months before they finally entered the walls of the city. The event still has resonance in eastern Asia today, especially concerning relations between Japan, who still refuse to accept full responsibility for what happened, and the Chinese. Anyone who is even vaguely interested in this should read the Iris Chang book, The Rape of Nanking (Nanking being the then Romanised name of the city).

On an ever so slightly lighter note, I have exams this week, which is why this blog, as well as JiC and RWO, have been neglected in the past few weeks. My days have consisted of spending hours in what we call ‘the Korean room’ (due to the fact that Koreans are probably the most studious nationality on the face of the planet) and drinking copious amounts of coffee. I had my first one today; God only knows how it went, it was one of those exams where luck plays an important part. I am planning on pulling something close to an all-nighter tonight, or at least until the unholy hours of the morning. I have pretty much sorted out my grammar for reading tomorrow, but vocabulary seems to never find a cosy little corner of my brain in which to nestle, it keeps getting kicked out my random facts about the Pokémon: Johto television series. Damn my wasted youth!

Less has also been written in this blog because I have started a written diary as well, with pages and ink and stuff. It makes me feel really intellectual and has become a major way for me to vent and talk to myself… as if I needed yet another medium in which to indulge my emo tendencies.

I also failed to mention on anywhere other than Twitter that I went to Hong Kong last week with Johnny and Emma. You can read about bits of it here. I had a lovely time, the break that I needed from the squat toilets, constant spitting and lack of Christmas songs on the main-land. Emma also rarely gets up before midday, so I was able to get at least a bit of revision done for this week.

I will let you know how things go… maybe. I have many videos to shoot and edit when I finish if you care.

I am now off to watch some of the weekend’s X-Factor (Stacey should have won) and then start my revision binge. I bid ye good night.


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Proficiency Plummeting Profoundly

I just got my computer back and working after literally DAYS without it. It was horrible. I hope you can empathise. This of course now means that my productivity in anything non-computer based, like reading and generally learning stuff, will plummet profoundly.

I was taken to the technology district of Nanjing to go and try and find out what was wrong with the bloody thing by two of my flatmates. They happen to both be gay and make a wonderful couple. This also apparently seemed to give them licence to, pretty much constantly, compliment me and talk about me. I was told I had a great figure, that my skin was so lovely and white, my eyes so wonderfully blue, t’was lovely to receive such praise… but what the hell can you say to that? Fanx lol!

It turns out the fuse in my plug had blown and run out of battery. Therefore, seeing as the retailer I asked had no new plugs of the British disposition, I had to buy a Chinese lead. I groaned at the prospect, expecting the price to be extortionate, it turned out to be 10RMB, the equivalent of £1. I love China!

I am also overly excited about the fact I now have a Chinese plug on the end of my computer. I feel like a local, no longer burdened by the need of chunky adaptors – so liberating!

A part of me is a little annoyed though. I was all set out for a prolonged laptop-fast. I would have been able to read books, study hard for the exams (which are now less than a month away by the way!) and write in my diary (as in a real book, with pages and inks and stuff – not a website), which I have now started updating properly.

But alas! What do I do as soon as I get the VPN on my computer working again? Twitter, YouTube, Facebook; all typed in and loaded in quick succession. When I have a computer with an Internet connection in front of me it’s like dangling heroin in front of a recovering addict.

I am worried a little about how connected I am to the Internet and therefore the rest f the world here. I suppose I would have to be plonked in the middle of the Sahara to get away from it now-a-days, but then there would inevitably be some catacomb with a WiFi terminal.

How much can I really get involved and immersed in China when I have the BBC and Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance but a click away?

In other news I am a little frustrated with my Chinese right now. I have just got back from boxing, something I am so glad I took up. At the end of the session I was sitting there, all topless and sweaty and the like, when this guy with whom I have spared with in the past, Song, came up to start a conversation.

I understood absolutely nothing apart from the fact he was talking about my membership card. I then tried to steer the conversation towards something closer to my level of understanding, asking him how old he was and what job he did. His age I comprehended with ease (he is 26) but all I got from asking his profession was that its second character was “术” (shu)…

I just looked it up on and it turns out he works in technology… I have so many questions now! What kind of technology (技术)? Do you work with computers? If I have problems with my computer, could you possibly pop over, figure out that my laptop has run out of battery and then proceed to laugh at me?

As it stands, I had no idea what “术” meant, so the conversation simply petered out into awkward silence. I think he then mumbled something about needing the toilet – I put some clothes on and then left.

It’s so bloody frustrating! I have quite a good reading level in Chinese, along with my writing, and my listening, despite the complication with Song, isn’t horrific. But I just can’t bloody communicate! This is the first time in my language learning history that my speaking has been so bad in comparison with my other disciplines. Oral has always been my forte!

It is I suppose, so much in this country, very humbling.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

On the Nation's Dartboard

The British media have been going potty this week about The Sun Newspaper’s personal attack on Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In short; a woman whose son died in Afghanistan received a hand-written letter from Mr. Brown offering his condolences. She, however, notices that her family name is spelt wrong and that the letter is peppered with mistakes. She decides to take this story to The Sun, who recently decided to withdraw their support of the Labour party, and a week-long offensive on Gordon ensues. The tabloid threw various allegations at him; that he didn’t care about troops and that his letter was an insult, as well as claiming an ‘i’ without a dot in it is an offence to anyone who reads it.

All I can say is that it’s a good job I have never had to write a letter of condolence; I haven’t dotted an ‘i’ since year six!

The Prime Minister then called the woman in question to apologise personally. Apparently, a friend of hers suggested that she recorded the conversation and the whole world got to hear her chat with Gordon. Clearly still stricken with grief she laid into him – it was quite frankly gut-retching to listen to.

She has since accepted Mr. Brown’s apology.

From what I can see from my distant perch in China, this story seems to have back-fired on The Sun. They have certainly come in for a lot of criticism from other media giants and I am personally bloody disgusted with their behaviour. It seems clear to me that the paper has capitalised on a poor woman’s grief for their own political agenda and unfairly attacked a man for sincerely trying to offer his support in a personal, hand-penned letter. Brown himself has deteriorating sight, so it is possible he has not read the woman’s name correctly. Someone probably should have also checked his penmanship before it was sent off, but he decided to sit down and write a letter, not run off another pre-typed one and simply sign the bottom of it.

Okay, The Sun have a go at the PM and Gordon looks a little sad again. But I think this attack has other repercussions.

Since the expenses scandal there has been a massive outcry for a new attitude in politics; for a new outlook, for new blood. What young person is going to even consider going into politics when they see national newspapers beating our leaders to a pulp. Of course our representatives in parliament should be subject to criticism on their policies and to a certain extent their personal lives. But the manner in which The Sun quite frankly bullied Gordon this week is enough to dissuade anyone from a life in the political spotlight.

Politics is something I am interested in, I may even decide to make it a career one day, but this story made me second guess. Haters in YouTube video comments are one thing, they’re a piece of piss to deal with. But in politics all you need is one newspaper to decide to rip you to shreds and no matter how pure your intentions you can have the whole country hating you. I believe Gordon is a genuinely nice guy, who went into politics for the right reasons, but he is the most hated leader in a generation.

Who is going to want to get into this profession and make a difference to the political classes, to deliver the reform that is needed, if they are just going to be reduced to a picture on the nation’s dartboard?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

"G" words and "N" Words

Remember in the last post I mentioned the “blacking up” scandal with Vogue? Well I have decided to dust off my notes and talk about it. Premise of the story is quite simply; Dutch model wears black make-up in October’s Vogue Magazine - a lot of people get angry.

A quite similar but at the same time all together different story is that of
the contestants on an Australian TV s
how, Hey Hey It’s Saturday.
Premise being; Jackson 5 tribute act appear on stage with all members apart from Michael Jackson wearing black face makeup and afro wigs – a guest judge (an American) throws a hissy-fit, a lot of people get angry.

I was talking about this with a couple of Australian friends about a week ago. We talked about the fact that there is often a (jovial) stereotype of Australians having a tendency of being a little bit more racist than other nationalities; not in an offensive manner, but similar to the way the British moan about the French.
They mentioned how there just isn’t the same turbulent history in Australia when it comes to race if compared to places like Europe and especially the U.S. They boasted that, with innocent light-heartedness, they could happily bring up someone’s race as a point of humour without anyone being offended. They used words like, “gollywog” as a point of reference.

When I heard gollywog said aloud, I genuinely recoiled back into my chair out of shock. For anyone outside the Commonwealth and is confused as to why this word made me react like this, here is a short explanation courtesy of Wikipedia. Basically, I would never even think out using that word, and would always associate it with the offensive manner with which it was used for such a long time. Thinking about it, I could probably count the number of times I have heard it said aloud on one hand.
The same goes for the “N” word. A word I am apparently so uncomfortable with I can’t bring myself to type it.

All that said, and even considering the strength with which I believe that using terminology like this should be avoided at all costs, part of me greatly envies my Australian friends. Why am I scared of a couple of words? Why can I not just accept difference of race as a fact and be comfortable talking and even making jokes about it? Neither I nor even my parents are directly connected to the history that has tainted those words. The fact I have a problem with them almost seems to insinuate that I myself could still not be over the fact that, yes, some of us are paler than others.
Is Australian society just that much further down the road of recovery than the rest of the word when it comes to getting over that gaping hole in history where your place in the world was determined by the amount of melanin in your skin?

Would the Vogue incident have been as controversial if it were a black model being portrayed as white? I don’t think so. But then the modelling industry has a long history of discrimination of black models, and there was never a “whiting up” equivalent of minstrel shows.

But how long will we, as a global society, let history force us to tip toe around the colour of people’s skin?

If reading this blog made you feel a little bit uncomfortable, then ask yourself why. I have felt prodigiously awkward writing it, and I am finding it very hard to pinpoint the reason.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Finding Something Shiny

Anyone who is subscribed to this blog will know the sporadic manner with which I update. That said, I do feel I have to apologise. I have had wistful thoughts of being the next Charlie Brooker or Caitlin Moran; my judgemental fingers quivering upon the pulse of the British nation, my opinion that more objective for being in China. Covering stories like the “blacking up” scandal seen in Vogue a week or so ago, the new wave of young sailors taking to the high seas to traverse the world and my generation’s apparent addiction to the Interwebz have genuinely been considered as blog topics.

This happens so often; I have the whole piece virtually written in my head. Then, alas, I find something shiny, like Nick and Norah’s Infinate Playlist streamed on some site, and all hope of writing anything is subsequently lost.

It is a frightfully sad thought, but if I were to be paid for this then I would probably be more motivated. I would sit down in the trendy café, in a manner very similar to my current one, and type away about the wonders of democracy, the struggles of the third world and how much we all hate Jan Moir.

I have, however, yet to receive the traffic or demonstrate the reliability of someone worthy of being paid for something like this. Woe. Is. Me.

I have been thinking about the future a lot. I know! How very un-Buddhist of me; I should be living in the moment and all that, like Jonny Wilkinson, but it’s been fun sort-of-not-really planning my future.

The more I think about it the less I can see myself moving to China and working here after I graduate. From people I have talked to this seems to be the only real option for graduates of Chinese and, quite frankly, I don’t like it.

I don’t know what this says about me, but I think the fact I am so away from YouTube and the “community” when I am here has a big thing to do with it. I feel like I was doing so much with rhymingwithoranges when I was back home: the charity work, Summer in the City, working on lots of different projects, and all of a sudden they have all been put on hold.

I feel like I could still have something of a YouTube franchise here. There are some fantastic video shows here; Sexy Beijing, Danwei, that I feel I could find a niche somewhere. I have been thinking that, when my Chinese gets better, I could start doing interviews with some interesting people here. I already have a couple in mind.

But then, I don’t know, I feel like it would be miniscule in terms of what I could do back home.

Maybe I’m not looking at the big picture enough. Am I really going to be on YouTube for the rest of my life? Am I going to be able to make a living from it? ‘Cuz, let’s be honest, I’m no viral sensation.

Also, if I choose to focus on YouTube I will, inevitably, end up falling into some kind of media. I have always kind of been wary of choosing journalism as my profession. No offence to any journalists who happen to read this blog, but I have always thought that that job tends to be full of talkers, not doers. I want to be a doer, can I be one if I choose this direction? I mean, it’s all very well promoting debate etc etc, but most of the time I feel like I’m preaching to the converted. I don’t want to be a preacher either.

I also have to consider what I am going to do after summer 2011, when I graduate and am set loose into the real world. Should I do a Master’s? If I do, what should I do? Where should I go? It’s a scary proposition.

At this point in the blog I think I would usually be expected to wrap up with some kind of conclusion and evaluate what I have learnt through this train-of-thought journey. But honestly, I‘ve got nothing.

Ooh! V V Brown’s album on Spotify! Shiny.

Monday, 12 October 2009


I have just been pining to write today, so I skipped the second half of my morning lessons today to come back home, strip down to my boxers (it is still quite warm) and type you something.

Last night I, despite having had no more than six hours sleep in the past three days, went out with some of my new multi-cultural pals. Inevitably, as we are all language students, we got onto the topic of language learning and more specifically our accents. I continue to cause a stir with my reserved English tones, constantly contrasted with those of our American friends. A large majority of those on the table, including a Frenchman, one girl from Sweden and one from the Philippines, all said they wished they spoke English with a ‘British’ accent.

I chose to not be my usual, pernickety self and avoided asking which ‘British’ accent they wanted. I would usually run off the absurd number of different forms of annunciation packed into a country not that much bigger than the state of New York; Scouse, Jordi, Cockney, Brum, RP 等等. To be honest it has simply become a way for me to show off a bit, “Look how many accents I can do!” Foreigners don’t need to know my Liverpudlian is in fact probably closer to Irish, and my attempt at Scottish sounds suspiciously similar to French.

I especially turned to the French guy, asked him, “Why?” English sounds wonderful in the thick French accent that tumbles out of his mouth, and after all, why would you want to disguise where you are from? Are you not proud of being French?

I realise in retrospect this was a some-what lame and ridiculous argument. I was clearly just playing devil’s advocate for the sake of it – I blame my tired self. I have a tendency of just go looking for confrontation when I haven’t had my beauty sleep.

Now I think of when I speak my languages. The only one that I speak well enough, in which I can be considered to have anything other than an English accent, is my Spanish: laced with Catalan inflections from years of working there every summer. I am clearly not trying to fit in; ever tried to pass as a Spaniard when you have pale skin, blue eyes and wear nothing but Topman? It rarely works. But the way I speak tells a story; it carries the residue of everyone I have ever spoken to and has evolved because of the very human desire to fit in.

My own English accent has always kind of bothered me, purely because of its schizophrenic nature. Over here I speak a fairly standard form of English, not quite RP but not quite Cockney. It is the accent American will try (oh so hard!) to imitate. I basically have a very androgynous accent when I go abroad, I sound like I am another generic Londoner. This annoys me greatly; I am an Essex Boy and proud.

When I am back home, however, the way I speak wobbles all over the place. My parents are from other sides of the country; my Father from Essex, in the east and my Mother from Bristol, in the west-country. My tongue can never decide which it wants to be; Bristolian or Estuary English. It has always made me question how genuine the way I speak is and have never been sure if I have been subconsciously forcing it (paradox?). I remember times at YouTube gatherings when my accent has been all over the place, because of the mix of people there and their ways of speaking just screw with my brain.

But I guess the way I speak will always change, whether I am at home or abroad. I will flit between the London accent, impossible to place, the country-bumpkin Bristolian or the Essex Boy who greets everyone with, “’Ello sweetheart!” or, “y’aright mate.” Part of me wishes my brain would just make up its mind! But I guess as long as people here continue to tell me my accent is ‘cool’, I suppose I can’t complain.


Thursday, 8 October 2009

Full of Melodrama

Well, it’s been a long time.

China decided to crush even the smallest hint of internet freedom over the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of Communist rule, meaning my apparent internet presence has been reduced to zero. Unfortunately normality was not restored after the celebrations as I had hoped, so alas; my life continues with a gaping wound where Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and BlogSpot used to reside. I have not, however, been as absent as I may seem. I am able to read all comments on both rhymingwithoranges and JazzainChina videos and get any Facebook messages emailed directly to me. So I have been aware of goings on, just unable to join in. It’s almost as if I’m a kid off school because he is sick, able to see the kids playing in the playground from my window but cut off from the outside world…

Now that’s melodrama if I’ve ever seen it. (In retrospect this melodrama continues…)

If I am one hundred per cent honest I am still having a rocky experience in China-land. Over the holiday I got pretty close to a nervous breakdown, was seriously considering dropping out and coming back to England, maybe taking up Japanese Studies instead.

Money has been one of the main burdens. I believe this transition would have been made much easier if my debit card were never stolen. The bank have insisted in sorting everything out through the post, I can’t tell them what to do with my money through email which, to be honest, is probably 100 times easier than China post anyway. I have been lucky in that so many of my friends have offered to lend me money – I am incredibly blessed.

Another issue has been the Chinese language itself. Needless to say, it is a challenging language. I feel like I am on a plateau at the moment and that that plateau isn’t very high up the mountain range at all. It is rare for me to get into any conversation more complicated than, “Where are you from?” “How long have you been studying Chinese?” “Do you like Chinese food?” I appreciate this is a stage one reaches when learning any language, I just haven’t experienced it for a long time. I suppose I got too comfortable being the guy who was good at languages. I suppose it’s good to be out of that comfort zone. Oh, and by the way, I moved back down to the B group of classes, but a higher one than the one before. I am much more content there, it’s for the best.

Finally, and probably most importantly, I have found myself becoming more and more disillusioned with China. I have been questioning why I chose this language, this culture, this people. When we did our cruise down the Yangtze I saw a China I was less than impressed with. Wonderful monasteries and temples turned into garish tourist attractions and ways to make a quick buck. There was one temple that even had a ghost train built into it – not a word of a lie. But the Chinese people seem to lap this up. They will readily buy the tat, take a picture of themselves making a peace sign next to the painting or relic, then move swiftly on as the tour guide tells them through the megaphone about the statue that was erected in 1994. This has probably got a lot to do with the people who we were touring with, I realise that there are swathes of people who love and appreciate their country’s culture; but I begin to fear that they are few and far between.

China is what I am going to make it. If I find myself struggling with the language, I need to find myself a language partner or do volunteer some shifts in the hostel a friend of mine runs. If I am having issues with money I can swallow my pride, take up my friends’ offers, borrow money and pay them back when I can. If I feel disillusioned about the Chinese people, the Chinese culture, then I go out and find the parts of China that I fell in love with in the first place. To be honest I have forgotten why I chose this subject in particular in the first place. I can have fun rediscovering the reason. I am lucky enough to know enough Chinese people that can help me with this – my flatmates for one.

I am a tough cookie, it’s a family trait. I am more than capable of getting through this, making the experience my own and growing because of it. I have various methods of keeping me sane. One is BBCiPlayer. Radio four is my saviour; the home of Women’s hour (don’t judge), The News Quiz, Just a Minute, From Our Own Correspondent and Chain Reaction to name but a few (speaking of which, someone should turn the concept of Chain Reaction into a YouTube channel). Along with various Guardian podcasts they make me feel like my damp country is just outside my room.

Spot has also dragged me up by my garters. Boxing, and soon swimming (oh how I have missed it) are like meditation for me. There is also a triathlon that I am planning on taking part in later this month; I really should start training for that. For me sport is the best way to relax, and maybe even pick up some new vocabulary… however useless in day to day life. 拳套!

I have some awesome friends as well, both here and scattered across the globe who have been quite simply delightful. If you have sent me the smallest message on Facebook, send a pointless email or even said, “Hi” to me on Skype to just be swiftly ignored (I rarely log out so get a lot of missed messages), then thank you.

This post has quite frankly been more for me than you, but kudos if you read all 1000ish words up to this point. Blogging is a wonderful form of therapy and I promise you my experiences here have by no means been as grim as I seem to make out. If you want to see happy, check out - for some reason I can only ever write when I am angsty.

As ever, thank you for reading. I am now going to listen to desert Island discs with Ellen MacArthur.


Sunday, 20 September 2009

Editing for Universal Consumption

I don’t think I am going to talk specifically about China here. If you want updates on my time in China I have set up a YouTube channel here.

I am getting to meet a lot of new people of all different hues whilst I am here. Being in an international department this is, I suppose, to be expected. I am making a conscious decision to try and avoid the British people (there are over twenty students from Sheffield University here and four of us from Manchester,) although I am conscious it is wonderful to have them as a fall back if I ever get sick of being the only Brit in the class. It is one of the hand-full of reasons I decided to move from the middle ranging B group; where all the Brits are, to the more challenging A group. I didn’t come half way across the world to blend in.

It’s wonderful. An Aussie girl and I are often told we have the same accent (really?) and I have been grilled about the Empire and the fact Pakistan was created by me and is therefore my fault; it’s good banter. Mary Poppins’ chimney sweep-like accents also seem to follow me wherever I go in the world.

“’Ello Guvna!”

Culture clashes do seem to be frequent though. An American from my class recounted an awkward moment when he was having a conversation with a German guy and a Polish girl. He was describing a night out where he had consumed a few too many alcoholic beverages, describing himself as, “Blitzed!” There was an awkward pause after which the German chuckled, “Haha, very funny joke.” Bless the three of them.

I myself am having a culture clash of my own. A close friend of mine from Manchester who is also studying here (read her blog here) has been very on the ball and bagged herself a man with outstanding efficiency. The two are an adorable couple, he being from Wisconsin and her from Durham; the two have their fair share of misunderstandings. I like the guy very much and regularly try out morsels of British wit on him…

People who know me well will be familiar with the fact that I will take the piss out of you, more or less constantly, if I like you and I believe you have the balls to handle it. I enjoy a to-and-fro of casual insults; it’s a way of getting to know people as well as their humour and is fantastic at demolishing any kind of bravado, pretensions or awkwardness.

I have come to the conclusion that this too, along with the Empire and ‘Chim-chiminey’, is a very British characteristic. So much so, that it has been suggested by Miss Durham that Mr Wisconsin may not be too keen on it.

Initially my thoughts have been, “Man up, strap on a pair.” But then I remember that the rest of the world does not function along the same social guidelines as The United Kingdom of Great Britain Land. I am also, frightfully British. I need to carry Earl Grey around with me whenever I know there won’t be a Tesco near-by – and let’s just say I am grateful to the fact that all British newspapers, as well as the BBC, are 100% free and available on the Interweb. Imagine having to use CCTV, CNN or even Fox for my periodical news nourishment, perish the thought!

However, there is a whole world out there that doesn’t read The Times every weekday except for a Tuesday (when The Guardian has a simply wonderful education supplement). Maybe, for both me and Mr Wisconsin, I should tone down the tsunami of sarcasm and banter that seems to erupt from my mouth every time I meet someone new.

I’m not changing, oh no, I am simply editing myself for universal consumption. After all, I still have the Brits to crawl back to every time I need someone to have a friendly, if heated, discussion with.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Rolling on...

Right, I’m finally here; I am finally no longer panicking about moving to China for the next year, I am finally not stressing about what to remember, what to pack, what to leave. I am finally just happy that I am going, that I have this opportunity.

I was scared the world would move on without me – nearly to the point that I thought I would come home next year and I would literally be replaced by an upgrade of me – just as political but with twice the cool. I then realised no one could equal me on cool. (jksloljks)

The last twenty four or so hours have been insane. So many texts, messages and general love coming my way – it has been inevitable that I have unintentionally not replied to peoples’ attempts at contacting me. If you are one of these people I apologise but I hope you will understand the intensity of the past week or so.

Summer in the City, the UK YouTube community’s baby, was last weekend. I helped organise, I had an amazing time, I welled up on the train home. I couldn’t have asked for a better (unofficial) send off. I loved every second; the selling, whether it were the publications (mine and Paul’s baby) or the musicians’ merch. or Johnny’s Tees on the Saturday night. It was an awesome way to meet new people – just wandering round the gathering and chatting to people as I convinced them their lives would not be complete without The SitC Pub/ Dave’s new album/ Johnny’s Dead Blob Tee etc.

One of the fantastic things about the weekend was the fact people from all over the planet came. We knew we had marketed it like that; as a global gathering, but I don’t think any of us organisers would actually let ourselves believe that anything like the number of foreigners would make the journey. Americans, Dutch, Belgians, Australians, French, German and for some reason an awful lot of Canadians came. We were this little cultural melting pot in the middle of London – it was just mind-blowing.

And the gig at the Luminaire: it was quite simply delightful. I had a massive grin on my face for the whole evening. I nearly cried when I saw Mhazz play her set – bearing in mind I have known her for close to two years, back when she was writing songs about me, Alex and Liam – I saw her as a grown up woman for a first time that night and it was wonderful. I have a habit of subconsciously adopting my friends, so I feel almost parental pride when they outdo themselves – it’s silly but contributed to a lot of the warm fuzzy feeling that night.

When Dave performed I sat on the stage and just swayed and sang – then panicked at his last song and ran to re-open the shop to sell all his wares. Tom and Greg weren’t too shabby either.

We are already looking towards SitC 2010, the Facebook group is up and it will be even bigger and better. I think this is why I was so freaked out about leaving for Nanjing – leaving all these prospects, so much stuff is happening now in my world. I am missing out on the RNLI project, SitC 2010 as well as other things. It’s a shame.

But then who the hell gets to go, study and live in China? I am blessed, whether it’s by Allah, God, Buddha or Lady Luck – roll on Nanjing, roll on China. I will speak to you guys soon.

- 杰仁

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Climate Camp

I went to Climate Camp today, the beginnings of it anyway. I wrote this about it; it's a bit more jounalisty than what I am used to posting on here, but I still hope you enjoy it.

Climate Camp 2009 started at twelve, noon with six locations throughout London, revealed through text to people that had signed up to the event on the website. We started our journey outside the Bank of England where tattooed and dread-locked individuals mingled with the suited bankers of the city. Orange shirted stewards gave out leaflets on how to deal with police searches whilst journalists clicked away with their cameras and tried desperately to find out who the person in the highest authority was so they could interview them. The atmosphere was relaxed but with an air of apprehension about how events would pan out for the rest of the day; people swapping stories about which clause they were stopped under during the G8 protests and debating whether kettling would be used again at this demonstration.

After an hour of hanging about and a couple of awkward but essentially harmless encounters with Bobbies on the Beat, our leaders informed us that we would be taking the DLR towards the Cutty Sark. Our group weaved its way out of the city towards Greenwich – journalists ever present, close to outnumbering the activists.

We reached the common at the top of the hill, the towers of the city still menacingly close; a banner declaring, “Capitalism is Crisis” flying defiantly below them.

Tepees are being erected around us, the bold amongst the protestors climbing their peaks and waving at passersby and the patrolling police. There are certainly hopes that the police will learn from their mistakes during the G8 and give the campaigners the chance to express themselves freely, but each person we have spoken to remains wary.

Regardless, spirits are high with workshops and lectures planned throughout the duration of the camp making this more than just a chance to wave a few banners and grumble about the police. The happy campers will be able to learn how to reduce their carbon footprint; attending workshops on how to build wind turbines and compost waste, as well as ways to deal with the media and the police.

The high flyers in their dockland apartments overlooking the camp will no doubt be tutting to themselves and rolling their eyes at the campers’ naive attempt to change the world. But these activists mean business – and with compost toilets and copious amounts of vegan sausages, anything is possible.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Low

Mum says I’m in a mood today. She is joking that it’s because it’s my brother’s birthday (Happy Birthday Zach!) and I’m jealous of the attention he is getting. Maybe it is the jealous little 10 year old in me rearing his blonde head, but I reckon it’s withdrawal symptoms of StickAid on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

I didn’t take part in the whole 24 hours but the period of time that I was there was so intense – I suppose it’s natural to be on a low afterwards.

We were raising money for Unicef, for some of the highlights then click here.

I was going to try and write something today, but failed miserably – it was going to be something about how my views on things are ever changing. I started to write it and, unsurprisingly, I was sounding like a bit of a moron.

I have become very unreliable when it comes to this blog even though writing has gone from something that I feared and despised in school to an art for that I genuinely enjoy partaking in. Flowery language and I have become the best of friends. But then I am conscious that if I do not practice, in the form of using the blog regularly, then I am not going to get better.

I am having the same problem with my languages. I really need to brush up on my Chinese, especially because I am going to be going there on the 3rd of September and will be tested and put in an appropriate class almost immediately. Maybe it is something about staying at my parents’ house. I seem to just stop whenever I come back here – too many distractions, too many people.

Summer in the City is in just under two weeks. I am more excited about this than anything else this summer, and is going to be a great send off only a few days before I leave for China. If you follow my Twitter then you will know I have been working on a short publication with Paul to accompany the gathering that will be on sale throughout the weekend. Have a quick butcher’s at the wonderful cover art that Paul made here.

So, I suppose after all I did manage to write something today – who knows if I will end up being able to do the NHS commentary I promised in my last video, we will see.

I hope your summer (or winter for all you southern hemispherians) is going swimmingly.


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Making Money

People around me are starting to make money. YouTube, after sometimes years of toiling, is finally paying off dividends for a number of my friends on the site. Albums are being released, companies and partnerships being forged, deals being signed; it’s all very exciting.

My family is dominated by Thatcherite, Essex-boys; which basically mean they all like making money. My Uncle is chest deep in the stock market, my Grandad owned his own business until he sold it for an astronomical sum when he retired, my Dad has had a string of projects in the security and safety industry and my brother is constantly thinking of ways to make an extra penny or two (his current venture is washing cars).

As per usual, I often relish being the controversial seat at my family’s dinner table. Probably because I enjoy the romanticism of the idea, I have always stood by the statement that “I don’t like making money.” In a sense this is true; the money world occupied by the men in my family scares the shit out of me and I am wonderfully stubborn about working because I enjoy my work rather than working for the size of the cheque at the end of each month. Although I appreciate this was a very naïve viewpoint, I stand by the fact I could never work in an office, nine to five. However, seeing my friends starting to make money… has made me think the money making itself isn’t so bad.

The money my Dad earned when I was growing up came from a job he was not passionate about, I am not sure how much one can get into selling fire alarms, so I suppose I associated money with boredom, offices and suites. But the money I am seeing friends of mine interact with is the opposite spectrum of that. It is exciting, creative and something they can get excited about ( adverts may be the exception here).

I suppose the point is, maybe I too can earn money from this creativity malarkey. I have never really seen things like BlogTV, YouTube and this Blog, as well as articles and things I do with other sites and companies, as a money making opportunity. Maybe I should start to.

I am, however, sceptical as to my ability to do so. I occupy a very specific niche on YouTube and across the internet: political and social commentary. The sad truth is, debates (apart from presidential ones) do not have a tendency to rake in the views as, say, a purple man or hot new jeans. In fact, although my subscriber count is over 10k now, I rarely get over 5k hits on my videos – this does not bare well for my adsense, a system based on views.

When I was in New York, Tessa, a very good friend, mentioned that she could see me making some money from what I do. This perked me up. I am very proud of what I do across the internet, but I do hope that in the future I can make some money and maybe earn a living from what I do. I guess it’s different for someone making music or videos targeted at a viral market, so I shouldn’t compare myself to them.

I do, however, hope I can be included in this revolution that seems to be happening.

Thursday, 16 July 2009


So, I shook Anderson Cooper's hand yesterday... sorry to go on about it, but I a still having to remind myself that it was real. I think he is a fantastic reporter, especially the way he entered the business, and I also admire him because he has managed to make it in a business full of words while at the same time having dyslexia; shows there may hope for me if I ultimately decide to go into journalism.

So yeah, yesterday was kinda a big deal.

It happened because one of my friends is doing a short internship at CNN in New York City. Her name is Asia (like the continent) and is like my own personal YouTube whorer. Whenever she introduces me to someone I am always announces as the guy on YouTube with hundreds of thousands of hits... all I can say is that she needs to take a look at some of my friends if she wants to see people with ridiculous amounts of hits.

Anyway, she is kind of intent on me applying for an internship at CNN, she has apparently been talking to the people she has been working with (I was told my several people that they had heard a lot about me) and it looks like I might apply. We had a tour of the studios, watched AC360 live and even got roped into doing some work. It was all kinds of awesome.

I do feel kind of guilty for leaving Todd (who is sitting next to me right now) and Johnny for a while but I will give them both love and attention all day long today.

Oh, by the way, if you havn't tagged on yet, I'm in New York City.

In other news I have decided to go through rhymingwithoranges and private all of my non-Debate vlogs. I want the channel to appear more streamlined and professional. This comes after I talked with a guy who is trying to pitch me a kind-of-a-big-deal interview and said that personal side of the channel might hinder me. I can understand that.

I will definately still make vlogs, but if I post them on RWO I would private them after a while. I am still toying with the possibility of starting a secondary channel for bog standard vlogs. God knows most people are subscribed for the debate anyway.

Okay, I need to start thinking about breakfast: a meal that I genuinely believe the Americans have got so wrong. I mean, pancakes and bacon? Really? And don't even get me started on waffels.

All the best.

Monday, 13 July 2009

I've Fooled You All!

Last week were the last of my English classes. I had an awesome time working at WaiYin. The people I worked with and my students were great fun and hard workers; I will miss them all greatly.

This could be seen as my first job really, I have done part time bar work before but this is the first time I have genuinely felt like part of an organisation.
Funnily enough, as I was leaving my last class on Friday, signing out in the book and saying goodbye to everyone, my strongest feeling was to get out of there as quickly as possible.
It sounds horrible, and is quite hard to explain, but my mind was almost screaming;

"Haha! I have fooled you all for I am not a real teacher at all! I am Jazza, The Magnificent, and you all just got conned!"

I still don't feel like a real teacher. To me I am still just the kid that gesticulates too much and dances round the classroom like a madman. If it weren't for my students telling me that they liked my lessons (and even started a petition at one point demanding the organisation give me a full time position) then I would be very confused as to whether I was doing a good job or not.

I think, and hope, that I feel like this because I love this type of work so much, and it feels like I have conned them into giving me money through me just having fun. I always say that I may not always teach, I would like to do more in my life, but if I were 'stuck' in this job my whole life I would be perfectly content.

I guess I need to count my blessings. The vast majority of people go through life having no idea what makes them happy and what they would be happy doing with their fleeting time on this earth. At the age of 20 I have found mine.

At least I think I have. *touch wood*

Monday, 29 June 2009

Validating one's Opinion

I have had a very good weekend; two Nunes - Holden gigs in as many days, a Nerdfighter gathering in London, a scavenger hunt which my team won (Maureen Johnson still owes us all a prize. I refuse to buy anything she has written until I see some kind of proof that I... I mean we, pwned all) topped off with about 6 hours sleep over three days equates to the kind of YouTube weekend I haven't had in a very long time. Good times.

I uploaded a video, classic rhymingwithoranges' style, talking about whether drug use should be considered an illness rather than a crime following the comments of a UN official on the subject.

In the video I hinted towards my view that drug use should be legalised. I was not wrong to say this but I should have explained my opinion more clearly and so have had a large amount of comments saying the same thing. Something I always try and avoid. I also used a statistic and didn't explain very well what I was using it for, so all in all not the best video I have ever made on my channel but not so terrible that I have had to private it. I've had to do that before when I have got figures wrong and not researched the topic enough, but all this is a learning process.

In my debate videos is is quite rare for a large number of my viewers disagree with me. My audience tends to be quite liberal thinking and so will quite often agree with what I say in the video.

I was therefore taken aback when, for the first time in ages, so many, maybe even over half, of the people commenting on my video said things along the lines of, "Jazza, I usually agree with you, but not this time..." etc. etc.

I did a have a short panic. "Oh my God! People who watch me don't agree with every word I say! Whatever shall I do!?" I eventually calmed down and got over myself.

This is why I started doing these videos on RWO; for the debate and so that people from all over the world and all sorts of backgrounds could come together, disagree, explain why, and subsequently agree to disagree. So it's been good for me to get out of this rut of everyone agreeing with me and remind me what the real world is like.

I can't remember where I heard this, but I remember someone important once saying that our opinions are bullshit until we can back them up and still believe in them after debating with someone of the opposite view point. I think that is important to remember. Anyone can say they believe in something, say that something is true with unwavering confidence; but it is through debate, dialogue and conversation that our opinions gain validity.

Keep Safe
- Jazza

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Qué Sera Sera

For the first half of this week I have been in Bristol. Although I was born and brought up in Essex, a large proportion of my family live here as this is where my maternal family reside. I always fall more and more in love with this city the longer I spend here and am seriously considering moving here in the future. The down side, if I spend any period of time over a day here I always pick up the west country twang; my accent is currently somewhere between farmer and sheep shagger status.

At the moment I am, amongst other things, eating copious amounts of pasta salad, leeching off Prêt a Manger’s internet connection and being genuinely moved by the courage and persistence of the Iranian people.

Whether those elections were rigged or not (I personally have my doubts as to whether they were, but that is another story) you have to admire the movement and excitement they are creating.

Last week I entered a competition to appear as the ‘people’s panellist’ on the BBC show, ‘Question Time’. I want this, a lot, and I suppose that is why I am so intensely nervous about it. I was adamant about making my minute long audition video in one take because this is how all the other applicants had approached it, I therefore spent over an hour trying to not stumble over my words or spend too long uming or erring. Scripting it perfectly beforehand took the best part of a few days. I got quite flustered towards the end. It was very frustrating not having my limited editing skills to hide behind.

I eventually got a half decent take done, posted it, and received a wave of lovely comments from people saying that they could think of no one better to take part in the show.

Thank you for that, but…

The truth is I have no idea whether I would be the best person for the job. I, unlike the vast majority of the applicants, do not have a history in debating. I am also not studying politics or a similar subject. Yes, I am keen on my newspapers and current events, but I am nowhere near an expert. These people (the other people who have entered) have decided to spend their further academic career expanding their knowledge on the subject. I read Chinese short stories about lesbians with TB and persist on trying to master the subjective and all of her Spanish forms and applications.

My political vlogs are scripted and I hide behind many takes and the ability to edit and make my arguments look slick. I have no idea how I am going to react to a live situation; thinking on my feet, having my argument directly scrutinised and not having Google to verify my statistics. Making that video was the easy bit; that was my turf, my comfort zone. I believe there is a part of the audition process where the applicants form a panel and debate on various issues amongst themselves. This is where my expertise ends and the majority of the other applicants’ begins.

We will see how I deal with it. I hope more than anything I can do this; I want it a lot and I would like to believe I would do a good job.

(Ready for the horrifically cheesy part of the blog?)

The greatest advice my parents ever gave me comes from a hugely generic song, “Qué sera sera, whatever will be will be.” They wrote that inside my good luck card for when I was due to take the 11 Plus. I failed. But I took from their advice that sometimes things just aren’t meant to be. If I am meant to get on this panel and do well, then it will happen. Nerves are not going to make me any more adapt at occupying the YouTube niche in which I have comfortably resided for some time now.

All I can do now is keep reading papers, keep debating within YouTube or BlogTV, and believe I can do well.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The most viral I have ever been.

A couple of days ago I posted a video about a political Party called the BNP.

I knew what I was getting into when I did so; the BNP have a lot of ‘trolls’ on the interwebs and are quite keen on spamming. I have come across them in the past with other videos where I have mentioned any viewpoint that is vaguely liberal.

This video seems to have done rather well. It got a huge initial response, especially amongst the twitter folk after a lovely man named Charlie insisted on many people re-tweeting a link to the video. It was a buzz seeing page of people linking to my video.

So many of the comments have been incredibly positive, I thank all the lovely people.

I also thank the haters, I have missed them, and haven’t had a wave this big since my last feature. I feel so old referring to the time when YouTube had a user generated front page, those were the good old days. I’m such an old-timer. I have never taken personal attacks… well… personally, and I quite honestly find them funny. The comments that rant about the violence of Islam and how they are going to shoot everyone in a turban (wrong religion mate) are more worrying but you take them with a pinch of salt; the person typing that probably hasn’t left the chair in front of their computer since the 80s.

It is the people who, for want of a better word, make sense; who meld the first two kind of negative comments into a singular form. They can subtly rip my confidence to shreds and at the same time make a plausible argument for their voting of the BNP. I struggle to deal with these comments. I do my best to respond with my wet, liberal counter-arguments but there are just so many.

Dealing with this third breed is something new for me, I have had them in the past, but not in this volume. It is emotionally draining just reading them. Because of this I have decided to take a break from my comments section; something I despise doing. I have often said that the comments are where the magic happens in rhymingwithoranges – my videos are a bit rubbish, I am just repeating the news, but the discussions that happen because of me recounting what is happening in the world are awesome.

With close to 10 000 hits in just over two days, I believe this is the most viral I have ever been without a YouTube feature (again, feeling old). The initial comments from my more regular viewers caused an emotional high, the more recent BNPers, who have dominated the last twelve or so hours of comments, have brought me crashing back down to earth. I can only expect the second half to grow; ratings will drop and wonderful comments will be thumbed down but I guess I have to hold onto is the fact I am putting my voice out there and being heard. That why I do this, that is why I am here.

In the mean time I am just immersing myself in work and Priscilla Ahn. Her music is wonderful, listen to it – it will always make you feel better.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Having All Three

Yesterday marked a month since I last updated this blog. I can do nothing other than apologise. Exams took hold and anyone who has a blog themselves will understand that the longer you leave between posts the harder it is to start again.

But anyways, I am now tied down to very little in the academic sense and will hopefully be posting more on here. Yay for me!

A couple of days ago I went to an exceedingly interesting lecture in Leeds by the fantastic Johnny Cupcakes with my friend JohnnyDurham. He is an entrepreneur who started by selling printed t-shirts out the boot of his car and now runs a multi-million dollar company, basically still just selling t-shirts - using the internet as his main method of selling.

He is a fascinating man and, although he didn't seem too sure exactly how different the UK was to the US (at one point he asked us if we celebrated Christmas here, lulz <3)

I look away a lot from it. Three things struck me from his three hour lecture though. He is very dedicated to his customers and has a very similar relationship with them that many of the big time YouTubers have with their fans. There is a lot of adoration and respect for him and his brand, and he in turn takes the time to talk or email them, or even organise gatherings for them (sound familiar) like the one he is holding in London today.

Secondly his ruthless and determined work ethic. He told a story of when he was starting up a badge making enterprise with a close friend. Everything was great they got a lot of work done and made a reasonable amount of money. His friend then got a girlfriend, and the business went downhill. Johnny’s friend spent all his time with his girlfriend and less and less time with his business partner. The venture eventually crashed.

Johnny then drilled into us the importance of not being in a relationship when starting up a business; that a new business requires too much time and commitment to be committed to a girl or boy at the same time. He mentioned that if you have your fingers in too many pies, one of those pies is going to get a half arsed effort and end up half baked. His view is that you cannot possibly have an academic career, a business venture, romance and time to go out on a Friday night with your mates.

This reminded me of a video Alan uploaded recently, you can watch it here:

It got me thinking about me and whether Johnny is just being bitter about the fact he can’t get a girlfriend or is there some truth in his philosophy and Alan’s poem?

I think of my life. I am very lucky. I have a great group of friends, within YouTube and out, who have done nothing but support me throughout my life.

I have a great academic career, I’m doing well (touch wood) and am also lucky enough to be good at my job as an English teacher. I also have YouTube and now BlogTV which doesn’t get me a lot of money but is a hobby that I have managed to get some kind of monetary gain out of; I like to think I am good at that too.

Then I look at my relationship track record and to be honest my romantic history is less than shiny. I struggle to commit, talk about my feelings, sex still scares the shit out of me at the age of twenty and many a chance to practice. I haven’t had a ‘proper relationship’ since I was 17.

Is this going to bug me and shroud any kind of success I have in the future with an abundance of “what if?”s?

Johnny Cupcakes didn’t seem very happy to me. Yes he has his fans and a fantastic brand and an awful lot of money. But the way he spoke to us, quite honestly, about how he cradled his laptop at night pining for the right girl to come along made me think about my circumstances.

I would like a proper relationship, maybe a family in the future. But what am I going to have to sacrifice?

Am I going to have to sacrifice anything? Can I have all three? A love life, a social life and success?

Friday, 8 May 2009

An Actual Blog

I don't want to just write in this blog when I have something deep and meaningful to say. I want to be able to use this to conical things in the way that blogs do. I have been pretty absent from here as of late which has bothered me because I feel like I was starting to get quite good at this whole typing-how-I-feel malarkey. So here I present to you, a blog.

Johnny and I are going to be going to America, New York in fact, in the middle of this July. I am rather excited. Not least for being able to meet various people like Tessa and Liane (I haven't spoken to either for a while, I hope they are free from the 14th to the 21st of July) but also the fact that we will be, well, in New York. It's where that programme that is always on E4 is set; you know, the one with the friends...

I am slap bang in the middle of exams right now. I have three next week a bit of a break then Catalan, Spanish and Chinese back to back on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of next month; that is going to be SO much fun, reprogramming my brain three days in a row. I feel more confident about exams this time round, I think because I have done very well in course work this semester (I got more than a couple of firsts ^_^) but I am very conscious about not getting to cocky with myself. These exams will be tough and I need to do well to get myself into good classes for when I move to Nanjing.

Speaking of Nanjing I have already found somewhere nice to live. All the people sound awesome and the rent is incredibly cheap, something along the lines of £130/140 per month including Internet and utilities. It's an all Chinese flat who had a student from Manchester Uni staying there this year and wanted another English speaker, which is where I step in. I think I have already accidentally volunteered myself into a cook-off with one of the guys... I seem to do that a lot. Gotta love my ability to turn anything into a competition.

I almost forgot, it is going to be my birthday this next week, exactly a week today now that it has turned midnight. It has sneaked up on me and I don't like it. 20 has no -teen on the end of it and quite frankly it scares the shit out of me. I am exiting the realms of being referred to as 'young' (in my books anyway) I I enjoy being young. I will no doubt get over it. 18 did the same to me.

I will hopefully be at least planning a video tomorrow by the way. The audiovisual-interweb part of my life has been very neglected recently because of school, exams and just a pinch of laziness.

With that I bid you goodnight.

- 杰仁

Thursday, 30 April 2009

A Meme

I don't usually do memes but I liked this one, I nicked the idea of Mr Johnny of Durham.


- Go to Google image search.
- Type in your answer to each question.
- Choose a picture from the first page.
- Use this website ( to make your collage.


1. What is your name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What is your hometown?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. What is your favorite movie?
6. What is your favorite drink?
7. What is your dream vacation?
8. What is your favorite dessert?
9. What is one word to describe yourself?
10. How are you feeling right now?
11. What do you love most in the world?
12. What do you want to be when you grow up?

I just really like my first picture :P

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Bare Mannequins

Part of me feels sorry for the increasing number of bare mannequins in the window of the popular shop, Urban Outfitters.

Then I remembered their clothes are grossly overpriced and they only stock glorified Primark goods that I have never been able to afford.

So quite frankly, serves you right UO!

... but seriously, credit crunch or what?!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Kettle

Here is a poem from the poet John Agard - I love it.

Put the kettle on.

Put the kettle on.

It is the British answer

to Armageddon.

Never mind the taxes rise,

never mind trains are late.

There’s one thing you can be sure of

and that’s the kettle mate!

It’s not whether you lose,

It not whether you win,

It’s whether or not you’ve

plugged the kettle in.

May the kettle ever hiss,

may the kettle ever steam,

it is the engine that drives our nations dream.

Long live the kettle

that rules over us.

May it be lime scale free

and may it never rust.

Sing it on the beaches,

sing it from the house tops;

the sun may set on empire

but the kettle never stops.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Indulging in Dreaming

I stumbled across this article which showed Chinese netizens' reactions to the Britain's Got Talent singing phenomenon Susan Boyle. Here are a few of my favourites:

I do not understand what she is singing but my eyes are moist. I am so touched I am shaking uncontrollably. She is 47-years-old, and she walked onto the stage to sing “I have a dream!” I am 42-years-old. I [now] feel I very much have a future! Thank you SUSAN!

Watching foreign television shows, I have a feeling of truth/real. When can our country’s television shows be true/real?

After listening, I am truly moved. She made me believe that even ordinary people like us can also show our radiance. Suddenly, I feel I too am not that ordinary.

I find it interesting that quite a lot of the press over here, at least a lot that I have read, has been negatively skewed in terms of the voyeurism of the 'reality' TV show genre and disgust at the initial reaction of the audience to Ms. Boyle before she opened up her fantastic pair of lungs, example here.

Then we look at the Chinese comments and all people seem to have is praise and admiration, not just for Susan (I found the first woman's comment particularly moving) but for the reality TV show as we know it.

I'll be honest, I have never been a fan of shows like Dancing on Ice, X-Factor or Britain's Got Talent. I will watch them but I never vote and will not be on tender hooks if I haven't seen it. I, as many other people on our fair isle, have always been kind of disturbed by the fact that people are transfigured into entertainment, their back stories, hope and dreams are all hammed up for our viewing pleasure. I just don't like it.

But then I read these comments from people on the other side of the world drawing so much optimism from this show that gets such a bad wrap over here. People say that The X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent and the fame obsessed society are what is wrong with Britain today - but now I am not so sure.

Britain's Got Talent especially shows people from all walks of life, all kinds of different people of all ages; short, tall, fat and skinny and occasionally those with weird double jointed tendencies - everyone is represented.

If this show gives people in China hope that they can make better people of themselves, that they don't have to be conventionally sexy or young to have success, then maybe we need to have a bit more positivity vis-a-vis this talent show and the quirky contenders in it.

Maybe I don't necessarily agree with the 15-minutes-of-fame-obsessed culture that seems to go hand in hand with this genre of entertainment (to be frank I an sure the 'obsession' with fame has existed long before TV and Britain's Got Talent), but if this programme gives people all over the world 'hope' - which after all is the buzz word of 2009 - then why don't we just brush off our cynical British selves and indulge in a little bit of dreaming?

In other news isn't this purging business causing a stir - here is a blog from Dave, an incredibly intelligent man, that I particularly enjoyed on the subject.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Falling thorugh Time

Chinese has an interesting point of grammar. When we talk about weeks we use 《上》 to talk about the past and 《下》to talk about the future. 上(shang) on its own means up, above or on top of and 下(xia)signifies the opposite. If you, as I, have a strangely visually wired brain then you will probably join me in seeing this quite interesting concept of falling through time; going from 上to 下, up to down. Granted the same cannot be said for when we talk about other periods of time such as days or months, a differing system is used, but I like this imagery so I am going to stick with it.

It was always quite hard for me to grasp, this concept of us moving downwards through time. Maybe it is a western mindset but I always visualised in my head us building upwards through life almost as a kind of construction site and we were all creating our own little sky scrapers which would have occasional bridges across to others’. In my head humanity resembled one big city with lots of high rise buildings and walkways. As I said, I am an overly active visual daydreamer.

I remember that in RE class we often addressed the concept of fate and the amount of choice we have in life and I always struggled to express my viewpoint. Something along the lines of “I think fate does exist but not really because I think we can choose where we go but we still have to follow this path thing but I’m not sure… what are we talking about again?” would regularly exit my mouth. Somehow I managed to scrape an A in my RE GCSE despite my apparent lack of ability of explaining myself. I also earned myself a half decent A in my Maths GCSE. However, I still maintain that I struggle to add together double digit numbers and won’t even touch triple digits with a barge pole – says a lot about the British exam system, no?

Anyways, I be digressin’.

This concept of falling and the imagery that came with it kind of handed me an alternative to the ‘Humanity City’ concept, this helped me to rearrange my thoughts in terms of a path in life and how it is set out. If we are falling through time then we have little control because, well… we are falling. Maybe we can spread our arms, slow down and enjoy the view for a bit like a parachutist or tuck in like a bullet and fly through parts of our life and look back in 5 years and realise we remember nothing (case in point, my early teens.) Some times we get knocked by the walls of our path of ‘fate’ but we don’t have a chance to stop and catch our breath, we just have to keep falling and falling into the unknown . Sometimes we fall towards a fork in the road and notice just in time for us to kick ourselves off the sides into the path of our choosing, sometimes we notice the fork too late and have to take the hand that is dealt to us.

I am still not sure which concept I prefer; the ‘Humanity City’ or the ‘Falling through Time’. The later has a certain romantic quality to it that I kind of like, we only have so much control – which is close to what I was trying to express in my RE classes. I am also musing over whether these concepts can be considered Western and Oriental, there is certainly a very American and Thatcher-like philosophy to the City concept in terms of building your own destiny, and the Falling concept feels more Chinese… although I cannot place my finger on it (not just the fact I took this idea from a piece of Chinese grammar.)

So while I am trying to figure out where I stand in terms of my two little theories let me know which you prefer. Would you be more inclined to take the view that we are 100% in control of our destiny, building our lives and relationships like metropolises, or would you rather place your lives more in the hands of fate, destiny, chance or whatever you want to call it? Falling through time like little rag dolls.

This may seem like a bit of a pretentious blog, discussing fate and all that jazz, but it is in no way intentional. Those of you that know me irl will probably know this is genuinely what happens when I have too much time on my hands (i.e. when in an airport) – my mind wanders and I all of a sudden become really philosophical.

Anyways – I will see you soon.




Friday, 17 April 2009

Alone Time

I have been accidentally left alone tonight but I am OK. I have gone round 北师大 campus and collected some of my fave food here and am having a kind of feast with myself and an online illegal version of V for Vendetta (naughty, naughty Jazza).

I am going to make the most of it, I have had little to no alone time these past few weeks. Who knows? I might even read! SCANDALOUS!

I went to the art district in Beijing the other day and took some appropriately arty pictures, here are a collection:

In this district dedicated to all that is art (and very expensive food and drink - I couldn't find a coffee under 25yuan!) I found an exhibition dedicated to British artists. Me being British, I decided to take a look and was genuinely blown away - we apparently breed very good arty people.
I forgot to take down the names of any of the artists but the exhibition is called "English Lounge" and is at the Tang Contemporary Gallery until the 26th of April.

There was one piece that I really liked by ... which had a map of the British Isles:not a very good picture I admit but I think you get the gist.

Each of those flags represents a list of Chinese restaurants in a certain area in Britain. You can see Glasgow, London, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Manchester seem to have a very large amount. I even managed to find my local back home in Essex:(Yau's Chinese Restaurant, Billericay)

I just thought it was a really simple but thought provoking piece of artwork. I think it even goes into what it means to be British today - the kebab shop, the Chinese Thai or Indian restaurant down your road, they're just as British as the chippy or Woolworths. All these shops and places go to making up life on this little island just as much as the rest of us and I genuinely believe that is what makes being British today so great.

A music video that has taken this trip to Beijing by storm has been the 2008 Olympic song: "Beijing Huanyin Ni" (北京欢迎你- YouTube it, it's fantastically cheesy) and within it is shows clips of all that is considered 'Chinese' - Peking duck, tea ceremony, Peking Opera, calligraphy dumplings and more. It got me wondering what the hell is going to be in our Olympic music video? After all, Britishness is much harder to define in the modern age.

It will be interesting to see what we decide to do; if we end up clinging to traditional Britain, that of the class system, scones, Lords, Ladies, the empire and foxhunting - or whether we will have the balls to take on the gargantuan effort of representing the huge spectrum of people who live here today.

I may have ended up rambling here so I will leave you to whatever you were doing before hand.

I hope all is well where you are.


Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Future of a Bad Blogger

So I am the worst blogger in the world. I should have really set myself a target of blogging every day, or even every other day, just to document this trip.
Oh well, I fail.

So, I have an exam tomorrow. I have to read a text aloud, have a conversation and recite a Tang dynasty poem, shown below:


It's nothing too hard, and we have been told off the record that 'everybody passes' and that it is just so they can give us a certificate saying we have graduated from something, but I just don't want to make a fool of myself: especially with the poem. I am shit at memorising things, I was when I did GCSE drama and I still am now. It has taken me a day to memorise two and a half lines of that thing. Not good.

Something that has come out of me being here that I really wasn't expecting was me thinking a lot more about my future. I think it might stem from being with so many people who are at different stages of their degrees, quite a few people are going to be graduating this year, and it has got me thinking where I am going to be when I am finally finished with University in 2011.

Granted, I will probably not be the same person as I am now; I would have spent a year in Nanjing and written a dissertation of 10, 000 words (still not sure how that is going to happen) but I at least know these things:
  • I will still be active on the Internet, whether it be vlogging, blogging, tweeting or all three I will still be here.
  • I want to escape from the education system, at least for a little while, I need to escape from the bubble and really crave to be in the 'real' world, even this early in my Uni career.
  • I want to be able to travel and live abroad for at least a little while BUT I am still very conscious that England will always be my home - I need to be able to come back here.
I think teaching is a necessary string to my bow but I am not sure yet how prominent a role it will play in my immediate future after University but it will at least come in handy.

I have also got a few projects that I am planning on getting started soon after I am over my jet-lag when I am back in Manchester. They may work or they may not - regardless I want to give them a shot.

Very little point to this blog, as per usual. I may update before I leave China, I may not. Place a bet on it, have a bit of fun with the outcome :P

I will speak to you sexy little strawberry smoothies very soon.

Jazza 杰仁

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

About the Language

I'll be honest, I have been much more active on the Internet than I was expecting to be. I thought I would be lucky to even be able to log onto twitter and blogger, maybe upload one video of the trip. I am not even two weeks in and I have uploaded two.
I think this is a good thing. It means it is more probable that I am going to be able to continue with this massive part of my life when I move to Nanjing in September.

Seeing as it is possible for me to update my experiences I thought I had better do so; as I have said before, more for me than for you.

Language lessons have been exactly what I needed: a good kick up the arse. For too long I have been plodding along in Chinese language and having some first year students (I am in my second year) having better oral skills than me has been a little disheartening but just what I needed. It has rekindled my enthusiasm for speaking foreign languages, which can only be a good thing.

(Reading through this again I think I may have been harsh on myself saying that I had been 'plodding' along, I haven't. I think I had almost lost my way in terms of motivation.)

I have started being more proactive already, bought a blank books and have started a 'Sign Diary' where I am trying to document the signs that I don't understand, whether it be the whole sign or a specific character and it's context. I plan to jot down and learn about three or four a day and in this way increase my vocab. I would love to take credit for this idea, but I stole it off my friend who has been living here for about a year.

Today was a positive day for me in terms of my confidence in Chinese. I, for the first time in a while, had that contempt feeling and rush of being understood in a foreign language. It seems kind of silly, I have been speaking Chinese for nearly a year and a half and have been using it here for over a week, but today it just hit me that the sounds I was making were being relayed into another persons brain and being understood and in turn the sounds they were making were entering my brain and being transfered into meaning. I haven't felt that since I was about 15, so it was nice. Those of you who have learnt a language may know what I am talking about.
When you are in a classroom there is a certain amount of scepticism towards the sounds and the arrangement of letters you are being told to speak write. It isn't really until you take these practices into the real world that you realise that these sounds you have memorised and the grammar you have drilled are actually words, feelings and language. This is why I love languages, I believe no other academic discipline can reap such visible and immediate rewards in terms of that moment when euphoria hits you when you understand and can be understood.

Through this most are some more images from when me and Tash went to the summer palace. It is weird putting someones name here and not linking them... I forget most people don't have much on the Internet past a Facebook.