5th March, 2010. 5:17 pm. The Unofficial National Anthem of Northern Ireland
The author and original performer of the song is Phil Coulter. But I have linked to the Luke Kelly version of the song, because Luke had a much more powerful voice than Phil Coulter.
Some would react this song as 'corny'. As if expression of raw sentiment and civic pride is a sign of naivety. Our culture tends to look down on innocence, associating it with stupidity, but if you think your superior cynicism makes you smarter than Phil Coulter, I'll bet you that you're wrong.
The Town I Loved So Well
In my memory I will always see
the town that I have loved so well
Where our school played ball by the gasyard wall
and we laughed through the smoke and the smell
Going home in the rain, running up the dark lane
past the jail and down behind the fountain
Those were happy days in so many, many ways
in the town I loved so well
In the early morning the shirt factory horn
called women from Creggan, the Moor and the Bog
While the men on the dole played a mother's role,
fed the children and then trained the dogs
And when times got tough there was just about enough
But they saw it through without complaining
For deep inside was a burning pride
in the town I loved so well
There was music there in the Derry air
like a language that we all could understand
I remember the day when I earned my first pay
And I played in a small pick-up band
There I spent my youth and to tell you the truth
I was sad to leave it all behind me
For I learned about life and I'd found a wife
in the town I loved so well
But when I returned how my eyes have burned
to see how a town could be brought to its knees
By the armoured cars and the bombed out bars
and the gas that hangs on to every tree
Now the army's installed by that old gasyard wall
and the damned barbed wire gets higher and higher
With their tanks and their guns, oh my God, what have they done
to the town I loved so well
Now the music's gone but they carry on
For their spirit's been bruised, never broken
They will not forget but their hearts are set
on tomorrow and peace once again
For what's done is done and what's won is won
and what's lost is lost and gone forever
I can only pray for a bright, brand new day
in the town I loved so well
1st March, 2010. 11:39 am.
I've noticed that John Berger's 1991 essay on Joyce's Ulysses is nowhere to be found online so I've typed it up and put it here.
I first sailed into James Joyce's Ulysses
when I was 14 years old. I use the word sailed into instead of read because, as its title reminds us, the book is like an ocean; you do not read it, you navigate it.
Like many people whose childhoods are lonely, I had by the age of fourteen an imagination that was already grown-up, ready to put to sea; what it lacked was experience. I had already read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
and its title was the honorary title I gave to myself in my daydreams. A kind of alibi or a kind of seaman's card - to show, when challenged, to the middle-aged, or one of their agents.
It was the winter of 1940-41. Joyce was in fact dying of a duodenal ulcer in Zurich. But I did not know that then. I did not think of him as mortal. I knew what he looked like and even if he suffered from bad eyesight, I did not picture him as a god, but I felt him through his words, through his endless perambulations, as ever-present. And so not prone to die.
The book had been given to me by a friend who was a subversive schoolmaster. Arthur Stowe his name. Stowbird I called him. I owe him everything. It was he who extended his arm and offered me a hand to grasp so I could climb out of the basement in which I had been brought up, a basement of conventions, taboos, rules, idees recues, prohibitions, fears, where nobody dared to question anything and where everybody used their courage - for courage they had - to submit no matter what, without complaining.
It was the French edition in English published by Shakespeare and Company. Stowbird had bought it in Paris on his last trip before the war broke out in 1939. He used to wear a log raincoat and a black beret acquired at the same moment.
When he gave the book to me, I believed it was illegal in Britain to own a copy. In fact this was no longer the case (it had been) and I was mistaken. Yet the 'illegality' of the book was for me, a fourteen year-old, a telling literary quality. And there perhaps, I was not mistaken. I was convinced that illegality was an arbitrary pretence. Necessary for the social contract, indispensable for society's survival, but turning it's back on lived experience. I knew this by instinct when I read the book for the first time, I came to appreciate with mounting excitement that it's supposed illegality as an object was more than matched by the illegitimacy of the lives and souls in its epic.
Whilst I read the book, the Battle of Britain was being fought in the sky above the south coast of England and London. The country was expecting invasion. No future was certain. Between my legs I was becoming a man, but it was quite possible that I would not live long enough to discover what life was about. And of course I didn't know. And of course I didn't believe what I was told - either in history classes, or on the radio or in the basement.
All of their accounts were too small to add up to the immensity of what I did not know, and of what I might never have. Not, however, Ulysses
. This book had that immensity. It didn't pretend to it; it was impregnated by it, it flowed through it. To compare the book with an ocean again makes sense, for isn't it the most liquid book ever written?
Now I was about to write: there were many parts, during this first reading, which I didn't understand. Yet this would be false. There were no parts that I understood. And there was no part that did not make the same promise to me: the promise that deep down, beneath the words, beneath the pretences, beneath the claims and everlasting moral judgment, beneath the opinions, lessons, boasts and cant of everyday life, the lives of adult women and men were made of such stuff that this book was made of: offal with flecks in it of the divine. The first and last recipe!
Even at my young age I recognized Joyce's prodigious erudition. He was, in one sense, learning incarnate. But learning without solemnity that threw away its cap and gown to become joker and juggler. (As I write about him, something of the rhythm of his words still animates my pen). Perhaps even more significant for me at that time was the company his learning kept: the company of the unimportant, those forever off stage, the company of publicans and sinners as the Bible puts it, low company. Ulysses
is full of the disdain of the represented for those who claim (falsely) to represent them and packed with the tender ironies of those who are said (falsely) to be lost.
And he did not stop there - this man who was telling me about the life I might never know, this man who never spoke down to anybody, and who remains for me to this day an example of the true adult, which is to say of a being who, because he has accepted life, is intimate with it - this man did not stop there, for his penchant for the lowly led him to keep the same kind of company within his single characters: he listened to their stomachs, their pains, their tumescences: he heard their first impressions, their uncensored thoughts, their ramblings, their prayers without words, their insolent grunts and heaving fantasies. And the more carefully he listened to what scarcely anybody had listened to before, the richer became life's offering.
One day in the autumn of 1941 my father, who must have been anxiously surveying me for some time, decided to check out the books on the shelf by my bed. Having done so, he confiscated five, including Ulysses. He told me the same evening what he had done and added that he had locked all five in the safe in his office! At this time he was doing important war work for the government on the question of how to increase factory production. I had a vision of my Ulysses locked away under folders of government secrets, labelled Highly Confidential.
I was furious as only a fourteen-year-old can be. I refused to compare my father's pain - as he had asked me to - with my own. I painted a portrait of him - the largest canvas I had done to date - where I made him look diabolic, with the colors of Mephistopheles. Yet my fury notwithstanding, I couldn't help acknowledging something else: the story of the confiscated books and the father in fear for the son's soul and the Chubb safe and the government files might have come straight out of the confiscated book in question, and it would have been narrated with equanimity and without hate.
Today, fifty years later, I continue to live the life for which Joyce did so much to prepare me, and I have become a writer. It was he who showed me, before I knew anything, that literature is inimicable to all hierarchies and that to separate fact and imagination, event and feeling, protagonist and narrator, is to stay on dry land and never put to see.
Under the upswellinng tide he saw the writhing weeds lift languidly and sway reluctant arms, hising up their petticoats, in whispering water swaying and upturning coy silver fronds. Day by day: night by night: lifted flooded and let fall. Lord, they are weary; and, whispered to, they sigh. Saint Ambrosio heard it, sigh of leaves and waves, waiting, awaiting the fullness of their times, diebus ac noctibus injurias patiens ingemiscit. To no end gathered; vainly then released, forthflowing, wending back: loom of the moon. Weary too in sight of lovers, lascivious men, a naked woman shining in her courts, she draws a toil of waters.
27th February, 2010. 9:08 pm. My translation of a popular essay on the Chinese blogosphere
Chinese women! Please don’t get into bed with foreigners.
If you ask a foreigner, why did you come to China?
He’ll usually tell you, because I admire China’s long history, wonderful culture, the stunning scenery, the breakneck development, the amazing changes.
But I tell you, apart from the very few who are sponsored by the government, and those who are backed by large companies, the overwhelming majority are here for two reasons.
The first, they can’t support themselves very well at home, or maybe even can’t support themselves at all.
The second, for Chinese girls.
One afternoon, myself and a friend, a French girl were returning from eating out, we were at the entrance of our place of work, far away opposite us, there was an oldie collecting rubbish, in his hand he was pushing a small cart, at this point the French girl poked me, “”Did you see that?” “See what?” I replied bewilderedly. “In front of you.” I then discovered, the oldie was a foreigner. His hair was long, dirty, and messy. No wonder myself, from that distance, and with my eyesight, thought he was just a garbage collector. The cart in front of him was not for carrying rubbish, but it was a mixed-race baby. Beside him was a Chinese girl, a young, beautiful, statuesque Chinese girl.
The French girl giggled: “Why do Chinese girls do this?” The reason she was laughing was because, while we had been eating, we had been discussing this issue. Actually, I’d already heard stories of this kind of foreigner with Chinese girls, but I’d never thought anything of it, but now it was before my eyes it was too powerful to ignore: a gorgeous Chinese girl with an old, ugly, dirty, short, bald, shrivelled foreigner, and their baby in a push-chair.
As well as that, the French girl wouldn’t stop laughing, (I had no idea why she was laughing like that) at that moment, as a Chinese, my self-respect was affected deeply.
Several days later, I made three decisions:
Tell everybody the ugly truth about the foreigners I know.
Inspire the Chinese people to rise up and stop Chinese girls from fawning over foreign men.
and most importantly, as a Chinese scholar, research how foreign women look at Chinese men, then I can use that knowledge to help Chinese men attract foreign women.
My first act was to go with my colleagues to interview some white women who live in China but have never had a Chinese boyfriend, address the central point of my research. Even more importantly, we wanted to go and interview those who had had a Chinese boyfriend, and white women who had married a Chinese man, invite them to tell us what are the strengths and weaknesses of Chinese men. I know that foreigners who fit this description are few, but luckily, I’ve already met several.
We also wanted to hand out a questionnaire to these white women, in order to use more scientific methods, to get them to describe how they view Chinese men, and try to found out who are the five most charming Chinese men that they can think of. All of this research will answer for me one question:
Are foreign women interested in Chinese men? What do the single foreign women in China most want from a foreign man? How do Chinese men become more charming for foreign women? What kind of Chinese men are most attractive to foreign women? What kind of foreign women go for Chinese guys? How do you meet foreign women? In public, how does one approach a foreign woman? When did China become heaven for foreign men?
John is just such an example. Not long ago, I met him on the street, holding hands with a Chinese girl who was taller than him. To introduce himself, he said his Chinese girlfriend works for the Home and Motors Company. In fact, it wasn’t John who introduced himself to me, I didn’t get his attention yet, because this instance of meeting him was world’s apart from the last occasion.
John is an American, 42 years old, height 1.67 metres. He hasn’t even graduated from University; in America he couldn’t get himself a decent job. After living in Africa for a couple of years, he heard the get rich quick stories of many Americans in China, and came to Shanghai. When he first came to Shanghai he wasn’t familiar with life here, so he get himself an English teaching job in a small town in Jiangsu.
John wasn’t happy, after a couple of months in Jiangsu, he came to Shanghai to look for work, he stayed in a cheap hotel for 12 yuan a night. I met him then. That day I went to eat with a foreign friend of mine, and I saw them chatting, I thought she knew John, so I invited him over to. I didn’t know until later that they had only met by chance there and then.
When we were ordering dinner, John ordered a pretty expensive dish, my friend asked him in English, the thing you ordered was pretty expensive, do you intend to pay for it yourself? John carried on like a kid who’d been caught doing something naughty. I saw him racking his brain, first I told my friend in Chinese not to worry, then I told him in English to continue choosing.
After that, because of work and other responsibilities, I quickly forgot him. This time I saw him, he told me that he’d found an English teaching job in a school in Shanghai. I didn’t talk to his girlfriend, but I could tell that she looked down on Chinese people. Looking at her background, I was tempted to think, I bet she doesn’t know that her American John once relied on other people to buy him dinner. This is rather too similar to a fairytale, it’s obviously manmade, and after making it up, man goes and lives it.
Also, on a Shanghai bus, I spotted a typical American street-hood with a young Chinese girl. And in broad daylight, he put his hand under her shirt and started feeling her breasts. After ten minutes, the Chinese girl clearly wanted to say that her breasts had had enough stroking, but unfortunately her English ability was limited to a couple of words at most.
A taxi driver told me, once outside a famous bar he met a black man, both of his arms around a Chinese girl. Originally, he thought, this must be a working girl so he wasn’t bothered, but they ended asking them to drop her off at the dormitories of a famous college, it was then that he felt a shock.
It’s reported that, some hospital in Beijing received an AIDS patient, this American businessman confessed before dying, in the preceding weeks in Beijing, he had been with six Chinese women, on further investigation, most of them were respected intellectuals.
This bunch of foreigners in China: they can’t find jobs in their own country, they use their status as foreigners in China to get money, chug beer, and chase women. Their only hobby is criticizing China. Some diplomats even use their position to have their way with Chinese girls. Some even publicly say, “My identity can get me any Chinese girl I want.”
China, do you know, you give foreigners too much, way too much, and in return foreigners do nothing but look down on you. You should call them something even they are not used to. Call them white trash. I also want to take this opportunity to officially tell these foreigners “don’t congratulate yourselves too much, you’ve only had the flesh of Chinese girls, not their souls nor the best of what they have to offer.”
Recently, a joke has been doing the rounds on the Chinese internet about a foreigner seeking marriage in China: a 47 year-old foreigner enters a Chinese marriage-agency, there have been no inquiries in a long time. Then suddenly one day, he received two letters proposing marriage, the foreigner was shocked. On further investigation, he discovered that one of the staff at the marriage agency had put his age at 67.
An independent survey recently confirmed that Chinese women don’t marry foreign men for love. They also discovered, the average age-gap between a Chinese woman marrying a Western man is 10.5 years. 13% are of entirely different generations, a full 20-year age gap. It is reported that the record age-gap for a Chinese-foreign marriage is 54 years. On the day they were married the American man was 82 and the Chinese girl was 28.
Incidentally, I recently saw a joke in an American magazine: a man in his eighties took his pregnant wife (in her twenties) to the hospital. The doctor gently asked him the baby could possibly be someone else’s. The old man replied “no way, I can perform miracles. Once, when my wife and I went hunting with one of her boyfriends, I used an umbrella to point at a deer, that deer just dropped dead there and then.”
I don’t know if that Chinese girl will get pregnant, but it would definitely make one respect the human capacity for creating miracles. You might have achieved something, but you’ve lost the most valuable of self-respect.
Needless to say, the instigators of these ugly foreigners’ success are the Chinese women. But these women, most have never been abroad, their brains are full of fantasies. So, today I want to take this opportunity to tell them the truth. If you’ve found true love, I congratulate you and wish you luck. Personally I say, if it’s true love, then no matter what troubles the future brings, it’s worth pursuing.
Nevertheless, I also want to warn you, firstly, Chinese women above all seek marriages that are stable, in developed Western countries, the divorce rate is around 50%, for inter-racial marriages, the statistics are even higher.
Secondly, I find it highly unlikely; the foreign men of today afford Chinese girls true love, because the first ingredient of true love is respect. And in the eyes of foreign men, the image of Chinese women has already been ruined by that minority, it’s already changed: the world’s most open, most forward, least careful, simple-minded, half-witted, stupid and easy girls. It’s very hard to believe that any man would give true love to this kind of girl. I only have one example, I heard an American say he was looking for an Asian girl who was a combination of maid, cook, and sex worker.
Maybe you’re only after money, I understand you, and I don’t blame you. But I want to tell you, before committing yourself, you should be certain of two things: 1. Is this foreigner really rich? Because I know, many foreigners in China are not rich. 2. Does he want to marry you? If he doesn’t marry you, then his wealth will have nothing to do with you.
Maybe you want to travel abroad. Again, I don’t blame you. But before you commit yourself you should be certain of two things: 1. this foreigner wants to go home. The outside world is generally wealthier than China, but it’s certainly not heaven. The dangerous part is, many foreigners in China don’t want to go home, because they can’t find decent work at home, maybe even can’t find any work. They don’t want to go home to return to that idle, lonely life. 2. Does he want to marry you? If he doesn’t marry you, then you’ll never acquire the right to settle in his country.
My colleague’s neighbour’s daughter married a Japanese mountain farmer. The neighbour often says some analogies in front of my colleague “Now we don’t care about money. 100000, 200000 is a small number.” But, my neighbour replies, “do you know if your daughter’s really happy in Japan? Chinese people are obsessed with face. Will always tell good news, and disregard bad news. Some years ago, a Chinese TV show interviewed a Chinese girl who had married into a Japanese farming community. From lively, vibrant, colourful Shanghai to the remote, cold hills of Japan, the Chinese girl could only express disappointment and helplessness.
Maybe you’re after sex. In Australia, a female author, Miss Shi, has written, “I have a girlfriend, by Chinese standards she is extremely open, a woman of vast sexual experience, the first time she was with a western man, she felt an extreme pleasure. She told me over the phone that the feeling this Western man gave her was so good that she wanted to marry him, and I calmly told her, 8 out of 10 western men are great in bed, 2 out of 10 are average. 2 out of 10 are awful.”
By saying this, Miss Shi really stirred the pot. Swathes of Chinese men came out of the woodwork to defend themselves. This topic had been discussed in our local newspapers over several months, it’s even spilled over into parts of the international media. Apparently, this is a very sensitive subject for Chinese men.
This 2/10 figure was made up on a basis of Miss Shi’s own experience, and to consolidate her own feelings, it was not however based on knowledge. What are Chinese men really like in bed? I did my own investigation.
This time my subject was not Chinese women who had married Western men, this time I wanted to ask white women who had married Chinese men, or had once had a Chinese boyfriend. I bluntly asked them one question, what are Chinese men like in bed? They bluntly replied, very good, some even said perfect. One even responded with a question of her own, “are Chinese men not confident in their own sexual prowess?”
I should continue my investigation, when I am finished my research I will make my findings public.
Moreover, I’d like to tell everyone, the latest research on sex shows that, a woman’s pleasure in bed does not depend on the man she is with, it depends on herself. This research goes to show, women’s failure to enjoy herself in bed, is usually the result of her own suppression of her own spirit. As long as women can rise above this repression, then they can be as happy and carefree as men in bed, maybe even more so. This research proves, that the real reason Miss Shi’s friend experienced so much pleasure the first time she was with a Western man was because of what he represented to her, it allowed her to let go of her repression.
The most recent studies have shown that men and women have similar responses to sexual stimulation. Before, it was believed that men depended on visual stimulation and women depended on atmosphere and ambience to prepare for sex, that has been used to explain why men like to watch porn. But visual stimulation can also arouse women, even to the point of orgasm.
I can tell you, Chinese men’s problem is not physical, it is psychological. What’s Chinese men’s biggest problem? Lack of sexual technique. Western men’s advantages are, in both urban and rural areas, they have sexual counselling and treatment clinics, an open attitude towards sex, and if they have a problem, they can seek support. To use an inappropriate example, an old lady who has cooked all her life is not as good as a young chef, because professional training is so important.
I call upon you to eliminate all of these ugly foreign men. Some of you might already be blaming the Chinese women, but aren’t we all responsible for creating this situation for the ugly foreign men.
The kind of women who are only after money are everywhere in the world, in America they are called “Gold-giggers”. In other parts of the world, these kinds of women are looked down upon. It’s only in China where they are respected and envied. This society that mocks poverty but not wealth is responsible for creating them.
There is an American female Professor of Chinese, who has an incomparable love of Chinese history, and cherishes Chinese culture, took her husband to China. But after not very long she decided to return home early. “Everyday my husband was surrounded by Chinese women, Some didn’t even bother disguising their excitement. In order to preserve my marriage, I decided it was best to return to America.” This American Professor bemusedly stated, “back in America, I read a Chinese novel from the eighties, the novel is full of women and their lovers who are not careful, accidentally have a baby, and end up having to throw it into the river.”
I also don’t get it, we’re all Chinese people, but in a short twenty years, our attitudes have changed so much.
I would like to know, the ones who give special attention to foreigners, especially Americans, are they these same women? I can understand the American President’s visit to China being in the headlines, but everything else the American President does being in the headlines is taking it a bit far isn’t it? Don’t forget, the more fuss you make over them, the less fuss they might make over you.
Here, I am appealing to achieve one thing, stop Chinese women from surrounding Western men. I am deeply aware that as an individual, my power is miniscule, so I want to encourage everybody to rise up: if you know any young Chinese girls who have opportunities to meet foreign men, please feel duty bound to show them this essay.
If you married a foreigner, bravely stand up and tell your sisters: your life abroad is actually lonely, repressed, painful, and homesick. If you are the parents of such people, don’t boast about your daughter’s life bound to this sluttish moneybags existence.
If you are a translator, under no circumstances get emotionally involved. Our translation of the names of foreign countries shows that we subconsciously have an inferiority complex to them. We translate the word America into “Beautiful Country,” whereas our Japanese neighbours translate it into “Grain Country,” a much better translation! If your imagination is vivid, don’t think of America as a perfect country, or a beautiful country, think of it as a grain production base.
If you work in an international company, don’t look up to foreigners, “foreign affairs are not all big affairs.” Have a better attitude towards your own fellow citizens, foreigners come and go. Don’t forget, the food you eat was cooked by Chinese people, the clothes you wear were made by Chinese people, your salary is paid by Chinese people.
If you work in sport, don’t let foreigners earn Chinese people’ money, most importantly, don’t welcome foreign thugs like Tyson into China again.
If you work in an insurance company, don’t look at foreigners differently again, treat them the same as your compatriots.
If you work in positions of authority, please be less corrupt. The corruption is the main reason for the bad atmosphere in our society, and this is your responsibility.
If you are an economist, don’t just think about your vested interests, don’t just think about powerful people, say a few words for the man on the street please.
If you are a policy maker, do not get wrapped up in self-interest. If the mountains are bald, the water is smelly, the air is dirty, the dust storms are rising, and everyday morals are declining. If nobody cares, and social harmony is lost, if the suffering are left for dead, then what does your power really count for?
If you’ve earned yourself some money, be kind. Have some morals in the way you spend it. Don’t be greedy and materialistic. Contribute to society.
If you are a Doctor, please save people’s lives. Do your job ethically. Don’t let the angels in white die in your hands.
If you are a Lawyer, respect the law. Don’t use your power to prey on innocent people.
If you are a film-maker, don’t waste all of your money on crowd-pleasing. Make some films about Chinese girls who turn down foreign men, or Chinese men who hook-up with Western girls.
If you work in dentistry, please recommend a decent toothpaste for the Chinese people. Today’s Chinese people rely too much on primitive methods of oral hygiene.
If you work in advertising, please have less of these disgusting words like “Royal” “Noble” “Elite” “Successful” and “Luxury.”
If you serve as a role model for young kids, please teach them a sense of shame. When I was young, my mother told me, clothes may be tattered, but will never be dirty; people may be poor, but will never be downtrodden; wealth cannot be prostituted, conviction cannot be destroyed, the head can be cut and blood can flow, but life is precious, love is even more valuable. Why don’t todays children hear such speeches?
If you are a Chinese woman, hold your head up high. If you are a Chinese man, straighten your spine. In this world, there is an unalienable truth, if a person doesn’t respect himself, he will never achieve the respect of others. A country, and a race is also the same.
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