Beanie Lei's blog, Beanie Lei's books, about Beanie Lei

Sunday, 29 April 2018

My thoughts on 'The Book of Life' and 'Coco' (Doesn't contain spoilers!)

I was very lucky to have seen 'Coco' recently, and to have caught 'The Book of Life' on the telly yesterday. I had wanted to blog about 'Coco' only, but after watching 'The Book of Life', I had to write about them both.

My first impression of 'The Book of Life' was that it shared the same theme as 'Coco', and indeed, some have queried if 'Coco' is a rip-off of 'The Book of Life' (may contain spoilers), but take my word for it, my first impression was very, very wrong. Other people have compared both films extensively to explain why they are different (may contain spoilers), but to me, there is only one point to make, and that is on setting: that they are both set in Mexico is what makes them so different.

'Coco' was interesting to me because it could have been set in an East/Southeast Asian country, especially China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, or the Philippines, or a place where there are Mexican or Asian diasporas, and it would still have worked. This is because of the emphasis of 'Coco' on familial and ancestral love, and because items like the Mexican family shrine filled with photos and food can also be found in cultures from East and Southeast Asia.

'The Book of Life', however, is not like this. Given two of the main characters who are involved, this story can only function if it is set on not just any Day of the Dead, but the Mexican Day of the Dead, and because of this, it is a story that can and must only involve Mexican people/diasporas. If you were to take Mexico and Mexicans away from 'The Book of Life', it will be an entirely different film altogether.

Where 'Coco' scores points for me (purely because I have seen this in action IRL) is its subtle exploration of the power of music to evoke memories and feelings, and its use of original songs to do this. 'The Book of Life', with its completely different emphasis, uses original music extremely differently, and it is interesting to contrast how it and 'Coco' showcase how music can be used.

As a result, 'Coco' and 'The Book of Life' actually address the key topic of  'life vs living vs survival vs existence' extremely differently, and this is why I think that if you have not watched 'The Book of Life' yet, you must, must, must give it a go. Go and see it for an alternative, thought-provoking, inspiring view on the nature of life, and living life, and while 'Coco' is strong, 'The Book of Life' also has its strengths, and it is fun to watch the two, and be inspired by them in different ways.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

My new book, 'The Vision (Part One of the Norse Myth Soap Opera Trilogy)' is now out :-D !

I have some rather exciting news: my newest book, 'The Vision: Part One of the Norse Myth Soap Opera Trilogy' is now out on Amazon Kindle! Here's what the cover looks like:

And here's the blurb:

'The Norse Myth Soap Opera Trilogy' consists of three novellas about the Norse Gods and Goddesses and Norse mythology in a style which owes much to gossip, British soap operas, and Chinese mythological novels, yet is rooted in what has been recorded in Old Norse sources. The result is a retelling with a fresh, alternative perspective on the Norse myths. 'The Vision', which is Part One of the Trilogy, introduces the main players in the myths and the worlds they live in.'

It has taken me six years to write 'The Vision'. This is because I have been busy with other things, and busy figuring out what certain Old Norse words and phrases mean.

The cover has taken me forever to design as finding the right tree was quite tough! A lot of people around me thought I was losing it when they saw me staring at trees and photographing them, especially since the rough weather has meant that many trees have remained bare. But I had an idea for the cover from the very start, and knew that no matter what, I had to take the right photograph at the right angle for the cover I had in mind. I feel that this cover ties 'The Norse Myth Soap Opera Trilogy' to 'The Prophecy', yet allows 'The Prophecy' to either be a stand-alone book or the fourth book in the Trilogy.

I plan to release Parts Two and Three to tbe Trilogy ('The Promise' and 'Wolf's Father') in 2018, so watch this space!

I have updated my blog so that my page with a list of my books is now up - do take a look!

Thank you to all my IRL, Twitter and Google+ friends and family for waiting so patiently! :-)

Monday, 2 April 2018

What I have been up to, or, this is not an advertisement for Smule

It has been a while since I had the time to blog something, and now I know why: it's Smule's fault!

Sorry if you know what Smule is, but if you don't, it's a karaoke app. When I told my friends about it, they were stunned. 'But you don't do karaoke,' they said. 'We don't do karaoke.' I know my friends don't do karaoke, but with my family, it's another story. We're singing all the time - in the bathroom, when we're watching telly, when we're eating, when we're reading... I thought this was something everyone else does, but apparently not.

I discovered Smule a few months ago, around the New Year, and quite a bit of the time I would have used for writing was taken up by singing. The beauty of Smule is that there are many rearrangements of the same song to choose to sing to, and you can choose to sing on your own or with a partner and to record your singing once you've finished. There is also the option to post each recording you've made on your profile page. I normally only do this for songs which I think I've sung reasonably and tolerably well.

Thanks to Smule, I have become very aware of my voice and how to use it (trust me, listening to a recording is much more useful than listening to yourself singing live), and fingers crossed that with continued practice, I can move away from the strangled cat/duck on helium vocals to something resembling a voice, and perhaps move on to posting my own original songs on Soundcloud and Youtube; after all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

So here's to karaoke apps, and here's to singing!

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Happy Birthday, One and All!

You might be wondering whether I'm wishing you a Happy Birthday, and whether it's my birthday, and in a sense, the answer to both questions is 'Yes'.
It's the seventh day of the Chinese New Year today, and I came across this article in the Guardian about Chinese New Year customs. It has provoked some backlash amongst some, in that their customs were described in the article as being 'antiquated', but as I am not Cantonese myself, I can see what the writer was trying (and failing) to get across: that the 'Chinese New Year customs' most Brits are familiar with, down to the use of 'kung hei fatt choi' to wish someone a Happy New Year, are actually Cantonese customs, and that the customs of the Chinese vary from place to place.

One of the peculiarities of the place where my ancestors came from is their celebration of the seventh day of the Chinese New Year as 'Renri' -  人日 - 'Creation of Humanity Day'. The story goes that the Goddess Nuwa 女娲 came across the Earth, which was uninhabited, and decided to make figurines to amuse herself. On the first day, she made chickens, the second dogs, the third pigs, sheep and goats on the fourth, cattle on the fifth, horses the sixth, and humans on the seventh.

She initially crafted humans by hand from loess, and instead of the body of a snake (which she had), she gave humans two legs. Her creations, happy to be alive scampered about joyfully, and she got excited and made more by taking two pieces of rope together and splashing mud about; the splutters turned into more humans. Apparently, this is the reason why social classes exist, with the descendants of the handcrafted humans lording it over the descendants of the splutter-derived humans.

Another peculiarity in my family is that Renri is only celebrated through retelling this story on this day, and no more, because of modernisation and because the family converted to Christianity a while back. In other families, Renri is celebrated with feasts and other customs such as mountain-climbing and making offerings to Nuwa.

I shall leave you with a picture, which I remember seeing as a child, of Nuwa, and her brother and husband Fuxi, the creator of marriage, surrounded by stars. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Academic Debate in the UK: An Open Letter to Prof Mary Beard and Dr Priyamvada Gopal

Dear Prof Beard and Dr Gopal

I have just spent the evening looking through your tweets, and would like to make some observations, not in criticism of you as people, but as a casual observer of the Twitter maelstrom you are caught up in, and because I respect you both very much. My main concerns are that you are failing to listen to each other, and that what is going on between you is being played out everywhere in the UK, with the result being that debate and discussion is stifled.

Before I continue, I will say, Prof Beard, that although I respect you for your achievements and accomplishments, what has disappointed me most about this whole sorry affair has been your actions to date. I did not like your words and your views, which have been countered and refuted by Dr Gopal's excellent blogpost (and about your blogpost, all I will say is that the phrase 'comparing apples with oranges' immediately sprang to mind when you drew an analogy between intense, external pressures playing their part in influencing the behaviours of aid workers following a destructive natural disaster versus those of French citizens in a man-made world war; surely what happened at the Fukushima Power Plant following the giant 2011 tsunami in Japan would have been a better comparison), but I will defend your right to say them etc... No, it was that video and photo of you crying that really disappointed me, for they reminded me of all those mainly Victorian, man-made comments about us women being inferior because we are allegedly prone to hysteria, histrionics, and being emotional at the expense of being analytical and rational. That you did not have even one sentence to answer Dr Gopal's blogpost was a true shock, and a letdown; I truly, truly, truly expected better from you than your tears.

That is not to say that I agree entirely with your views, Dr Gopal. Although you were right to call out the pro-colonialist nuances in Prof Beard's words and the destructive effect they have, and that yes, they do reflect a racist worldview, any further deconstruction of Prof Beard's blogpost should only have been on the horrendously complex language that was used, together with the fallacy of comparing apples with oranges. Sorry if you think that I am telling you off and telling you, a professor of English, how and what to write, but please hear me out: as a British-born Chinese, I have been 'the only Chinese in the [insert place here]' practically all my life, with non-Chinese people around me who didn't hurt others or even flies, but said the nastiest things about 'them over there' without pausing to think. Their words are the products of what they were fed literally and metaphorically when they were growing up, but their words do not reflect their character. When appallingly disagreeable and/or racist words and views are aired, then yes, it should definitely be up to people like you and me who can see things with a fresh pair of eyes to point out what is disagreeable and/or racist, as well as alternatives and why such alternatives are equally, if not more valid, whilst dispassionately disentangling opinions and words from racism and discrimination that is acted upon (for example, see the murders of Stephen Lawrence and Mi Gao Huang Chen, and the admitted institutionalised failings of the police in the aftermath of these murders).

This whole debate began as a discussion of factors which could influence the behaviour of Western aid workers who are put under pressure, but it became overtaken by an even more important Twitter discussion about influences, whether conscious or not, and most especially about race, race relations, and discussions about race, and perceptions about other races, having a part in decision-making. I think both topics need further discussion, and where better than to start than to have you both, Prof Beard and Dr Gopal, in a room filled with real flowers, pretty tablecloths, fluffy tea cosies, hen-shaped egg holders, tea, coffee, and cake, LOTS of cake, and a video camera present so that your chat can be streamed live, or broadcast afterwards? As this is really important, on no account should this discussion be in private, and I personally think the more informal, the better. After all, isn't this the perfect chance for us ladies to show everyone what we are capable of when we work together?

Best wishes
B x

Friday, 12 January 2018

Trump: A Gift to Linguists (warning: contains swearwords)

Crude/inappropriately happy post alert, but I could not help but think when I heard of this, and I hope that in addition to the serious side to all this, you will think about this from a linguistic point of view, or at least from the point of view of learning English and Chinese as second languages. If you are averse to swearwords, or to non-judgmental blog posts, look away now.

This is your last chance to look away. Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States of America, has been reported to have talked about 'shithole countries' in a meeting he held, and as a result of this, reports, replies, comments and statements have been forthcoming. I am not from the US, so I will, out of politeness and also because there are enough commentaries out there, not say any more about this, apart to point out that thanks to Trump, the British press now uses at least one vulgar word everyday, but admittedly, it's not a swearword. Did you know that in parts of England, especially in Manchester, 'trump' means 'to fart'? This has been going on for a long time, even before Trump was elected or we had heard of the US version of 'The Apprentice'. Somehow, the British press has been very polite about this, but every time I read of 'President Trump', I think of the world's loudest, most echoey fart ever, and I have to snigger; I can't help it if farts make me giggle, and if the word 'trump' means 'fart' to some of my friends. 
A report which intrigued me was on the phrase 'shithole countries' causing translation difficulties, and here're my ideas on why it is proving to be such a problem for Chinese translators. The word 'shithole' is a tricky one to translate into Chinese, because there is no indication as to what a 'shithole' literally is. Is the hole man-made or not? Where is the hole in relation to the faeces that are referred to? What is the hole made of? Does the hole open, or close, or if it does not do either, what does it do instead? Everything's so vague, and thus, in Chinese, the closest you can get to 'shithole' are the literal but polite 肛门 'anus' or 马桶 'toilet' or 'toilet bowl', which are everyday terms that are neither offensive nor vulgar. 
To avoid causing a political issue from an incorrect or incomplete translation, Chinese translators have used two phrases to convey what 'shithole' might mean, especially if Trump, and Trump alone, used it in the context of 'countries'. The first is the short 烂国家, where 国家 means 'countries' and 烂 is a colloquialism (and it is vulgar only because it used to be a word which would not have been used by the elite) which means that something is so decayed, rotten to the core, and far gone that it cannot be saved. The second is the colourful 鸟不生蛋国家 'countries where birds do not lay eggs'  (the full phrase is actually 鸟不生蛋狗不拉屎 'where birds do not lay eggs and dogs do not shit', but this is abbreviated to the bit about birds and eggs because that is the polite bit), which specifically refers to birds and not chickens because birds can fly far, but not chickens, and before birds can lay eggs, they need to settle and build nests first. A place where even birds will not stop to lay eggs (and build nests) is one that is desolate, cold, abandoned, and godforsaken, and this is the meaning that has been adopted. 

Thanks for reading this; if you are offended, don't say I didn't warn you. If only every single word I know could inspire long blog posts like this!


Thursday, 4 January 2018

My first post of 2018! Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all; make 2018 a good one!

I spent the first few days of 2018 recovering from the mother of hangovers caused by too much Christmas puddings and chocolate, and now, I have finally remembered that I have a blog to post to :-).

One of my resolutions this year is to share things which make me happy with you, and already, 2018 is shaping up to be a great year for the London theatre scene with this: a London showing of Brecht which makes me ecstatic in its casting choices, as well as the commitment by Aequitas Theatre, the company involved, to pay its actors a decent, proper wage.

So if you are around the Brockley Jacks Theatre in London SE4 from
the 16th of January 2018 to the 3rd of February 2018, do drop in to see 'Fear and Misery of the Third Reich' by Brecht, directed by Bellis! Tell your friends about this, and/or donate to and/or share the GoFundMe site of this production: I don't have any connection with this production apart from being very happy that the director is female and that my Twitter acquaintance @htrebbels is starring in this. If there is anything to learn, it is this: get up and go make your dreams a reality! And yes, as this makes me happy, I'm sharing this with you!

Thanks for reading, and have a great 2018! xxx