Wednesday, 15 December 2010

BEDiD 16: Chinese Democracy

Finally! I'm online again. Not even half way through my BEDiD project and a Chinese person just HAS to get awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, BBC is blocked, my VPN is blocked and chances of managing to actually Blog Every Day in December are thwarted. Damn you Liu Xiaobo!

Throughout British media and Western media in general, there was a common theme through most of the commentary of the award, 'this is the start of the beginning,' that the awarding of this prize is that start of the democratic train that will ride through the Red East. I'm sorry to burst the bubble of The Guardian's China column, but democracy as we know it in the west is far from heading anywhere near China's direction.

On a side note; don't you think it's quite ironic that the most left leaning paper we have in the West is probably the most anti-Chinese one?

The problem with the West's desire for China to become democratic is simple, but quite large; the average person on the street does not want it.

When you speak to Chinese they will say that yes, they want a freer press, uncensored internet (the fact they can't get on Facebook, especially for those who have been abroad is a particular soft spot) and an end to corruption, but democracy is very often not on the list.

Even in the Tian'anmen Square protests of 1989, when scores of young students descended on the largest public square in the world, the protests were mainly for an improvement in student teaching conditions and less corruption. Western media decided, however, to focus on the minority that were asking for democratisation.

The fact is, and I think I tend to agree with this, democracy in China would not work. The country is too vast, has too many problems (including poverty and workers' rights) and would probably end up breaking up in the event of democratization. China would not have enjoyed the vast economic development it has had in the past 20 years if it had had to endure a change of government every 5 years. It would thus not have lifted the millions of people out of poverty that it has. Communism in China, though it had a shaky start, has ultimately done a lot of good for the country.

We should also remember that, though the Nobel Peace Prize is invariably given to fantastic and deserving people, which person is chosen is very often politically motivated. Obama last year, selected after a laughably short time in office, is a good example, "Oh, you're not George Bush any more, here, have a medal!"

It does annoy me sometimes when Western media goes on about how Chinese democracy is only a couple of decades away when they have never lived here or bothered to talk to the people who make up with vast land. It also annoys me when I can't write my blog. So basically, I'm ticked off at both sides right now.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

BEDiD 9: My Reading Teacher

This is a strange time of year in Nanjing. Everyone is getting ready for exams, the majority are gearing up for going home for Christmas where those of us who are going to be left over are frantically trying to figure out who else is staying and what the hell we are going to do in a city where there is only one Christmas tree.

The teachers start to get all funny too. This is a much shorter semester than usual for them, they would usually be teaching until new years if they were teaching Chinese students, and some of them misjudging the amounts of classes they had to do, adding or taking away a class or two just before the exams.

Those that decide to cut the classes short fill up the spare time with whatever they can think of, films, class discussions, in class karaoke sessions or, like my reading teacher the other day, long anecdotes about their lives.

Our class had an hour long of what felt like an outpour, as if she had wanted to tell people about her life for such a long time. She told us about her studies, how she got into her job, but one of the most shocking things she told us was that, even though she is a Chinese language teacher, she hates reading.

She said it had never been something fun for her, it was always something she had felt she had had to do so as to get to the next level, the Gaokao exam at the end of high school, her bachelors exams, then her masters. And she said she didn't like it, that the job she was doing wasn't the one she really wanted, even though she did describe it as, "还可以," which essentially means 'not bad'.

She went on to say she thought we must be really hard working and love to study because western students are here by choice, not because they have been pushed into it. She said we were very lucky, and we are.

I teach a kid who is 10 years of age and never has an evening off. He does karate, piano, English and extra maths classes every night of the week. Is this because he wants to and is interested in it? No, he does it because that is what he and his parents feel he should have to do to get a foot up int he world.

It puts into perspective some figures that put Shanghai schools as the best in the world, with Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea hot on their tails.

Yes, these kids are excelling in reading, writing and science, but how many of them are having their learning experiences ruined by society demanding so much of them. Without the freedom that so many of us take for granted in the West to have your own interests and follow your own ambitions, how many of them will end up like my reading teacher?

There is a very important vote in parliament today. It will pass. It is wrong. There will be riots.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

BEDiD 8: Ecuadorian Amazon

It's been a long day today. Had some iffy family news and was revising for exams all day. Was productive, but didn't have a lot of time to consider a blog, so today will be a bit of a cop out.

I want to link you to a story where the Ecuadorian government has managed to get the international community to compensate them for laying aside oil field located in the amazon rainforest. They have asked for what they estimate to be half the yearly profits per anum if they were to capitalise on the oil fields US$3.6billion. Germany, Spain, France, Sweden and Switzerland, are some countries that have stepped forward to provide the compensation. The plan has two main benefits; leaving the oil for future generations and protecting ons of the most intact parts of the Amazon in Ecuador. In principle it sounds like a fantastic idea, but do you think it is a practice that will catch on in other regions? Have a read here and feel free to tell me your thoughts.

Proper blogs coming soon, but you know I enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

BEDiD 7: Wikileaks

So I said I would talk about Wikileaks and so I will. I would like for you to start with this

I am usually not the biggest fan of Dan Brown, but his video on this is actually very well thought out and, quite rightly, focuses on the serious consequences of the Wikileaks fiasco rather than the fact Prince Andrew hates the French. Dan raises a good point that Wikileaks, as a media organisation in a democracy, has the right to release these documents. However, the serious question behind the comments of British paranoia about the 'special relationship' and the fact that Kim Jong-il likes a drink, is whether people's lives have been put as risk.

Not only soldiers on the front line, but under-cover spies, activists and journalists could all have their jobs and lives put in jeopardy. At least that is what the argument insists.

We can, however, draw a comparison, because Wikileaks were kind enough to release US defence department data at the end of last summer. It has been reported in various publications and stated by several politicians that no deaths on the field are yet to have been linked directly to the exposure of sensitive data through the website on that occasion.

In fact, the USA has a long and colourful history of releases of sensitive information; from the release of sensitive documents on the Vietnam War released by the New York Times in 1971 to pictures of prison camps in Iraq in 2004, (The UK has also been rocked by similar pictorial releases in the past).

So does the US administration have the right to be angry, of course it does, they have massively lost face. Some of the scandals are down right embarrassing for all parties, albeit a wonderful reminder that even those in the top jobs are still only human and like to have a gossip about each other.

I do not think anything overtly world changing will come from the release of these documents. Governments and diplomats know that they are going to be talked about, sometimes ungraciously, behind their backs, and no-one can afford to make a fuss about things the bully in the school yard said when they weren't listening.

History speaks for itself, showing the chances of massive losses of life on the field as a result of these leaks are low.

So, what do you think about it?

Monday, 6 December 2010

BEDiD 6: Productive Procrastination?

Revision is the bane of my existence. Well, not so much revision, but the whole exam period in general. Without nudging and competition I very often find any excuse not to work. A plus side, however, is that I become very productive on other things. I've spent the last four hours boxing, reading blogs, researching universities and doing travel research. I am now getting ready for bed, but of course, tomorrow I will be much more productive in the way of learning things that will help me scrape through my exams.

I will blog about something more interesting tomorrow, I promise, but in the mean time check out this radio series I found on the BBC, Climate Connection, talking about climate change and what we can do to solve it. I'd like to draw your attention to this particular episode, there is a very interesting section talking about how religion and climate change are linked, as well as this interesting interview with a Kenyan farmer. Do let me know what you think.

Sorry today's blog is so short. Despite my procrastination in the last few hours it has been a long day, my brain is slightly fizzled. Night night.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

BEDiD 5: The Future

I must apologise to any musicians out there for my post yesterday. I had no idea that Spotify was such a shit deal! I had my views put right by Dave from Blue Skies and my guilt about not being able to afford real music is freshly restored. In retrospect, everyone buy physical or from iTunes, Dave linked a pretty chart in the comments yesterday that explains the best way to benefit the artist quite well.

This blog is as much for me as it is for you, it's a nice place to put down my thoughts and look back at them later (I have been doing it with a couple of my blog posts from years back, it's interesting to see how terrible my spelling is without Chrome auto-checking). I have been thinking a lot about my future recently, what I am going to do after I graduate in summer 2012, and what the hell I am going to do with my life.

I, like a lot of people, change my mind a lot about what I want to do. Things like teaching and politics interest me, but they are things I might want to go into when I want to settle down in one place, I'm not ready to do that yet. In terms of teaching, I know I can do that and that I am good at it, it is always something I can fall back on. I also went through a phase of wanting to go into some kind of journalism, but I have had quite a few brushes with the industry that I haven't liked. I don't like the mentality of the industry and, no offence if you work in that sector, but I think journalism has a lot of less than nice people in it. I don't want to have to work with or for dickheads for the rest of my life. I don't take bullshit very well (excuse my French). YouTube and the online thing is always something fun that I would want to do, but let's be honest, I'm no Buck or Charlie. I'm not going to be able to make a living out of it. I do know it is a hobby I will always want to dip in and out of though.

At the moment I am weighing up two sectors that I might want to go into. Both require me to go on to further my education.

I have been toying with maybe doing a law conversion course and doing that. I think I would be good at it and it is something that will challenge me and make me feel like I am making a difference. I would want to go into something like human rights, international treaty or environmental law. All are incredibly competitive and the kind of thing most people who start out in law want to do. It is also a lot more study before I go into the real world. Between five to seven years before I head out into the real world. Downsides; I don't know if I am comfortable spending so much more time in school and spending that much more money on my education. I also worry about the fact the profession involves an awful lot of reading. I'm not severely dyslexic (I can at least spell it) but I do struggle reading and summarising long texts, especially ones with lots of terminology. I'm not sure if I would be up to the amount of intensive reading that the studying and profession would require.

Number two on the table is doing a masters in something to do with Environmental Management. This is something that seems really suited to me; very hands on, makes me feel like I'm doing something worth while, I'm interested in the field etc. The problem is that my degree program at the moment is Chinese and Spanish, not really very related to a science based course. I could have trouble finding a course that will take me. They usually want something like biological sciences or geography for a course like that.

For both these options I would want to come back to Asia to study. If I can't get a scholarship to go anywhere it would involve getting out a pretty hefty loan but I am pretty sure that my immediate future is going to be here. I am not ready to settle down in the UK just yet. I have been looking at both University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong as well as the National University of Singapore.

If anyone could give me any pointers then feel free. The problem with both law and environment is that I don't know many people in those fields. I really need some advice from people who have been there and done it rather than just reading course bios and blogs about them. Also, any advice about good Universities in Asia would be greatly appreciated.

On a lighter note...

The Great Book of Chinglish, Entry 1.

People mountain people sea.

Chinese Root/ 人山人海 Rénshānrénhǎi

Meaning/ Literally "people mountain people sea", meaning "crowded", "packed"

Mary: Did you register for the Environmental Management course at NUS yesterday? There were loads of people, right?

Da pi: Yeah, it was really people mountain people sea!

NOTE: This is another one that Chinese like to use. Some Chinese people are so determined to prove that Chinese is also influencing English language, some teachers tell their students that not only "long time no see" comes from a translation of Chinese (好久不见 when translated literally does mean that, pretty sure it's just coincidence though) but that English speakers also go around saying that places are "people mountain people sea." We obviously don't, but it's fun to say.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

BEDiD 4: China Friendly Media Consumption

Just a quick one today. Have been out all day and am full of an expensive yet disappointingly average buffet. I was going to have a quick chat about the Wikileaks scandal, specifically the 'paranoia' of the British government towards our special relationship with America, I will save that for another day, some time in the next day or so.

In the mean time, I thought I would link you to some places on the Internet that I frequent a lot, and touch briefly on (ooh, split infinitive, controversial) why I like them. You see, Internet where I live has become temperamental, and accessing things like Youtube and other video sharingsights with a VPN has become mortifyingly tedious due to the necessity of using a VPN to jump over the infamous Great Fire Wall of China.

On a side note, I don't know why I even bothered to mention "other video sharing websites". I almost exclusively use the choob.

So, without further ado, here is Jazza's (ever so tiny)guide to China friendly media consumption:

BBC Radio 4
Oh BBC, oh Radio 4. How I love thee both with reckless abandon. Yes, I appreciate it is not socially acceptable to enjoy this station until you have at least got your first mortgage, but it is the best spoken word broadcaster in the world and good golly I love it. My regulars include Newshour in the morning as I get ready for University, an edition of Book at Bedtime or Any Questions? as I do my work in the afternoon, and then some comedy, either Just a Minute, News Quiz or The Now Show. Radio 4 is my life blood, I am not ashamed to say this.

TED is a fantastic institution. It shares talks given by some of the world's greatest minds for free on the Internet. Some personal favorites of mine are Pranev Mistry about the innovation of a sixth sense device, Simon Sinek on how to be a great innovator and leader and Ngosi Okonjo-Iweala on how to approach aid and trade in Africa.

Okay, it isn't really a website, but I think this is one of the most revolutionary ways to consume music to come about in the last few years. Your own personal radio, adverts are played every 5 songs or so and the artist gets paid as a result from the ad revenue. It also has a section at the top that has related artists to the one you are listening to. This way, I have gotten to know so many more artists than I would have otherwise done, and all legally and with benefit to the artist. I have never liked downloading for free. I'm sorry, it is stealing. This way I can listen to the music I enjoy and support the artist. I use it so much I never even bothered to reinstall iTunes when my computer crashed. Downside; it is only available in select countries. Find out if you can download it, and if you can, do so.
Okay, not so much media consumption, but a website I use a lot. As Spotify revolutionised my music consumption, couchsurfing revolutionised the way I travel. A friend of mine and I were travelling Japan earlier this year and were trying to keep prices down by not staying in too many hostels. I had a friend in Tokyo but nowhere else to stay when we traveled to other parts of the country. My friend had heard of couchsurfing and we used it once in Kyoto and once in Kobe and had two fantastic experiences. The premise is that you create a profile, get people you know who already use the site to verify that you are sane and then you can ask to stay on other people's 'couches' (sometimes bed, sometimes floor) as you travel. It's completely free, it is just asked that you are decent. If you end up not being decent someone will leave a bad review and the chances of you being accepted again will decrease. It's a fantastic way to travel and get to know a place from a local. There are often local events, I have one in Nanjing that I try and attend every Friday night, and it is a good way to meet interesting, like-minded people if you move to a new city; I used it in Madrid when I lived there this summer to both find a flat and find some people to hang out with. I recommend it whole heartedly. And if you're ever travelling round China and fancy popping into Nanjing, my username is JazzaJohn.

The Great Book of Chinglish, Entry 1.


Chinese Root/ 听不懂 Tīng bù dǒng

Meaning/ I don't understand

Mary: 你想闻我的狗的屁吗?

Da pi: Sorry love, tingbers.

Friday, 3 December 2010

BEDiD 3: The Fear in Their Eyes

There is something quite magical about travelling in China. No, it's not the stunning views that fly past as you steam along on the fastest commercial train in the world. No, it's not the array of historic and modern sights that greet you in cities across the country. It is the fear in the eyes of a fully grown businessman in Shanghai as he barges past the queue, launches himself into the carriage and positively dives for the nearest vacant seat, only then to suddenly become engrossed with something on his iPhone as an elderly lady with a hunchback and cane stands near him.

I love China, I adore the Chinese, but something about travel brings out the worst in these people. Getting on an off any kind of long haul transportation, be it train, bus or plane, is like a scene out of War of the Worlds. It is every man for himself, no matter whether you have a reserved seat or not, you MUST be the first person to board and get in your seat so you can sit there, smugly surveying the other, lesser passengers as they follow behind you.

The Chinese are not Japan or Korea; countries that politely queue as they wait for the subway, and that will scowl at you for talking on your mobile on the commute into work. A lot of the social structure and levels of respect that still reign true for their Eastern neighbours were stripped away during the cultural revolution. The Chinese will spit in the street, yell down the phone on the bus and barge you out of the way boarding the subway quite happily, and when you gently remind them of the social norms adhered to throughout the rest of the world, "There is a queue you know." They will do little more than say, "Oh," look back at the people they just jostled past with a huge grin, and then stand as still as a rock, facing forward, as if we will not notice them if they stop moving.

Okay, I appreciate this is not a purely Chinese phenomenon, these dog farts exist throughout the world, it is just a high proportion of those dog farts live here. And it is definitely not the minority who thunder towards the still moving bus like a tsunami as it pulls into its stop.

I am British. I am appalled when the world's most democratic symbol, the queue, is thrown out of the window.

So if you ever come here, just consider yourself warned, travel with a crash helmet and a bucket full of patience.

The Great Book of Chinglish, Entry 1.


Chinese Root/ 当然 , Dāngrán

Meaning/ "Of course", "Obviously"

Mary: If someone pushed in front of me in the queue for the subway, would you punch his lights out for me?

Da pi: Dangers!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

BEDiD 2: Who wins, Fifa decides

I am writing this post in a cafe to watch the presentations for the host nations of the 2018 Fifa World Cup. I've just watched the Olympic Russian pole vaulter, Yelena Isinbayeva, declare that "actually, I love football!" I've always found something very unconvincing about when people say things like that. The rest of the Russian bid is actually very impressive compared to Belgium/Netherlands who seemed to take the whole thing as a joke, and Spain/Portugal who took the whole thing far too seriously. After the presentations it looks like it's England and Russia fighting it out. I pray to God England get it.

I am not going to pretend it isn't for purely selfish reasons. After the fantastic atmosphere that is going to be the 2014 world cup in Brazil, a true football loving nation, my claim that England provides a country with geniune history with and passion for the game falls flat on its face. It makes sense to go for a Russian bid that will bring the worlds biggest competition to a new part of the world, look at the wonder South Africa performed this year.

The fact we are the hosts of the 2012 Olympic games also tips the scales in favour of a fair result going to Russia. "Share and share alike" my Mum used to say when I played Power Rangers with my brother, the same goes for international sporting events.

There is also a quote from David Beckham that said that we should win the bid because we have the infrastructure and stadiums so that if we wanted to we could host the event next week. This may be true, but the event isn't going to be enxt week, and Russia is investing a huge amount in stadias and infrastructure. Ticket holders get free visas and ground travel between venues.

And lets be honest, the Tube really needs a revamp and our trains are always delayed by mushy leaves on the line.

One thing England can be proud of though, someone has taught Mr. Beckham to talk! He was quite eloquent in his presentation. Bravo.

So when I think about it, bugger it, we don't deserve it more than the Russians. But Fifa, please, for purely my own selfish, nationalistic reasons, please let the place of my birth host the world cup. It gives me an excuse to cry in public and climb on buildings in celebration.


Well, we lost. No doubt in my mind, England for 2018 and Australia for 2022 were the best contenders, but from the countries that Fifa has chosen it seems clear they want to promote the game in new regions and take football into new frontiers. This is important if football is to truly be considered a sport that brings together the world like no other. The world cup has been the glory of a very elite few countries, it is important that others are included.

Both Qatar and Russia will have a lot to loose if they bugger this up, the world will be relying on them. Let's hope they deliver.

I'm now going to try and forget we ever entered with a bowl of porridge, cup of Chinese medicine and some Radio 4.

In the mean time...

The Great Book of Chinglish, Entry 2.

"Oh my Lady Gaga!"

Root/ Following Gaga's rise to deity on the Asian continent, Chinese youth have replaced the Lord's name with that of our new figure of worship, Lady ride on my disco stick Gaga

Meaning/ "Oh my God", "Oh, my goodness", "Oh golly gosh!"

Mary: Did you hear that Russia are hosting the 2018 World Cup over England?

Da pi: Oh my Lady Gaga! I have links with the Mafia, I'm well in there with free tickets!

Notes: No joke, you will genuinely hear Chinese kids on the street saying this.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

BEDiD 1: Blog Every Day in December

Well, hasn't it been a long time?

Believe me when I say I have missed you, the Internet, the videos, the blogs, the comments, the scathing hate, the unadulterated praise, the healthy banter, all of it. And as a result of me missing it (especially in recent months) I have decided, not on a storming comeback, but on a steady drip, drip, drip back into the virtual world of the Interwebz. This little mini-project, Blog Every Day in December (BEDiD, as I shall now name it) is the first step in getting me back on the proverbial wagon.

See, I feel all excited already, I have a 'project'! It's like I'm Dan 3.0... just without Revision 3 or the plethora of fans.

December, I hope, is going to be a particularly interesting month for me. I shall be finishing my third semester here at Nanjing University, having a Chinese Christmas and going travelling at the end of the month. I also hope to be set to return to YouTube in the new year (fingers crossed), so I should have plenty to talk about.

If, however, you would like me to talk about anything in particular (just like the good old days, ah, remember when I made videos and we talked? Good times) then send me an email to

At the end of each post I will have a lighthearted little entry in what I hope to soon become The Great Book of Chinglish, comprising of words that friends of mine and I have come accustomed to using when we live in China, but when used amongst non-Chinese speaking friends, are generally greeted with confusion.

The Great Book of Chinglish, Entry 1.

Buzh - [booj/ booge]

Chinese Root/ 不知道 , bù zhīdào

Meaning/ "I don't know"

Mary: Would you agree with Mao's declaration that capitalism is all dogs' farts?

Da pi: Buzh, I never read that red book thing, I went to the shops and all they had was the French version...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

"I Love British Culture"

If I am frank, I am not Katy Perry's greatest fan. In an interview with the Sunday Times Magazine today she likens herself to Christian rockers who are, "doing it because it is their ministry," singing to tell stories and, "change people's lives." I'm not sure whose lives, other than those of teenage boys, have been changed by candy floss erupting from her bosom or her proclamation of kissing girls and liking it. I don't think her 'teachings' can be compared to the word of God. I am not going to pretend to be religious, but I at least appreciate that Christian rockers probably practice what they preach by going to church and stuff, not once in that whole video did I see Ms. Perry even French-kiss another girl.

For the record, I quite liked Hot 'n' Cold.

For those of you that don't know, Perry is dating and will apparently soon marry the British comedian and actor, Russell Brand. During the for-mentioned interview, when talking about her love of the eccentricities that hail from our little isles she says, “I love British culture.” But, Ms. Perry, do tell us what it is about our people that you enjoy so very much, “... it [Britain] continues to hold onto its manners, people still seem to give a shit about social status and it seems like they really don't want to be embarrassed.” She then adds as an afterthought, “I mean, English girls are sometimes the dirtiest girls. I only know that because my boyfriend has had a few... interactions.”

Okay, so she got the last bit right, but I find it very hard to identify with the other three for the following reasons; my family at dinner time, the fact Nikki from Big Brother is probably more popular than Camilla Parker Bowles and the extent of sillyness that surrounds every Red Nose Day.

It is, of course, not Katy's fault. The view she has of my country is that of the very traditional, stiff-upper-lipped Britain of about sixty years ago, and a view that many across the world still hold. Often, when foreigners discover my nationality (usually as soon as I open my mouth), coos of, 'English gentleman', 'top hats' and 'tea' fill my ears. Granted, I drink an awful lot of tea, but I believe the traditional English gentleman is well and truly dead.

I don't think this is sad, I just think our culture has changed somewhat since the 1950s, but we have not managed to convey that to the rest of the world. Also I think we are still struggling to decide what British culture is for ourselves; curry or fish and chips, Glastonbury or Notting Hill, London or the North. It is a topic that reappears every now and again in the media, I have even touched, and lamented about our lack of ability to pin it down in the past. But no more.

I particularly like Britishness because it is not defined by a sushi roll, an Eiffel tower or a national dream. For me now, Britishness includes our liberal attitude towards lifestyle, politics and opinions. Our wide range of national papers are a testament to this. We create some of the best music and art in the Western world, coupled with some of the greatest educational institutions on the planet. We have a killer sense of humour, I know no other group of people who is so ready to make a fool of themselves for a laugh. I can't think of many nationalities that will sit on a surfboard in the freezing cold, pouring rain and then describe the situation as beautiful.

What is it that you think makes us British? Whether you are foreign or not, I would be curious to know.

The above may seem a bit jumbled. Maybe I am just feeling rather patriotic because I am back home for the last time until I come back from China next summer... again. Katy Perry just ticked me off a little, that's all.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Jack Perry

When I first arrived in Madrid to take part in the internship that I subsequently quit to go volunteer on a farm, I was put up by a friend of my fathers who works at the British embassy.

Saying that makes me sound a lot better connected than I actually am.

During the few days I stayed with her in her apartment we had a couple of evenings chatting over a late-night cup-o-tea. It turned out we had one massive thing in common; China.

It turned out her Grandfather, Jack Perry, was one of the pioneers of British-Chinese trade after the Second World War. It was by no means made easy for him; there were American lead embargos and boycotts, hostility from HongKongese companies that saw themselves as the bridge between Britain and China as well as general wariness of anyone willing to do business with the Commies. You can read a bio of this fantastic man on the China-British Business Council website here.

It just so happens that he wrote a book, which I have just finished reading, and is one of the most refreshing accounts of 20th century China I have ever read. Despite coming from a business background he does not address solely this area. He muses about the philosphy of the country and tells many great stories; from his first ever long train ride from the South to the North of the country, to the time his wife had a chat with Che Guevara.

He is very pro-Chinese, occasionally to the point of excess (he scoots over the horrors of the cultural revolution and practically defends Tian'anmen Square and blames it on America), but his approach to Chinese socialism is a breath of fresh air when compared to the constant barrage of criticism made on the country by modern, Western, mainstream media.

I am pretty sure his book, From Brick Lane to the Forbidden City, is out of print and practically impossible to find, but I wanted to write this blog about it to urge you to search out alternative points of view on the country that seems to have come to dominate my life. I am not one to defend some of the stuff that happened in the cultural revolution, Tian'anmen Square, the Uighur riots of last year or those in Tibet in 2008, but by reading accounts that are able to defend them, my own view of the country becomes more rounded and balanced.

For the love of God, don't judge the country on the China collumn.

Even if you seek out and read what you know is controlled propoganda, at least then you can understand the intentions of what is soon going to be the most powerful nation on Earth.

And of course, if you are ever fortunate enough to come across Jack's book, don't hesitate to pick it up.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Post SitC Woofing

First things first, watch this. It's a fantastic summary video of Summer in the City 2010 by CasioClark. I appear in it a couple of times, waving my hands about and shouting... which is pretty standard for me at SitC events.

SitC this year was especially important for me, because it was the first time I have seen my virtual friends since last summer, and it's also the last time I will see them until next years event. Lots of long hugs were had and I'm gutted for all the people who couldn't come; NSG, whataboutadam, MissYau etc. But it was exactly what I needed in the middle of this long hot summer... and it's 95 degrees in the shade...

I am ashamed for quoting Girls Aloud. Apologies.

So, I've been in Madrid for the past six weeks or so. I've kinda kept that under my belt. Unintentionally of course. I have to do at least 8 weeks here as part of my Uni course, so was here on an internship with an media company. I won't go into details, wouldn't be professional and all that, but due to the circumstances in which I was working and a dodgy relationship with the boss I decided to quit. So for the past week and a half or so I have been jobless, trying desperately to find something to do with my time. I tried charities, other internships, but no one seemed to be hiring or looking for help. To be fair, it's also Madrid in at the beginning of August, half the businesses close down for the holidays.

I have ended up settling on wwoofing my last couple of weeks here. Wwoofing (Willing workers on organic farms) is an organisation based around a website where willing workers (volunteers) work on organic farms... funnily enough. You get put up and looked after in exchange for doing various jobs around the farm. I have wanted to do this for ages. It was an option when I was touring Japan, and I was thinking of doing it around New Zealand next summer after I finish my second year in China. But I had a good friend from Uni doing it so I thought I would join her, so in a couple of hours I will be on a bus bound for Barcelona, arrive there in the morning, and hopefully be on the farm by tomorrow afternoon or early evening.

One annoying thing was that I went food shopping only a couple of days ago. This was all very last minute by the way. And so I have been eating like a pig so I don't get rotting vegetables in my cupboard when I get back. Not that it has mattered that much, loads of my carrots, my lettuce and all my pork chops went off prematurely over the last couple of days. I was very annoyed.

On another note, I haven't mentioned the house that I'm staying in! It's wonderful. It's all a bit touch and go because not all the people are here because it's summer, and people have been arriving and leaving as the rooms switch over, but it's full of young people from all over Europe. A good few of them are artists, and all very friendly. It's very similar to L'Auberge Espagnole if anyone has ever seen it, just in Madrid, not Barcelona.

I wish I had a camera so I could show photos of my time here. When I have money I will be sure to invest.

I will update when I have things to update. I'm not taking my laptop to Catalunya because I think some time offline will do me good. Which may seem ironic to those of you who are still waiting on new RWO videos. I still haven't managed to sort out the technological difficulties on that front. Sorry.

In the mean time, a photo from SitC


Sunday, 1 August 2010


Some of you may know that I am one of the organisers for the largest YouTube gathering in Europe, Summer in the City, which will be taking place next weekend between the 6th and 8th of August.

One of my bigger jobs is that of editor of the SitC Publication, which is a guide/ magazine/ souvenir for the weekend with articles, information and pretty pictures. If all goes smoothly there will be a publication this year as well (touch wood) for which I have the great privilage of writing the forward. I thought I would give you all a little teaser of the publication by posting part of my forward here. Enjoy, and I will see you next weekend.

Nearly a year has gone by and my, look how we’ve grown. In twelve short months our little community has changed so much that some may even question the relevance of a gathering like Summer in the City for a community that is constantly morphing and changing.

For those of us that have been here for a while, YouTube has in many cases either had to take a back seat as our ‘real’ lives develop, or has grown to become our livelihoods and careers. I myself have spent the last year in China, so my life online has had to take a back seat. I have become somewhat detached from the core of the site; I’m not sure who everyone is watching, what companies have been cosying up to us lately and I have no idea where all the stars have gone. However, I have deliberately planned my summer so that I will be in London for this gathering, why?

At the beginning gatherings, I’m thinking back to 2007, were a way to geek out with people who had the same interests as you, with whom you shared hobbies, ambitions and idols. As time went on these people became not just our YouTube friends, but some of the most important people in our lives; our flatmates, our boyfriends and girlfriends, our support network for when we broke up with these boyfriends and girlfriends.

This process begins at every single YouTube meet-up. Whenever it is someone’s first gathering, they are meeting people that may become long standing features of their world. YouTube attracts a certain kind of person; we’re all a bit too nerdy for our own good, we all like meeting new people and we all like to show off a bit. No matter how much YouTube changes, no matter how commercial it will or will not become, whether you call them a Pogotribe, Nerdfighters or just plain YouTubers, this kind of person will still be coming to these kinds of meet-ups. For the foreseeable future, I will still be coming to these meet-ups, whether my channel lays neglected or not, because the people you meet at YouTube gatherings are often some of the most quirky, fascinating and loyal people you will ever meet.

Saturday, 10 July 2010


You all deserve an explanation for my absence. I feel terrible about it, and trust me, it isn't by choice. I have missed blogging and making videos, but crappy circumstances have been the bane of my existence.

This is going to be long winded and not very interesting. For those of you uninterested, I will try blogging more often on here in the coming months.

I was planning on taking a break after the election videos anyway. I had exams coming up and needed to knuckle down, try and pass a few of them, etc. But when I was making my last video for that series the problems started, hence why Adam stood in for me.

I had filmed my video, in fact it is still on my camera, but editing software and this good for nothing computer decided to start being incompatible with my camera footage for the first time in over three years. I don't understand different types of video or file sizes and stuff very much, but I know that in order for me to be able to edit my videos in Windows Movie Maker, which I have used my whole time on YouTube, I had to pass the whole file through the software to make the file smaller before I cane edit it without pauses at each cut. For whatever reason, when I try and pass the original file from the camera through WMM now, it cuts out half way through. Ergo, nothing to edit.

So I left that for a few weeks, focusing on Chinese and graduating for a while and not worrying about it, thinking it was a one time thing. But then when I started trying to do some things for JazzainChina, the same thing happened. WMM, the simplest but what, for me, had been so reliable to me, had decided to pack in. I even tried downloading newer and older versions of the software. No luck, same problem.

A friend of mine in China is a film major and helped me install a version of Adobe Premier Pro CS4. To be honest, I have no idea how to use it properly, even after a crash course with Paul over last weekend. I have the same problem. Even when I render everything, I get a pause at every cut, or the video freezes as the audio continues.

So yeah, this is why I haven't been around at all. And sorry for my general absence from the internet. I want to be back.

If anyone has any advice, please let me know in the comments or send me an email at

Monday, 14 June 2010

Korean Revision

I have been absent from the Internet for a while. For this I should probably apologise. I would like to think that it was a conscious decision to focus more on my studying in the run up to the exam period, but now I look back I do feel I have to ask myself if I have pulled my finger out and got work done.

I was in South Korea with Adam for the past ten days. It was impulse buying in its most spectacular form. I was talking to Adam on Skype, he was talking about going to Korea, I decided I fancied a holiday, I had just received my student loan, so five minutes later I was booked on a plane to Seoul. I then soon realised this holiday was the week before my exams started, but you know what? Bugger it, I had an awesome time.

I was a good boy in Korea though. More or less every d
ay we found Adam a department store to go and wonder round for an hour or two so I could sit in a cafe and work my way through my HSK vocabulary. Here is proof.

Korea was just what I needed though, even if it did stifle my productivity a little. I had a nice step back and China feels fresh again, I missed greasy food and soup noodles.

I go home two weeks today. There will be a wedding, hopefully some gatherings and some meetings, then I am off to Spain for work experience. This end stretch is passing far too quickly.

I'm now off to have some sangria with a Japanese friend of mine who is going home. Tata!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Our Obama

I’m ever so excited.

After a few days of intense negotiations, resignations and compromises The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has a new Prime Minister and its first coalition government since World War Two. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats enter into a full coalition, with Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister and four other cabinet posts to sweeten the deal. This is the first time in generations that the Lib Dems, or their predecessors the Liberals, have held power in cabinet. This is an exciting time for them.

Labour are defeated, but will live to fight another day. There was talk before the election that humiliation at the polls would break the party up, it’s funny how much can change in a week. Gordon stepped down as leader, Harriet Harman temporarily stepping into his shoes whilst the party decides on who will face Cameron as leader of the opposition in the next five years.

On a separate note, Harriet Harman has mentioned that she herself will not stand in the Labour leadership race. I think this is a great shame. She is a woman with character and balls, she is not scared to call herself a feminist and regularly out-shone Gordon when she stood in for him at Prime Minister’s Questions. If she maintains the stance that she does not want to run, it will be a great shame.

This is essentially going to be a time for Labour to dust themselves off, straighten their ties and go into effective opposition. I think after three terms they were getting a bit cocky. I’m a great believer in bringing down the powerful a peg or two.

The Liberal Democrats have gotten some stick for this coalition. Lib and Con are on separate sides of the political divide, after years of mudslinging in parliament and the name calling of the election how, are they expected to form an effective government with which they have very little in common ideologically?

A follower of mine on Twitter said that she would no longer be calling herself a Lib Dem supporter, that they had “sold out” to the Tories. I would not agree with this view. The only stable option for a government was this Lib-Con alliance. If they had decided to go with Labour they would have still had to form a minority government, with no majority to pass legislation. I believe this would have been catastrophic for our financial markets, and would not have bared well for our country as the rest of Europe is in turmoil. We needed stability and a government that could govern effectively. This was the only option.

What I find interesting about the Lib Dem’s situation are the cabinet posts being offered, especially that of Clegg’s new role as Deputy PM. What will he do with a job that in the UK has very little power and does little more than stand in for the PM when they are on holiday or abroad?

So the Tories got in. They get to keep their cap on immigration, their plan for “Sweedish style” schools and the renewal of trident. They yield to the Lib Dems a referendum on the voting system (which, if it doesn’t pass, I will be very annoyed about), reducing tax burdens to lower earners and more funding for schools that take on poorer pupils.

I must say, with Cameron’s speech as he entered Number 10, he looked like Prime Minister, he looked ready to govern. He talked of compromise and working together. This is what the British people voted for, he respected that, I respect him for respecting that.

Yesterday the Prime Minister and his deputy held a joint press conference in the garden of Number 10. I am honestly blown away. I could almost say that I am proud of our politicians for reaching compromise, agreeing to work together and respecting the wishes of the British people… almost. This coalition will either sink or swim together. I sincerely hope current amicable relations within the coalition are maintained.

We truly are seeing history in the making. And who’d have thought it would have just involved politicians agreeing to disagree and trying their best to get along? This is democracy, this is our Obama… just without a black man.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Nail Gnashing

I’m currently being a bit of a bad student and am 逃课ing, so I decided to come to the café downstairs and write a blog about nothing in particular; train of thought like.

The weather is beginning to pick up. I was kind of banking on this because my heating has been broken for the past two weeks or so, but I was struggling to find the motivation to get someone to fix it. I have been sleeping in my duffel coat and three pairs of socks and spending as much time as I can in other people’s houses, cafés or at work. The forecast is gradually getting warmer and will reach the dizzy heights of 25-29°C by the weekend. Nanjing changes seasons very rapidly (spring and autumn only last a week or so), so there is little doubt that I will be complaining about sweaty armpits and mosquitoes in no time.

I have finally managed to find myself a tutor I can afford. At 35元/hour he is a bargain and I have my first class with him tomorrow. The classes organised by the university are all very well but there are quite a few people, over twenty I think, and it’s just too easy to get lost in the crowd. I have also managed to get myself a language partner, and the fantastic news is that her English is terrible, so I have to speak Chinese to her. In fact, a few times I have had to force her to speak English to me (when it is her turn to practice). It’s wonderful! So often a language partner will insist on speaking English most of the time, but Mona and I; we work well together. We’re going to the movies soon. I’ll help her through an English movie and she’ll do the same with a Chinese one. This was how I learnt Spanish and French way back when, so hopefully it will work here too.

I’m still trying to find work in Spain during summer. I have some links with a hotel in Marbella, but frankly that is the last place I want to end up. Far too many leather skinned, chiwawa-carrying, liposuctioned Brits there for my liking. I want to go somewhere where there are some actual Spanish people. I am going to get in touch with a couple of people I know in Barcelona (my favourite city on the European mainland) and see if they can have a look around on my behalf for bar work or some kind of temping agency. I will literally take anything. I did apply for work experience at the British embassy in Madrid but never heard back from them. I’ll follow that up, but I am doubtful.

I have been reading up on the Digital Economy Bill recently and am planning on making a video about it. Before I do I am trying to make sure I am as informed as possible so I can lay into it properly. I am a user of an awful lot of the services that are going to be affected, probably negatively, by this bill, and I think it’s really important we are aware of it and debate it openly. I don’t like that Mandelson seems to be trying to rush it through the House of Lord before the election. Expect that video on RWO before the end of the week.

Speaking of videos, I do apologise if anyone is hanging on for more JazzainChina content. I do have lots of footage to upload (including all the Japan footage, which I am considering making yet another new channel for) but have been über busy with classes starting again, trying to find a job and a tutor, and generally living. I will try and upload some soon, but I refuse to make a commitment as to when this will happen.

Just looked back on this blog and decided it needed a picture, or something, so here is a picture of when I went on a bike ride (one that lasted far too long) to see the plumb blossom... blossom. You can see I carried George the Ukulele 2.0 with me too.

In completely unrelated news, I am trying to stop biting my nails. I have managed to reduce the gnashing of my fingertips to a gentle nibble on all fronts apart from on my thumbs, which are still as hacked to dead as they always have been. Baby steps though, eh?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Climbing the Mountain

Can I first say thank you to all the lovely people who either tweeted me about or commented on the last blog post; you’re all lovely and giving me far too much praise that I definitely don’t deserve – but thank you. … Apart from Dave who is, as ever, a sarcastic little git.

I would like to now talk about China, because the Internet has been unfairly left in the dark about this rather large aspect of my life for a while now. JazzainChina is being ever so slightly neglected and I don’t blog on here nearly often enough.

Classes have started again. 8am starts are once again the kryptonite to my Superman, although I am pretty sure I understand an awful lot more than I did last semester, which can only be a good thing. I did have a mild breakdown just after coming back from Japan. The “Oh good God my Chinese is shit” panic attacks seem to be a regular part of life here, but I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never got my knickers in such a twist that I have wanted to quit – it has only made me more determined to climb this bloody huge mountain. Learning Chinese is definitely the hardest challenge I have ever set myself.

After the last mini breakdown I dusted myself off and decided to do something about it. I am now working at a hostel a friend of mine manages. I am her token western barman. The pay is rubbish (the equivalent of £1/hour) and customers are thin on the ground, but I get to practice with my colleagues and it’s a few hours a week where I get to read something behind the bar – whether Chinese related or not.

I have also started meeting up with and spending time with people whose English is really shit, thus forcing me to speak Chinese. The way I have managed to wrangle my way into doing this, is by going on dates. A high point for me was when I had an hour and a half conversation on the topics of Taiwan, tennis, Tottenham Hotspurs and various other things that don’t begin with T. During this time, English was only spoken for about 10 minutes. Granted, a lot of what was said to me went over my head, and I was told that my Chinese was very bad, but this is leaps and bounds from where I was at the beginning of the year. I believe I have the right to be proud of myself. Obviously if I am actually interested in the person I am on a date with I will of course speak in English; speaking like a retarded five year old isn’t hot.

I’ve also started chatting to and hanging out with my flatmate a lot more. We get on very well I think, and it’s a shame we haven’t done this more often.

I’m trying to make more of an effort to talk with the guys who I box with. I have found myself saying 听不懂 a lot less. Today I had a turning point in this department. My teacher told me that I was boxing well. This is kinda a big deal; I have always been the weird skinny 老外 that was paired with either the girl or the fat guy in the class (no offence to fat guys or girls). He then sat me down and asked me if I would tutor one of his friends in English. It’s almost like I got a reward for not sucking. God knows I need the teaching money at the moment as well.

I am also pretty certain that I am going to come back here after summer to do another year. I think I am on track with my Chinese so that Manchester University would be more than happy to take me back, but I am not yet content with my level. This might seem a little radical for some people but here are my reasons. I have a chance of getting a first (the highest grade awarded for a Uni degree in the UK) but it is a very slim chance. I’ve decided that I want to give it a shot, and I don’t stand a chance unless I make my Chinese amazing. I also set the bar very high for myself. I want my Chinese to be at least as good as my Spanish by the time I graduate, at this rate I won’t make it by the end of 2011. I’m applying to defer a year at the moment, and looking into scholarships to fund it.

But all in all, morale in the camp is up. 慢慢来.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Re: Coming Out

Over the weekend a lovely young man from Northern Ireland by the name of Adam posted this video coming out as gay to his viewers. May I first tip my hat to him for having the balls to do so; coming out to thousands in a YouTube video takes guts. I would also like to express how important I think his decision was not just for his viewers, but for the rest of the community on our lovely little video sharing website.

It is a well known fact that YouTube has never been short of gay men. The glory days of Perez Hilton, GayGod and William Sledd dominating the top positions on the subscription lists are all but a distant memory, and the 5awesomegays and WHATTHEBUCKSHOW still carry the great homosexual baton with pride.

So why am I saying that Adam’s coming out video is so important? If anything, isn’t he a bit late jumping on the wagon? And surely there are already plenty of Gay role models for YouTube viewers to watch and admire, aren’t there?

Michael Buckley and the 5AGays have always been, and will always be, gay centric channels. What Adam’s video has proved, is that you don’t have to make ‘gay’ videos to be gay and make it on YouTube. 5AG and Buck do a wonderful job at representing the community, but if you don’t want to label yourself as a gay channel, or talk about celebrity gossip, there are few places for a Gay viewer to look for inspiration to make videos.

I was talking to a friend of mine about this, and he mentioned that he had never made a “coming out” video because, if he were straight, then he would never think about making a video telling someone that he slept with women, why should it be any different because his preference is men?

He has a point, but then you watch a video like this, posted as a response to Adam’s.

Adam’s decision to go public with his sexuality clearly had a profound impact on this guy. It’s given him the hope that maybe he can do the same as Adam, and come out to his family and friends. It feels weird me saying this, but as people who have put ourselves in the public eye, it is almost our responsibility to tell people about our journeys, so as people treading the same path behind us have a smoother ride, so they know that it’s all going to be okay at the end of it all.

I identify as bisexual. The reason that I have never been public about this is because I have only recently begun using that term to describe myself. I didn’t know whether I was gay for a long time, but eventually it made sense that I did in fact like both, and should use a label to express that.

Everyone who knows me well enough knows about my sexuality and I am incredibly lucky that the worst reaction I have ever had to telling someone has been when the mother of a friend of mine told me that I was ‘greedy’. “Why can’t you just pick one and stick with it!?’ My parents have had to hear me come out to them twice, once as gay, and again telling them that, ‘sorry, but I kinda like girls too.’

Some of you may see this blog as a bit of a cop out. After all, nowhere near as many people read this as watch rhymingwithoranges, or even JazzainChina, but I have my reasons. RWO is now very much a news and debate channel, I haven’t vlogged on that for years, so a coming out video just doesn’t belong there. JiC is a travel blog and, again, the kind of video this requires just wouldn’t belong. This blog is the most personal thing I post on the Internet, this news (if you can call I news) is very personal, so this is where it belongs.

As Adam said, you can be appalled and unfollow/ unsubscribe if you like, that’s your problem, not mine. And as for anyone who is struggling with coming out themselves, or in trying to find a label, don’t rush it – and just know millions upon millions have gone through the same thing you have and came out the other end okay.

All the best.


Sunday, 14 February 2010

A return from travels

I haven't posted anything on this blog for a very long time. This can be put down to both laziness and the fact that I now have a written diary. It's much more personal and theraputic than something as public as this could ever be. Whenever I have the urge to write I write in my little green book, rather than posting on this blog.
I spent the last month or so travelling. First to Harbin and Beijing, and the last three weeks in Japan. I didn't take many photos, mainly video footage, which I plan to start ploughing my way through in the next couple of weeks before class starts again. But here are a couple I did take.
I really need to invest in a camera that has a flash and takes decent photos instead of using the less than perfect photo setting on my video cam.

But anyway, I am back in Nanjing now. We had Chinese New Year the night of the 13th. Fireworks were exploding all around the city to create the atmosphere of a happy war zone. It started snowing just before midnight so the morning of the 14th I woke up to this.
I'm not sure I appreciate the cold but at least it looked pretty.

Well, this blog should probably come to a close. I intend to post more on here. I need to practice writing more. I will leave you with an image of one of the most noteworthy purchases I made in Japan; my giant cuddly pikachu.