Sunday, April 27, 2008

New York Times

I read the New York Times everyday, and everyday I bookmark articles to post on the blog, and everyday I don't put them on the blog. So now I'm putting them up all at once (with commentary) so that they aren't clogging up my bookmarks folder anymore.

"Yes, Running Can Make You High" - They finally proved that runner's night exists, not that I every had any doubts.

"A Death-Defying House" - The secret to eternal life apparently lies in the environment you live in.

"Scrutiny of Suit Rises as World Records Fall" - When does a swimsuit cross the line into becoming a performance-enhancer?

"Changing Speeds to Go the Distance" - Run faster.

"The College That Would Not Go Gently" - I had thought about applying to school here for a while.

"Bisphenol-A BPA" - Now I have to get a new Nalgene.

"China Says It Is ready to Meet Dalai Lama Envoys" - Big new here. Who knows if anything will come out of this, but it's better than nothing.

Now go learn new things.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I stand corrected

My blog has miraculously become unblocked in the past few minutes. YAY! I can finally see it in full. Internet here is very strange and things come and go. I don't know if it will last (it was blocked this morning) but I'm very pleased at the moment.

Annoying Mix-up

I just realized that all of the time stamps on my posts for the last two months have been wrong since I forgot to change the setting to China time after moving here. I hadn't realized that Blogger didn't automatically take the time from my computer and I didn't realize sooner because I can't actually see my blog here, only post to it. (China has blocked all blogs.) Anyway, for all intents and purposes, posts from the last two months were actually written thirteen hours later than it says they were. Sorry about that.

Theatre Review

Recently some of us went to see a production of Hamlet at the Capital Theatre. The performance was by a small British Shakespeare troupe and was thankfully in English, with Chinese translation projected on screens on the sides of the stage. I was dubious about seeing Shakespeare in China, both because I saw a mediocre production of Hamlet in the states before I left and because some of the shows we’ve seen here have been absolute technical disasters.

The tragedy was preformed with a minimalist set consisting of a single platform of exposed construction in an arch shape. This acted surprisingly well as a watchtower, throne, ship, and bedroom. The troupe consisted of seven actor-musicians who frequently moved in and out of several roles. Musicians were positioned stage left and at different points included a guitar, a ukulele, percussion, and vocals. Overall the acting was very good with some interesting decisions that I hadn’t seen in other performances. What follows are some of my random observations.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were extremely comical and were dressed as twins, even though they both played other parts throughout the play. Fortinbras was completely eliminated from the script, probably for time’s sake more than anything else. During “To be or not to be,” when Polonius and the king are spying on Hamlet, they are disguised as rocks on the beach. Hamlet is apparently considering whether or not to throw himself off a cliff. When the players are putting on their play, the actors pretend to be marionettes. This was very cleverly done and must have required quite a bit of work to figure out. Later, when the king calls for lights during the play within the play, the lights rise for intermission in the actual theatre. The director chose to have Hamlet and Ophelia go shoeless ad an indicator of their madness. When Hamlet kills Polonius he does so by very realistically breaking his neck, complete with gruesome sound effects. Unfortunately, this eliminates Polonius’ line to the effect of “I am slain.”

The clash between Chinese and Western was evident in the technical aspects of the performance, which were flawed in ways that have been common to all the Chinese performances I have seen. The Chinese consistently overdo their special effects. Hamlet’s undoing was a noisy smoke machine that whirred each time it produced a weak puff of smoke in the corner of the stage, eliciting a laugh from the audience. Additionally, the lighting was a little overly creative. The ghost was cast in a mix of orange and green light, reflecting brightly off his burial shrouds. After he disappeared, Hamlet then steps into the same area, making it very difficult to take him seriously. The fencing scenes were well choreographed, but other examples of stage fighting appeared utterly unrealistic.

In the end, I was very pleased that I decided to go see the show. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be in the audience if I didn’t speak English.

GMail Art - Google

I discovered this during computers class today, which is basically just two hours of surfing the web. The Chinese kids are supposed to be learning photoshop, but mostly they just play Counter Strike. I found the whole thing quite amusing because the school has blocked Gmail (among other things) and I was annoyed that I couldn't get around it.