Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
(I was going to say 'leching'; but I think only men can lech.)
Now, I know we chaps are often guilty of the same offence when it comes to ladies' tennis or beach volleyball, but.... really, gals, we do try to cultivate some appreciation of the sport as well, you know. With you, it seems as though your only criterion for pledging allegiance to one of the teams in the World Cup is The Shuai Ge Index - how fanciable you find them. That's so superficial, don't you think??
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
The only strong argument in favour of such a move seems to be that - for such a potentially momentous clash - it would be useful to have an English commentary (it does indeed render the action much more intelligible; and, strangely, more memorable - the names of the players involved in important moves just don't stick in the mind very easily if you haven't heard them spoken).
However, amongst the many, many reasons why I fear it will be an horrendous experience:
(I get claustrophobic in crowds: I hate the restriction of free movement.)
2) Yobbish England fans
(Oh, sure, I get a bit rowdy myself watching a game once in a while. I may even scatter the odd f-bomb around when I'm particularly emotional. But I try to be aware of my surroundings and my companions; I don't push ribbing of the other team and its supporters too far. And I keep mostly to humorous abuse. Many of the 'England fans' we have to suffer in this town [and all around the world too, alas] just keep up a constant stream of obscenity.)
3) Chinese football fans
(Almost as obnoxious as English fans - with excessive and inappropriate enthusiasms, mostly based on a staggering ignorance of the game. Most of them, strangely, support England [although they'd support Argentina against us in the next one: no logic, no loyalty!].)
4) Crappy sports bars
(I've complained before about the myriad fundamental failings of Beijing's [comparative handful of] 'sports bars'. I don't think there's really one worthy of the name.)
5) English commentary???
(The crappy sports bars haven't done much if anything to advertise what channels/commentaries they have available. The satellite that had been providing the South African Super Sports channels - our main pirated sports coverage here for the past two years - was 'decomissioned', or something, at the start of this month. I hear varying reports as to whether any alternative pirate feed has been accessed. I suspect a handful of the more successul or 'upmarket' venues such as The Den and The Pavilion may have bitten the bullet and shelled out big money for a legitimate satellite package [unheard of!]. But more rough'n'ready joints like Luga's Villa and Paddy O'Shea's?? There are rumours that some places are trying to accompany the local CCTV5 coverage with English commentary from an Internet feed [we tried the BBC's Radio 5 Live briefly in 12 Square Metres at the start of the tournament, but it was hopeless: constantly interrupted by adverts, and subject to a 3-4 second time-lag!!]. And even if there is English commentary, will the bars be playing it loud enough to be audible above the hubbub of the crowd? Of course not. And will they remember that the half-time and post-game match analysis is also an integral and vital part of the commentary? Of course not!!)
(The Den sneakily lulls you into a false sense of being able to afford it. Its happy hour price regime - everything discounted 50% from 5pm to 10pm - is reasonable, but not particularly cheap; when you suddenly find yourself being charged 50 kuai for a Carlsberg or 60 kuai for a Guinness after 10 o'clock, it hurts. In general, I try to avoid going to 'happy hours' at bars where I couldn't afford the normal tariff; but The Den's 'happy hour' is so long that I am scarcely aware of it having any other price scale - I only ever go there in the early evening, for a 'Western' pub meal on my way to a speaker meeting or something, or to catch some highlights of the previous weekend's sports. No, watching late-night games in The Den is just not within my budget. The Pavilion and Paddy's [and the dismal Danger Doyle's] are just as bad. And I hear some of those places have actually started charging door fees for the big games as well - outrageous!)
7) Cab shortages
8) The games go on just too bloody late
Friday, June 25, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Thus, there are a lot of English-speaking transients passing through the 'hood. And, since 12 Square Metres is one of only two Western-style bars on the street (and the smaller, cosier of the two, the only one that's something like a proper pub), quite a few of these people look in on the place.... and find a friendly welcome.
Drive-by flirting - there really ought to be a law against it.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
This is the latest re-tread of England's Euro 96 song, Three Lions - surely the best football song ever (possibly the only good football song ever?). It perfectly captures the wistfulness of the England football fan's aspirations, the passionate but unconvinced optimism with which we anxiously approach every big game. (And the accompanying fan video includes a much better selection - and better picture quality, too - of the England team's greatest moments than the 'Top 10 Goals' I posted on Froogville last week.)
[I had wanted to do a 'Great Love Songs' post for the beginning of the World Cup - but the two songs I'd wanted to use were both unavailable. Neil Innes' One Thang On Your Mind (an hilarious Country & Western parody which uses football metaphors to describe the progress of a romantic relationship, and makes fun of the fact that, when single, women disingenuously complain that men tend to be only interested in sex, but, when in a relationship, are reminded, to their great disgruntlement, that most men are actually far more interested in watching sport on TV than in sex) seems to be about the only one of his songs from his superb Innes Book Of Records series that has not been uploaded to YouTube (It eventually showed up a couple of years later!). And my favourite Thomas Dolby song, Close But No Cigar (the marvellous chugging guitar at the beginning is by Eddie van Halen, who guested on a number of tracks on the early-90s Astronauts and Heretics album), which also draws on the imagery of sporting disappointments as a parallel to romantic failure, is barred from embedding. It's a very clever video - worth clicking on the link.]
Friday, June 18, 2010
Shots for joy, for pain.
It was perhaps an unwise innovation of mine this week to start having shots whenever there's a goal. We are trying to come up with appropriate national shots for each team, but this is proving very difficult (seriously contemplated dropping into fancy Nanluoguxiang restaurant Saveurs de Corée for five minutes to celebrate Korea's half-time comeback goal with a nip of soju last night, but settled for a whiskey instead [a fake one it was, I fear: felt rather ill subsequently...]); we may just have to settle for the regular selection of spirits and shooters.
I am also trying to limit it to teams that I like - otherwise we could all be getting very drunk watching Germany....
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Of course, the real misery of last night was not Green's howler, but the fact that despite a good start we were not able to assert any superiority over a pretty poor US side. This has been a regular failing of England sides through all the years of my suffering them: they may raise their game unexpectedly against sides who are better than them (oh, the exhilaration - and the disbelief - after a fairly poor tournament, of finding ourselves outplaying Germany in the 1990 semi-final!!), but against weaker teams we huff and puff and fail to blow their house down. It's frustrating, embarrassing, wretched.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Well, it's more of a Bottom Five, really - the five most overrated bands we have to suffer on the Beijing gig scene. Hmm, and it might end up being a Bottom Six. So, sue me! My blog, my rules.
Beijiing's Top Five Most Overrated Bands
Oh yes, there are many worse bands I left off this list, but the criterion here was overrated. Hedgehog are (or were - I've heard scores of rumours lately that they've split up, are getting back together, are contemplating changes of name/personnel/style, etc.) a tight little unit, and the energetic playing style of their tiny female drummer Atom is undoubtedly charming. But that's about all there is to them: they've only ever had a handful of songs, most of them sound the same, and the lead guy can't sing to save his life. This band's exaggerated popularity - particularly amongst laowai - is really pretty hard to account for.
5= Queen Sea Big Shark
The lead singer is - sometimes - quite sexy, and is growing in confidence as a performer.... but not, alas, in competence as a singer. Their decision to write and perform most of their songs in English is a woeful mistake, as all they seem to be capable of is Chinglish gibberish. And the occasional smattering of surf guitar isn't really enough to make their sound 'distinctive'. I thought these guys showed some promise when I first saw them 4 years or so ago, but unfortunately they have made absolutely zero progress in that time. Lately, though, laowai observers seem to have been starting to talk them up as somehow worth listening to. I can only assume that this is the result of their having now achieved 'veteran' status: some people falsely suppose that there is a correlation between longevity and ability.
4 Ourselves Beside Me
If Hang On The Box were still going, they would certainly have been in this list. Some people reverence their place in the history of the Chinese music scene as the first all-girl rock'n'roll band here - but, god, they were terrible. However, they were terrible largely because of their extravagantly self-promoting but egregiously untalented 'singer', Gia (her new band, Girl Kill Girl, don't make it into this list because nobody thinks they're any good!); the guitarist and the drummer were actually very competent (and could sing too, although they rarely did so in that lineup). Many of us had hopes that this, the guitarist's follow-up venture, might perhaps prove to be a decent band. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to nurture those modest hopes for very long, because they were adopted as one of the 'house bands' at the megalomaniacal Michael Pettis's D-22 bar, and thus we were soon suffering a tsunami of hype about how they were going to be 'the next big thing'. They're rather emphatically not: they're navel-gazing, self-satisfied, and very, very dull. And they usually do that pretentious thing of refusing to establish any contact with the audience at all, staring resolutely at each other throughout their sets (or, on a few occasions, playing with their backs to the audience).
RETROS (Re-Inventing The Rights Of Statues, they used to call themselves, although they seem to have given up offering that explanation/expansion of their cryptic acronym now) are musically a pretty good band. But they're a bit too up themselves. And a bit too monotonous. And a lot too depressing (think Joy Division - on a bad day). Their lyrics are very heavy-going, and often a bit inept. And, worst of all, like Ourselves Beside Me (above) they perform in a solipsistic trance, looking only at each other, completely ignoring their audience. They probably sound quite good on CD (particularly if you're gearing yourself up for an overdose of pills and vodka), but their live shows are desperately drab affairs.
2 Lonely China Day
This insufferably pretentious and self-satisfied trio oh-so-nearly made the top spot. I only refrained from putting them there because I have doubts as to whether anyone (in China) really thinks they're any good. I understand they're starting to gather quite a following overseas, and their sales are pretty much keeping their tiny label, Tag Team Records, afloat. But the last two or three gigs of theirs I've been to see in Beijing have been deserted. They can play a bit; and if rambling (semi-improvised?) experimental prog-rock is your thing, you might give them a go. I've given them a go a number of times, and they've never failed to disappoint: the occasional great - or at least interesting - moment, but long passages of painful tedium. The video art back-projections that sometimes accompany their gigs are usually the most interesting part of the show; when they perform without these, it's very difficult to give them more than 15 or 20 minutes of your attention. And their shows run 2 or 3 hours (allegedly; I really don't think anyone can ever have watched a whole one)! And not only do they look only at each other through most of the gig, they're usually wearing headphones as well - lost in their own smug little world; we might as well not be there (well, mostly we're not).
1 Carsick Cars
The classic example of D-22's relentless over-promoting of a ho-hum act. These guys won a 'Band of the Year' accolade a couple of years back (I think it was the City Weekend one), which proves only that this is the one Chinese band that most laowai who don't really go to gigs very often have heard of. Jeff Zhang is a decent guitarist (though hardly stellar; frankly, I'd rather see him tighten up his basic technique than indulge in all this experimental torturing of his instrument with chopsticks and staplers), but he still can't sing for toffee. And, apart from the vapid but infuriatingly catchy Zhongnanhai, they haven't managed to come up with any memorable songs. Being banned from sharing the bill with Sonic Youth a few years ago was the high point of their career, an unexpected PR coup that probably explains whatever 'popularity' they continue to enjoy today - because it sure as hell ain't the music that's doing that.
What do these bands have in common? Well, they all have even-worse-than-average-for-Beijing singers (and that's bad). And three of them are distinguished by a perverse refusal to engage in any way with their audience. But what about the names, eh? Do the names not all SUCK mightily?
This is why band naming is so important. I'm not quite sure what the linkage is, but it's definitely there: bands with terrible names are almost always terrible bands.
Days of confused weariness -
Chained to the TV.