Tag Archives: Chinese

Is a Japanese comic doing their act in English with a Japanese accent racist?

Louise Reay Chinese

Image for Louise’s Chinese language show It’s Only Words

Last night, I went to see the final of the Leicester Square Theatre’s New Comedian of The Year competition, rightly won by character act LJ Da Funk (aka Zak Splijt).

One of the acts was the highly esteemed Louise Reay.

In a previous So It Goes blog, about her Edinburgh Fringe show, she explained to me: “I’ve always been interested in communication. People have a real mental barrier about languages and the way we communicate.

“But just one look can mean so much. We communicate all the time. Look at my hands. I can’t stop them moving. There’s so much more than language going on. That’s what my show’s all about. There was a very spurious 1960s experiment which proved that only 7% of communication was verbal. So my whole show is an experiment in the 93%. If I did it in French, it wouldn’t work, because most people maybe understand enough.”

Today, one review of last night’s show said: “Louise Reay was the first oddball of the night, coming on speaking Chinese and then explaining, via placards, that her whole act would be in Chinese. It could easily have been seen as racist, but Reay was more of an absurdist. I didn’t think it was offensive, maybe if I was Chinese – and very sensitive –  I might have felt differently.”

Italian comedian Giacinto Palmieri is currently conducting a three-year PhD research project for the University of Surrey at Guildford. It is on the self-translation of stand-up comedy – comedians who translate and adapt their own material from one language to another.

On Facebook, his response to the review was “I don’t understand why the possibility of considering Louise Reay’s act racist is even entertained (although, fortunately, rejected). She does not even pretend to be Chinese; she just plays on the absurdity of using a language the majority of the audience cannot understand.”

The reviewer (alright, it was the admirable Bruce Dessau) came back to Giacinto with: “As you say, I did consider it before rejecting it. But I still wonder if a Chinese person would be OK with it, though I don’t like the idea of being offended on other people’s behalf so I won’t be offended on behalf of the entire Chinese population!”

Giacinto, responded: “Indeed. But I think we need to go a step further: even if they were offended, they wouldn’t be justified in being so. Offence, even when real and not hypothetical, cannot be its own justification.”

A warm welcome for Louise in Nanjing during the BBC2 TV series The School that turned Chinese

A warm welcome for Louise in Nanjing during filming for her BBC2 documentary series The School That Turned Chinese

At this point, Louise pointed out: “My Edinburgh show was sponsored by the Confucius Institute at the University of Edinburgh, which is funded by the Hanban, the culture department of the Chinese government. This would appear to indicate that my act is generally supported by both the Chinese and the academic community of Chinese speakers. I would add as a general point that it is not remotely racist (for a white English person) to speak real Chinese. A Chinese person speaking English is never questioned on the matter. The Independent wrote an article about it all in case of interest.”

Interestingly, by a quirk of scheduling at last night’s show, Louise Reay’s act (an English woman performing in Chinese) was immediately followed by Japanese comic Yuriko Kotani speaking English with a Japanese accent. She won the BBC Radio New Comedy Award last week.

There has never been any suggestion that her act could, in any way, at any time, be considered racist.

Louise Reay is currently working on her next solo show, titled Que Sera, 些拉 

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A story about the National Health Service in the UK and a bit of pain

Arthur Smith encouraged singing over ‘dead’ man in Royal Mile

Arthur Smith on Royal Mile tour with prone punter (not me)

Well, I have four as-yet un-transcribed blog-chats to post, but someone has persuaded me to blog about myself today, so you can blame him.

I went to the physiotherapist this morning. A second visit. The muscles inside my left shoulder are still occasionally painful from when I tripped over and fell on the night-time cobbles of Edinburgh during the Fringe in August. I mentioned it in a blog last month.

I blame comic Arthur Smith.

It was during his night-time tour of the Royal Mile and it was at about one o’clock in the morning. I tripped over a kerb amid a crowd of people and fell flat forwards without putting my hands out. I guess I fell on my shoulder.

The problem goes back to when I was hit by a large truck while standing on a pavement in Borehamwood in 1991. The corner/edge of the large container behind the cab of the truck went into my left shoulder, pulverising (apparently that’s medical speak for turning-to-powder) my collar bone in two places. I was thrown backwards, twisting, and the back of my head hit the sharp edge of a little brick wall maybe six or eight inches high. The base of my spine twisted slightly, but I did not know that until a few years later.

I was kept in hospital for about a week.

Because of my head injury, I was in theory under the supervision of the ‘head injuries’ department (they kept me in to see if I had any brain damage) but, because of my broken shoulder, I was kept in the broken bones ward.

Each morning, the Consultant in the broken bones ward would do his ‘rounds’ with his students and chat to the patient in each bed – except me. One day, I heard him explain to his students that “Mr Fleming” was under the care of the ‘head injures’ department (not his words) so I was not his patient.

My shoulder in 1991 - pulverised in two places

X-ray of broken shoulder at the time – pulverised, they said

No-one came to see me from the ‘head injuries’ department because I was in the bones ward. The bones ward had very attentive nurses but I was not seen by any doctors there. Until, after a week, late one afternoon, a very exhausted-looking younger doctor came and saw me. He was from the ‘head’ department, asked me how I was and told the ‘bones’ ward they could discharge me.

Apparently, I later learned, I should have had physiotherapy for a few weeks or months after my release but (possibly because I fell between the responsibilities of two departments and was a ‘head’ not a ‘bone’ injury case), I never did. I never heard from the hospital again.

At home, in bed at night, to stop myself rolling over onto my broken shoulder, I would lie with my left arm out at right-angles to my torso and, eventually, the broken bones re-merged themselves. Someone told me this had been the wrong thing for me to do because, instead of mending naturally, the left shoulder – stuck out at right angles to the body for eight hours of sleep – foreshortened the mend slightly and the two parts of the broken bone merged one-on-top-of-the-other instead of in a straight line. And messed-up the muscles in the shoulder.

But who knows if that is true?

It was just ‘someone’.

I did seem to have the results of concussion for about nine months: I kept thinking I was better and was not. I would come home and stare at the wall, unable to construct thoughts in my brain nor to read. It was as if my brain de-focussed after about two lines of a newspaper column. I still cannot read books (though, oddly, I can write them).

After (I think it was) about a year, my shoulder still gave me pain for about two-thirds of my waking hours. It was as if someone were sticking the point of a knife into me all he time. My GP doctor said it would be like that for the rest of my life and discussed what drugs I could take.

Miracle oil Wan Hua Oil

I don’t know what it is, but it worked in 1991

Instead, I went to a Chinese doctor – knowing that Chinese medicine is very slow because it tries to cure the cause not the symptoms. The Chinese doctor gave me Wan Hua oil to rub on and, within two weeks, the pain was gone.

The effect of the oil could not have been psychological, because it never entered my head there would be a fast result with Chinese medicine.

That was thirteen years ago.

If I put any prolonged weight on my left shoulder, it will still give me a bit of pain, so I avoid that. Most of the time there is absolutely no problem. But, since I fell on the cobbles of Edinburgh in August, there is some pain when I put on or take off a jacket or a pullover: presumably it is just a muscular pain as I put my arm through an unusually odd angle.

The physiotherapist this morning told me that there was nothing really wrong with the shoulder broken in 1991: the bones would have mended. Logically, he is right. But I know there is a problem in my shoulder. And I know there is pain.

I have been given exercises to do.

Doctors know best, eh?

I have much worse pain in the heel and on the sole of my right foot, but the NHS physiotherapist is only allowed to look at one problem at a time, not two.

This blog’s valued reader Sandra Smith has suggested the heel problem may be Plantar Fasciitis. I think, from the symptoms, she is probably right. It may take a year to mend.

I have started rubbing on the Chinese oil again: on my shoulder and on my foot.

It seems to be difficult to get Wan Hua Oil in the UK, so I have asked comedian Chris Dangerfield for a decent Chinese pharmacy, preferably in Soho.

This may be a mistake on my part.

But he knows about such things.

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Several reasons why people with a love of the bizarre should visit Vancouver…

Anna Smith in her Vancouver hospital

Anna Smith reports from Vancouver on wide cultural matters

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith tells me that there is an enormous amount of construction in Vancouver at the moment: over a hundred tower cranes rear up on the skyline.  She tells me a team representing fifty construction firms flew to Ireland last month recruiting workers. In Vancouver’s local Irish newspaper, full page ads are running:

DO YOU KNOW BUILDERS BACK HOME? CALL US NOW.

This is Anna’s latest despatch from Canada:

_______________________________________________________

Well-stacked shelves at Vancouver's Library

Well-stacked shelves in Vancouver’s Library

The building which used to house the main branch of Vancouver Public Library has evolved into an enormous Victoria’s Secret store and is bursting with brassieres, panties and corsets. The cornerstone, however, remains intact – So it now appears as if the Lieutenant Governor (the representative of Queen Elizabeth II in Canada) presided over the dedication of a lingerie supermarket.

The design of the new main branch of the library is based on the Colosseum in Rome and has got rid of most of its books, although a small volume of John Hegley poems survives. Most of the books have been replaced with computers which are being used without interruption by coffee-swilling, mentally-ill and homeless people who have given up hope of finding affordable housing and are engaged in other research.

Several other local buildings have recently been converted into churches. I have no idea why churches are getting popular here, unless it is something to do with so many used bookstores going bankrupt and the proximity of the United States.

The Hollywood Movie Theater on Broadway, once famous for art house and second run movies, has become a church.

Across the street from the ex-Vancouver Public Library – now Victoria’s Secret – building, the enormous Center for the Performing Arts is now home to an evangelical church. It used to stage elaborate Chinese Action Musicals.

Chinese Action Musicals

Chinese Action Musicals’ home is now an evangelical church

I only know the term ‘Chinese Action Musicals’ from the posters round here. It appears that they are a form invented by writer/director Dennis Law – a retired vascular surgeon turned theatre impresario.

He is Chinese but lives in Denver USA and has produced ten action musicals. They are said to be a combination of Kung Fu, martial arts, acrobatics, acoustic and lavish scenic wonders, erotic scenes, dance and music… and a non verbal performance spectacle of otherworldly beauty with virtuoso body movement skills.

Mr Law is the survivor of a messy divorce (he found his godson naked in his bedroom closet) and says Chinese humour and dialogue does not translate well for international audiences. His most recent productions include The Terracotta Warriors (two-thirds dance and one-third martial arts) and Tang Concubines (not sure of the percentages on that one),

Half Burns Night, half Chinese New Year - in Vancouver

Event half Burns Night, half Chinese New Year

Another impresario you might be interested in is a man called Toddish McWong, who has been holding an annual Scottish Chinese fusion cultural event here for several years under the title GUNG HAGGIS FAT CHOY. It combines Robbie Burns Night with Chinese New Year.

I have never been, but will try to go this January so I can report to you about it.

At the moment, I am taking photos of buildings in Vancouver for some mysterious architect I have never met. All I initially knew was that his name is Edward, he likes shoes and lives in Toronto. The story has now expanded to involve lady lawyers, a yacht, vipers, a cocktail party and a person who is something like that Peter Sellars character in Being There

Meanwhile, my smart phone has a problem in the form of Pope Francis.

My new screensaver is a picture of the Pope, arm outstretched, performing a blessing.

I did not ask for this, it just happened somehow.

OK, he is from Argentina and I do prefer Jesuits, if I have to have a preference.

I am glad that he says Who are we to judge? and that he said the drownings in Italy are an atrocity.

But I am not a Catholic and I don’t know how the Pope got onto my phone. It might have come from the BBC and is probably the result of the phone being jostled in my handbag shortly after reading the news.

'Sir Gideon Vein’ (copyright photograph by Anna Smith)

‘Sir Gideon Vein’ wore cravats back then (Photograph copyright of Anna Smith)

The only similar quasi-spiritual event that comes to mind from my past would be one occasion in London when performer Ian Hinchliffe appeared at the door of our flat at ten in the morning. He was half-cut as usual and was accompanied by a quiet, bewildered but ordinary-looking young man whom he introduced as The Benefactor. Ian pronounced this (being from Yorkshire) as Tut Benefactor.

Ian and Tut Benefactor paced restlessly while Sir Gideon Vein adjusted his cravat and then they  all headed off for a day at the horse races at Epsom, financed by Tut Benefactor.

Do you ever have occasion to visit Brussels? There are a couple of buildings that I need photographed there. If you know anyone who lives or works there or is passing through, let me know.

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Filed under Architecture, Canada, Humor, Humour, Surreal, Theatre

“So how many pricks have you had?” I asked comedian Martin Soan yesterday

At home yesterday: my e-u-n friend, Matt Roper & Martin Soan talk balls

Yesterday: e-u-n friend, Matt Roper & Martin Soan talk balls

I was in my living room yesterday afternoon when I thought I heard my eternally un-named-friend say something about inflating the scrotum by making a hole in it, sticking a straw in and blowing.

Comedian Matt Roper had stayed the night, after returning with me from Totnes. And comedian Martin Soan had come round yesterday morning to help me re-decorate.

“Not scrotum,” I heard Martin Soan say. “You’re talking about the sac. Otherwise someone will just go and blow up their testicles.”

“Was someone talking about an inflatable scrotum?” I said and switched on the recorder in my iPhone.

Seeing this, my eternally un-named friend told me: “I don’t want to be quoted in this! I know nothing!”

“You blow up the sac, not the scrotum,” said Martin Soan.

“Isn’t the scrotum the sac?” I asked.

“Oh, it might be,” said Martin.

“I thought,” said Matt Roper, “that the scrotum was the bit between the bum-hole and the balls.”

“That’s where you’ve been going wrong,” I suggested.

Matt said: “The scrotum would be just behind the sac, wouldn’t it?”

“No, no,” said my eternally un-named friend. “The scrotum IS the sac.”

“In Yorkshire, probably yes,” said Martin.

I still have no idea what he meant by this but, in reply, Matt said: “It’s called the tinner there. It’s the bit in ter middle.”

It was at this point, I think, that I again started to lose control of my understanding of the conversation.

“Do you know,” asked Martin, “what is fascinating about that bit between your arsehole and the beginning of your scrotum?”

“It depends on your predilections,” I suggested.

“It is the very first and very last point in acupuncture,” continued Martin. “It’s not called the bubbling stream. I know which one is called the bubbling stream.”

“They’re numbered?” asked Matt.

“Number One and the last one start in that same place,” explained Martin.

“Is this like connecting the dots?” I asked, “You end up with the shape of Fidel Castro’s face?”

“It is useful, though,” said Matt, “It is not just a no-man’s land.”

“Try sticking a pin in it,” suggested my eternally un-named friend.

“On Saturday,” Matt reminded us, “I’m going down to Totnes for three weeks of acupuncture.”

“Well at least,” I told him, “you now know the point where it will all start and end.”

Martin Soan wears breakfast yesterday

Martin Soan wears breakfast yesterday

“Basically,” said Martin, “those points are used if they’re kick-starting you. Acupuncture is like running a car: it’s getting your body to operate at its optimum efficiency. And sometimes, like a car, you get a flat battery and your body’s so fucked-up that they have to do those two points. To give you a clean sheet, so they can start treating you properly.”

“And have you been kick-started?” asked Matt.

“Yes,” said Martin, “I’ve been kick-started once in my life.”

“Via the tinner?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Martin. “Only once during 30 years of acupuncture. It was about seven years ago.”

“Does it hurt?” asked my eternally un-named friend.

“I think it’s the most extreme pain I’ve experienced,” replied Martin. “The bubbling stream is a point just to the side of the little nail on your little toe… That’s like a blue bolt of electricity which starts about 50 metres away, comes through an arc into my head, down through my body and exits by the little toe and disappears. Each pain you can actually visually describe but, as soon as it’s there, it’s dissipated.”

“You’ve had acupuncture for 30 years?” I asked Martin.

“Yeah,” said Martin.

“So how many pricks have you had?” I asked.

“He usually does between 4 and 5 a session,” Martin replied, “and I’ve averaged maybe one session a month for 30 years… Years and years ago, he looked at me and said The older you get, the healthier you’re going to get. It’s just like tuning a car. The funny thing is he’s really good at getting rid of warts.”

“How did you start on the acupuncture?” I asked.

“Well,” said Martin, “I came back from Holland with the Greatest Show on Legs and I got introduced to some heavy drugs over there. When I woke up in England, I was just covered in bruises and cuts and also I suddenly collapsed in the street. The Greatest Show on Legs had to go off and perform without me for a month until I could build myself up again by eating properly.

“About a year after that, we were in Wales – me and my wife Viv – and this girl who was an acupuncturist took one look at me and said You almost died some time ago. You were very, very ill. And it cut through to my core shocked me. I had been very, very ill. And she said: When you get back to London, I recommend you go and see this guy. And I did. And I’ve been going to see him ever since.

“I love the whole philosophy of the Chinese, which is you pay your doctor while you are well and, if you’re ill, you stop paying him. It concentrates everybody on staying healthy.”

“Western doctors,” said Matt Roper, “are great for life-saving and emergencies…”

“Yes,” agreed Martin. “Broken legs and things like that.”

“But Chinese medicine,” continued Matt, “is great for prevention.”

“I’m still not sure why it’s called the tinner,” I said.

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“Have I Got News For You” in London & from Kenya with comedy critic Copstick

(Parts of this piece were published on the Indian news site WSN)

Vivienne Soan tries to fend off Bob Slayer last night

Vivienne Soan turned the other cheek to Bob Slayer

Last night, I went to the recording of tonight’s edition of TV show Have I Got News For You.

Such are the strange times that Margaret Thatcher created and which we live in, that this BBC TV show is recorded in the ITV studios on London’s South Bank. I used to work there when it was London Weekend Television.

Given that the recording for the half hour show lasted over two hours, I do not envy the editor.

One of the guests on Have I Got News For You was former London Mayor ‘Red Ken’ Livingstone – a late replacement, it seemed, for a Conservative politician who did not fancy being on a show that was likely to make many a mention of Margaret Thatcher’s death this week.

I would guess one of the bits likely to be cut out of the show (for length reasons) is a reference to the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Ken Livingstone said he had been told when he was London Mayor that he could not put anything permanent on it because it was reserved for a statue of the Queen, to be erected after her death. But, said Ken, he had been told not to tell this to anyone.

After the recording, my eternally-un-named friend and I had a drink in a pub opposite the ITV studios with comedian Bob Slayer and Pull The Other One club owner Vivienne Soan.

It was a pleasant – if lengthy – evening in London in a warm television studio and a rather over-priced pub glittering with lights.

When I got home, there was an e-mail from comedy critic Kate Copstick. She went to Kenya at the beginning of this week, continuing work for her Mama Biashara charity.

Mama Biashara  helps poor people in Kenya set up their own small businesses which may give them a lift to a better life; it also gives health aid.

She gets no money of any kind from the charity, takes no expenses and, when she is there, she lives in the slums of Nairobi.

These are extracts from Copstick’s diary this week:

MONDAY

British Airways check-in at Heathrow are delightful – even when I spill condoms and bleach tablets, bottles of kiddy vitamins, cod liver oil and multivitamins (thank you once again HTC) all over the concourse in an effort to reduce my ridiculously overweight bag to being merely overweight.

When I reach Nairobi, it is flooded. It is pouring with rain; there are great lakes of water everywhere.

My tiny slum palace awaits but, as it is late, we cannot take the shortcut through the carwash and I have to heave my bags through flooded and muddy pitch dark compounds. There is a massive blackout across Corner – fairly usual when it rains like this.

I only have one candle, so I save unpacking till morning.

The cats have come to greet me and stay the night. Which is sweet except when the kitten is sick under my bed.

TUESDAY

Giraffe outside Nairobi - the rich bit

Giraffe & skyline of Nairobi: very obviously a city of contrasts

The cats have shared my bedspace and, in return, have allowed their fleas to bite me into a flurry of little red itches.

Today, Uhuru Kenyatta is being sworn in as President of Kenya, along with William Ruto his Vice President (some say with the emphasis on Vice; I couldn’t possible comment).

It is a national holiday.

We tour around the deserted city centre looking for a Forex foreign exchange shop to change some money. We eventually find one. The exchange rate is dire. But I have no choice.

Everywhere – on radios, in cars, on phones – is the relay of the swearing-in ceremony. Everyone is listening.

Various African Presidents speak. The outgoing President speaks,.William Ruto speaks… The Kikuyu are delighted.

“So you have a war criminal for a president,” I observe.

They laugh.

“What if he is found guilty at The Hague?” I ask.

“There is no Hague,” they reply. “We do not recognise the Hague,” they say. “When The Hague indicts George Bush we will recognise it,” they say.

You cannot fault the logic.

“And Tony Blair…” I offer. “And Tony Blair.”

I suppose that, even if Kenyatta and Ruto are guilty, they kept out of other people’s countries.

Mama Biashara has a new fundraiser in my cousin Gus, an excellent bloke who runs up and down mountains for fun. He is approaching some trusts and, if they are to make with the dosh, it will have to be for something more grown-up-sounding than ageing Scots loony woman runs around the nasty bits of Kenya setting up odd businesses in unlikely places and mopping up pus.

Doris’s mum has just died of cancer of the absolutely everything. As Doris talks, I learn that, just to be admitted into an oncology ward in Kenyatta Hospital (a government hospital), you have to pay a deposit (on admission) of 45,000ksh – around £400. As a basic payment. To which the cost of medication etc is added. Per week. To die. After which you have to pay Mortuary Fees while they store your body as your desperate relatives try to find a way of paying the hospital bill. This in a country where labouring pays £2 per day of hard graft and even a decent office job pays about £90 a month.

Copstick (in blue) at Mama Biashara project

Copstick (in blue) at a Mama Biashara project

Doris has lined up a group of 190 refugee women, forced out of Kisumu in the aftermath of the election, to get the Mama Biashara treatment. They are Kikuyu in a Luo area. And the Luo are pretty pissed off at the result of the election.

The plan is to dig and stock three fish ponds for the refugee women to farm fish (it is the only business they know) on a piece of land they have been offered rent-free for ten years. 190 women is a serious project.

Jayne calls from Awendo to remind me the children have malaria, everyone needs shoes and the growth in Pamela’s anus is still there.

Now Felista arrives. She has become something of a national celebrity since appearing on TV when a man was killed by dogs outside DECIP, a children’s home which caters for children who are orphans, homeless and destitute.

The circumstances are typically murky and the Kenyan propensity for (a) turning a crisis into a massive drama and (b) gossiping the most massive amount of rubbish with endless enthusiasm means that no-one will ever know.

Felista says one dog nipped the man’s leg and then he died. The papers said that a “pack of rabid dogs” had attacked him and eaten his leg off. A mob of locals had descended on DECIP threatening to set fire to the place. And they would too. I have seen the Kenyan mob in action and it is fairly scary.

Felista got (and Mama Biashara paid for) an armed police guard until the hoo-ha died down a little.

Meanwhile, a second mob came to stone the dogs (any dogs, really) to death. The local authorities got in first and put the dogs down but the mob got in and stoned them anyway.

WEDNESDAY

I awake to find I have an arse like Doris’s. OK not quite. But it seems that, despite my dangling little insect-abattoir strips about the room, the mosquitoes have been in and had themselves a party on my ass. It ain’t pretty. Scratching uncontrollably, I head to the bank and withdraw a wedge and a half.

I meet Doris and we head out to Kenool for a little workshop. I have a gift for Doris but it has suffered an unfortunate tragedy. As British Airways are not as generous as Virgin when it comes to excess baggage, I use my two allowed free bags on the way back when I bring a mountain of stuff. This leaves me with two bags on the way out and you would not believe how much really good cod liver oil and multivitamins weigh (thank you HTC).

I spent an afternoon decanting syrups and cough mixtures from glass bottles into big lightweight plastic bottles. Ignoring my sister Amanda’s advice to wrap them in clingfilm, I arrive to discover that Doris’s beautiful purple boots (thank you Age UK) are soaked in Kilkof cough linctus. Not good. I scrub and clean them as best I can and Doris seems delighted with everything except the lingering smell.

Excitingly, my brother calls to confirm he will be in Nairobi on Saturday at 5.00pm.

The walk back home is wet and muddy. The slum mud has stuff in it you really don’t want to think about and has the effect of clamping great gobs of it to your feet so, by the end of a 100 yard walk, you have doubled your body weight.

I curl up with the cats.

THURSDAY

Kate Copstick in Kenya

Kate Copstick in Kenya: takes one step at a time

I meet with Doris after she has been coffin-shopping and we get together with some more groups in Dagoretti Corner. We fund a fresh ginger and garlic selling group; some women who will be buying, slaughtering and selling chicken; a rice business; a group of three men who have the opportunity to buy a chainsaw and start a firewood business; and another men’s group who have got themselves knee-deep in orders for duck meat.

The Chinese are really taking over here.

I notice, when I go into the supermarket, alongside The Nation, The Standard and The Kenyan, there is now The Chinese Times.

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Comedian Chris Dangerfield spent over £200,000 in 18 months on having sex with Chinese prostitutes in London

(This piece was also published by India’s We Speak News)

Chris Dangerfield in Soho yesterday, drinking it all in

I met comedian Chris Dangerfield in Soho yesterday morning. He had just had a fight with telecoms company O2. He has a website which sells lock-picking tools.

“Anyone can legally buy lock-picking tools and pick locks to their hearts’ content,” Chris told me. “But O2 seem to think they have it in their power to say only people over 18 can buy them. It isn’t the law and I’ve been on the phone to them for two hours. I now can’t even access my own business website on my own O2 phone.”

“But they haven’t targeted other sites selling lock-picking tools?” I asked.

“No,” Chris laughed. “They’ve only gone for the largest and most respected purveyor of fine lock-picking devices.”

We went for tea in Frith Street. He said there was something he had to tell me.

Cleo Rocos” Chris told me, “has spent the last ten months working with a master brewer or distiller or whatever it is in Mexico or – fuck knows – somewhere in South America or Central America or somewhere and she’s brought out this new range of tequilas. It was my friend’s birthday last night and my friend has been obsessed with her since she used to get her ample assets PVCd up on the Kenny Everett TV shows”

“Obsessed?” I asked.

“Obsessed,” said Chris. “He stalked her. He had a map with crosses on it to triangulate her whereabouts until he found out where she lived. Absolutely true. Yesterday it was his birthday and I’m on some quite heavy back medication which he stole from me. Well, I gave to him, but I said Let’s pretend this is stealing so that, if you do die, I’m in the clear.

“He took that and said Right, Cleo Rocos is doing a promotion for her tequila, so I would love to go up there and I said Look, I don’t drink. I don’t want to get involved in those horrible situations. He said Please! Please! You’ll be my wingman! I said I’m not a wingman. I’m not a straight man. It’s not my role. I will ruin this for you.

“Anyway, we go up there and he’s rubbish because he’s so nervous and he’s sipping his tequila – it’s a shot of tequila – and he asks Cleo What cocktail is this? and she’s like Wha-a-a-a-t? Ridiculous. So she starts talking to me. I charm her so well by accident that she ends up giving me her card. My friend and I leave. He’s crying. He’s my best friend. He hasn’t spoken to me since last night and I don’t even know if he’s still alive after taking my back medication. He walked off crying. So I’m in a very strange mood this morning. I’ve upset my best friend and I’d like to dick Cleo Rocos and it looks like that might happen. So that’s good and bad. My best friend may kill himself, but I might get to have sex with Kenny Everett’s sidekick.”

“Do you think she’ll mind being mentioned in a blog?” I asked.

“I’m charming,” said Chris. “I’m very charming. But I want to tell you about Nick Broomfield.”

“The internationally-acclaimed documentary film maker?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Chris. “Louis Theroux is like Nick Broomfield lite, isn’ he? And there’s a couple of others…. So I read in an Observer article last Sunday that he’s made a film about the Chinese brothels in Central London which I assume will be here in Soho and Chinatown because that’s where they are: there are about 80 round here. He’s got loads of undercover footage so, immediately, my Facebook wall and my Twitter is covered with people saying It looks like you’re going to get some more airtime. The chances are you’re going to be in it.

“My show at the Edinburgh Fringe next year is going to be based on the fact that in around eighteen months I spent in excess of £200,000 on Chinese prostitutes.”

“When did that finish?” I asked.

Chris Dangerfield and one of his tattoos

“Just before I went to Thailand and wrote my Sex Tourist show,” he told me. “It ended around July 2011. So when I read that Nick Broomfield had made a film and he’s got undercover footage of it, I’m amazed if I’m not in it and I can’t wait to be in it. He may well digitize my face, but I’m covered in very distinctive tattoos – they’re all writing, there’s no pictures. So hopefully I will be identifiable and then I will be able to sue him for one penny. I don’t want the money off him, just the suing.”

“What would you sue him for?” I asked.

“Err… err…” said Chris. “I’ll find something. He didn’t get me to sign a release form. He might think no-one would like to draw attention to what they’ve done. I’d love to draw attention to it. I’m an atheist, but I am praying to my atheist god that I am in that documentary – clearly me – because I do some weird shit.

“When they’re out of the room, waiting for me to get undressed, I’m making sure there’s nothing unpleasant in my anal crack, dipping my penis under the tap quickly just in case the prostitute I visited an hour before has left anything unpleasant there. Cos sometimes I was doing three or four Chinese prostitutes a day.”

“What might be in your anal crack?” I asked.

“Well, usually poo,” replied Chris laughing.

“And how did you get £200,000 to throw away?” I asked.

“Ah!” said Chris. “That’s an interesting story. I’m going to give you some key words which I think will keep me free of incarceration. If I were to give you the words… my past importing cocaine and selling crack… and say you could use those words in any order you like to create a picture of how I might have earned that money… Easy come, easy go… I learned Mandarin in Chinese brothels in London. I can hold a very basic conversation in Mandarin.”

“If you learnt the language in brothels,” I said, “isn’t the spread of words you know limited? You can’t really go into a vegetable shop and ask for things.”

“Well,” Chris told me. “I do occasionally go into the Loon Fung on Gerrard Street to buy food and I can certainly ask How much does that cost? and there are certain Chinese terms like Mama foo-foo which means So-so but the literal translation is Horse-horse tiger-tiger.”

“So,” I asked, “you’ve been buying a lot of strange things from the Loon Fung?”

“If you come round my house for a hamburger,” said Chris, “be prepared.”

“But back to Nick Broomfield,” I said.

“I’ve contacted his management,” Chris told me. “I’m guessing, if his film is being released this year, it’s probably been shot in the last two years and, considering I was doing two or three a day or more for that eighteen month period, I’m hoping to hell that I’m in the documentary. Not because people can see my nasty white arse go up and down but just because it makes me laugh a lot. I like the thought of being in it.”

“You did two or three a day for eighteen months,” I said. “Why?”

Chris was flummoxed.

“Why have lots of sex?” he asked, incredulous.

“Why Chinese prostitutes?” I asked.

“I’ve got ‘yellow fever’ – I love Chinese prostitutes; I love Asian prostitutes.”

“Because?”

“That’s a question about taste I could never possibly answer. (Gay comedian) Scott Capurro said to me that having sex with an Asian man was the nearest he’d come to having sex with a woman.”

“But prostitutes?” I asked.

“I’ve blurred the boundaries. I’ve become very good friends with a lot of these women.”

“Because you live in Soho yourself?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Chris. “I have had three lives in Soho. When I was a child, I used to come up here to buy magic tricks. Then I had my mid period when I was selling drugs for ten or fifteen years doing ‘the Dean Street shuffle’ – Gerry’s – French House – Colony Club. And now I’ve lived here about four years, where I’ve been ‘clean’ and just doing stand-up… and,” he added as an afterthought, “laying down.”

“I think it depends on your definition of ‘clean’,” I suggested. “But you encounter all these people socially too, because you live in Soho.”

“Yeah,” said Chris. “I’ve been out to dinner with them.”

“And you are doing an Edinburgh comedy show about Chinese brothels next year?”

“Yes,” said Chris. “I’m going to call it Chinese Wank Shops with the tagline In 18 Months I Spent in Excess of £200,000 on Chinese Prostitutes.”

“Doesn’t the constant subject of prostitutes put women off you?” I asked. “Women are not going to be wildly attracted to a man who puts himself around the brothels of Soho.”

“They love it,” said Chris. “I get fan mail… I get so many comedy groupies… They see my show and then they Facebook or Tweet me: Hello. I saw your show. Would you like to have sex?”

“Your Sex Tourist show at the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of months ago didn’t seem to have only men in the audience,” I observed.

“Well,” said Chris, “Kate Copstick’s excellent review in The Scotsman of my excellent show pointed out the audience was made up of old, young, male and females, singles and couples. All laughing hysterically. I have no wrong or right audience. I’ll make anyone laugh. Mathilda Gregory’s 5-star review of Sex Tourist in FringeGuru said it was an “all-conquering clash of ego and touching vulnerability” and I that had “moustache-twirling charisma”.

“How,” I asked, “do you make knobbing prostitutes for money acceptable to comedy goers?”

“Well,” said Chris after a pause. “It’s not my job to make it acceptable. It’s their moral outlook. They have to critically evaluate the evidence they are presented with and not be idiots. If they want to base their understanding of prostitution on ITV series about police and whores and make massive mistakes, then they should do so.”

***

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Return from North Korea to China, land of individual freedom & Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves’ new movie “Man of Tai Chi” shooting in Beijing

During the night, on the long train trip back to Beijing from Pyongyang, I mention that, since an accident in 1991 in which I was hit by a truck, I have not been able to read books. I can write books, but I cannot read them.

Our English travel agent guide tells me he was recently mugged in the street in Bristol. “They hit me on the back of the head with a baseball bat,” he told me. And roughed me up a bit at the front, too. I have had difficulty reading – and slight speech problems – since then. It’s very frightening when it affects your mind.”

I develop a slight toothache.

As soon as we crossed the bridge over the Yalu River which divides North Korea from China, two smiling strangers (everyone was smiling) separately observed to me how strange it was to feel that entering China was returning to ‘freedom’.

A woman I did not know said to me, smiling: “It’s like a weight has been lifted.”

Somewhere between a station signposted Tanggu and Tianjin city, I noticed there were satellite TV dishes on some of the old, single-storey peasant homes. Not Party buildings, not notable buildings, not in any way rich homes. And occasional clusters of buildings had solar panels on their roofs; possibly communal buildings; impossible to tell.

Then, for mile after mile after mile, a gigantic new elevated road/train track was being built. Make that plural. Over mile upon mile upon continuous mile, new highways, new tower blocks were being built. It is as if the country is building a new city like Milton Keynes every week or a new London Docklands nationwide every few days.

So very different to when I was last here in 1984, 1985 and 1986.

The irony with China is that, in the Cultural Revolution – the Chinese call it the ‘Ten Year Chaos’ – of 1966-1976, the Red Guards wanted to destroy the past, to start from the ‘now’ and build a new society. That now has happened. The irony is that it is not the future they envisaged; it is the future they feared.

Would this giant leap forward have been possible in a country without the unstoppable anti-democratic will and irresistible totalitarian power to push it through? Who knows? But it is an interesting thought/dilemma.

As we arrived at Beijing railway station, someone told me they had seen on BBC World TV that the North Korean satellite launched last week had exploded shortly after launch. Back in North Korea, of course, they will ‘know’ that Satellite 3 was a glorious success and will ‘know’ the giant leaps which their country makes continue to be the envy of the world.

If you live in a self-contained village isolated from all outside knowledge – or, indeed, in The Village in The Prisoner TV series – you know only what you know. There are no known unknowns, only unknown unknowns.

Living standards and social/technological advances are comparative. The North Koreans can see for themselves – they ‘know’ – that their society has advanced in leaps and bounds – from the electricity pylons of the 1980s to – now – mobile telephones and three satellites in space. And they have seen the tributes brought to their leaders by the admiring leaders of other countries.

China – with 7.5% growth per year – is living the advance a stagnant North Korea falsely believes it is making.

In the afternoon, in Beijing, I go into a Bank of China branch. It is in a suburb of the city. The door guard and staff look shocked that a Westerner has wandered into their branch.

I get a ticket to go to the cashier. A recorded message on the loudspeaker tells me when my number – Number 46 – is ready to be dealt with and which cashier to go to. The recorded message is in Chinese… then in English. Like the road signs, the metro signs and many shop signs. It is not just for my benefit. Each customer announcement is made in Chinese… then English.

At the cashier’s desk, facing me, is a little electronic device with three buttons marked in Chinese and in English. By pressing the appropriate button, unseen by the cashier, I can say if her service has been Satisfactory or Average or Dissatisfied.

Welcome to capitalism. Welcome to China 2012.

About half an hour later, near the Novotel and the New World Centre shopping complex, I pass a woman with one eye, begging. Welcome to capitalism. Welcome to China 2012.

Close to a nearby metro entrance, an old grey-haired woman is lying flat on her back, immobile, on the pavement. Beside her, by her head, a middle-aged man, possibly her son, kneels, rocking backwards and forwards, bobbing his head on the pavement, as if in silent Buddhist prayer. A large sheet of paper with Chinese lettering explains their situation. Passers-by drop Yuan notes into a box.

Welcome to China 2012.

At dusk, walking back to my own hotel from a metro station on one of Beijing’s busy, modern ring roads – a 45 minute walk – I see some movie trucks belonging to the China Film Group – dressing rooms, a director’s trailer, equipment vans.

Further along, down a side street, they are shooting second unit photography for a movie called Man of Tai Chi – actor Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut – in an area of grey, old-style, single-storey streets just a 15 second walk off the busy ring road.

In Pyongyang, the North Korean film studios had clearly been doing nothing. But they wanted – they liked – to pretend they have a thriving film industry.

In China, they do.

But they also block Facebook, Twitter and, indeed, this very blog you are reading.

Welcome to China 2012.

… CONTINUED HERE …

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