Outstanding news for Beijing bibliophiles like myself. Page One, the Singapore-based bookstore, opened their first store in Beijing two months ago, beneath the Tiffany’s in the China World Mall. It’s a big step up from the other bookstores that we have been forced to rely on to get English-language books.
It seems that the seeds of the Jasmine Flower, the symbol of the Tunisian Revolution, have spread beyond the borders of the Middle East, wafting through the air and touching down in the Far East.
In Beijing on Sunday anonymous calls for protest sent across social media and micro-blogging sites resulted in a demonstration outside a McDonalds in the busy downtown shopping district of Wangfujing. By 2PM hundreds of police were on scene. 25-year-old Liu Xiaobai was apprehended for placing a jasmine flower in a planter in front of the McDonalds but was released after the commotion drew attention from photographers and journalists.
I’ve never understood a capella. In college I went to a few concerts and bought two CDs from one of the myriad groups on campus. Even though I enjoyed it, the need to render Radiohead and Weezer into a compressed arrangement of voices always puzzled me. It was like reading the novelization of a movie, or, perhaps more precisely, watching a low-quality pirated copy of a movie instead of going to the theater. But I thought that probably it was just me, that I didn’t understand the art form.
So when I sat down to watch Voces8, an acclaimed English octet, at the National Center for the Performing Arts, I expected insight. I thought that a capella performed by professionals would be qualitatively different from those Friday nights on the quad. And it was, in terms of quality and song choice (less pop, more English ballads), but in the end it was just eight people singing, making sounds, and occasionally snapping to the beat. But if I thought I was confused, it seemed that most of the audience was worse off.
I popped out just a few minutes ago to the convenience store to get a bottle of water, and saw a convoy of tanks roll by right beside the second ring road.
Last fall, when the days began cool, I stopped going through security checks. I still carried my messenger bag with me, but now I could hide it under a peacoat and pass unmolested into the subway. It was great, until I realized that someone with a bomb could probably do the same thing.
Tickled as I was to see that old rascal Roman Polanski at the Beijing Film Academy Q&A on Monday, October 27th, the event quickly devolved into a study on how not to stage a Q&A. The sprightly 75-years-young director, looking not a day over 60, appeared onstage to resounding applause, only to discover that the Q&A was inanely planned and transparently bureaucratic, with audience members barred from asking but a single question at the end. Forget it Roman, it’s Chinatown.
Translation is a lose-lose situation. If a translation is well-received, praises are lauded upon its author and the translator is all but forgotten. However, if the book is not well-received, many times reviewers, absolving the author of culpability, will blame the translator, claiming that many things were, as trite as it sounds, “lost in translation.” Ironically, most reviewers and readers never read the translated book in its original language which makes comments like “a faithful translation” or “the author’s voice shines through the translation” specious and presumptive. Translation is thankless, tiring, and ultimately a series of losses. Umberto Eco called it “the art of failure.”