Archive for the ‘Happenings’ Category

Travel Writer Bruce Wannell on Iran

Travel writer Bruce Wannell will be appearing at The Bookworm on Wednesday, November 30, to talk about his adventures in Iran, a country that has much to offer intrepid travelers undeterred by the country’s often-controversial role in modern geopolitics.

Wannell, an expert on Iran and the Islamic world, has lived and traveled in Iran and Afghanistan for several years. He contributed essays on Iranian cinema, music, calligraphy, philosophy and religion to Iran — Persian: Ancient & Modern, which the Sunday Times’ foreign affairs correspondent Christina Lamb has called “a stunning guide, packed with history, that no visitor to Iran should be without.”

The veteran traveler offers would-be road warriors the following advice:

“My general advice would be to be patient, polite and enthusiastic, and to genuinely try to like and understand the people among whom you’re travelling, and to respect their culture and traditions; never dishonour or humiliate them.

At the same time, never take “NO” for an answer, insist on good quality, reward effort and good service, be generous and discriminating.

The more relevant knowledge you have before visiting the places you want to see, the better you will experience them – hence Odyssey Guides’ emphasis on historical background and also good pictures.

There are, besides, so many different types of tourism and travel: if you have introductions in the country you’re visiting, follow them up, without imposing; if you’re back-packing, develop language survival skills and remember to leave a little present or send one later for the inevitable generosity you’ll meet on the way, often from people much poorer than yourself; if you’re on business, try to take an extra day to actually get out of the air-conditioned fortresses and see something of real life around you; if you’re on a pampering luxury holiday, take a moment to read Amnesty International’s, or Oxfam’s reports on torture, poverty and injustice in the areas immediately around your little heaven ….. i.e. keep your eyes, your ears and your heart open – and then tourism – a very polluting industry – may become real travel, and a meeting of minds, and perhaps a broadening of both.”

Bruce Wannell at The Bookworm, Wednesday, November 30 7:30pm

Tickets 20rmb (members) 30 rmb (non-members)

Spoke ‘N Word-performance poetry from Poland

Spoke ‘N Word—performance poetry from Poland

Interested in a night of poetry reading on Saturday night? What about contemporary poetry from Poland? If the answer is yes, you should definitely pay us a visit. Below is some basic information on the group and their “Spoke ‘N Word” global tour. For more information on poets, please visit directly their website at:

The main goal of the Wiersze w Metrze campaign is to popularize contemporary poetry through showcasing it on the underground and in urban spaces. The first three seasons, which took place in Warsaw in 2008-2010, focused on modern European poetry. In 2011, within the framework of the Polish EU Presidency, contemporary Polish poets and their poetry will not only be present in Warsaw, but also visit 8 cities outside Poland: London, Paris, Madrid, Kiev, Beijing, Tokyo, Brussels and Luxembourg.

Apart from the presentations of the poems on the underground, there will be poetry readings, happenings, a haiku competition, Spoke’n’Word on Tour performance poetry festival, slam workshops and a promotional campaign.

Spoke’N’Word on Tour

During the fourth edition of Wiersze w Metrze, the Warsaw Spoke’n’Word festival is going to go beyond the capital of Poland. Apart from Warsaw, we will be visiting six cities taking part in the project: London, Paris, Madrid, Kiev, Beijing and Tokyo. Each of the above hosts a local version of the Spoke’n’Word festival. Top Polish spoken word performers are going to be accompanied by local poetry stars and a regular poetry slam. Spoke’n’Word on tour is also going to feature performance poetry and slam poetry workshops conducted on site by Polish poets.


Economic Comic: The Global Times on Yoram Bauman

The Global Times chatted with stand-up econmist Yoram Bauman. One of his goals for his time in China?

“I haven’t yet got Chinese people to tell me a good joke, but I’m determined to learn some Chinese jokes before I leave,” he hinted.

Anyone know any good jokes?

Return to the Gold Standard: a performance by stand-up economist, Yoram Bauman

Thursday, October 27 7:30pm

The Bookworm

Tickets: 20 rmb (members) 30 rmb (non-members) 

Between the Stacks: Vicky Mohieddeen from Electric Shadows

Electric Shadows Film Club presents: I ain’t afraid of no ghost!

Saturday, October 29 8pm 

Just in time for Halloween, Electric Shadows brings a special film club screening of Ghostbusters and Michael Jackson’s epic Thriller. Drinks specials for all those in costume.

We’ve paired up with Electric Shadows for some of our most memorable events – including our open air screenings last summer. We caught up Electric Shadows’ founder Vicky Mohieddeen to find out what to expect from her latest adventure in film and sound.

What is the Electric Shadows? What do you do? Who are the members? What kind of crowd does it usually attract?

Electric Shadows is a non profit organization helping to shape the evolution of public cinema inChinaby programming beautiful film events and expanding the cinema into galleries, rooftops, deserts and discos。We host a variety of events inBeijingand beyond, including a short film showcase on the first Sunday of every month, practical experimental film workshops and an amorphous film club. Our audience varies with the different events we run which have ranged from avant-garde films for toddlers to open air bike-in screenings of classic films to a very debauched Rocky Horror night at The Bookworm!

Who are you? How long have you been living inBeijing? What’s your impression of the city, people and life here?

I am a Scottish filmmaker and programmer, I’ve been living inBeijingsince Sep 2008, and Electric Shadows was born very early on as a reaction to the lack of conceptual, interactive experimental film screenings around town. Beijing is a fairly fickle mistress, one day the sun will be shining, my neighbours will help me cart cameras and tripods up 6 flights of stairs, the place will be teeming with potential, adventure and possibility – the next the smog will descend, I’ll be almost run over in the street and have ‘laowai’ spat at me by locals, I won’t understand a damned word people are saying and fail to grasp how things work in this town. Like the girl, with the curl, in the middle of her forehead – whenBeijingis good, she’s very very good, and when she’s bad, she’s wicked.

Talk about the film you are about to play at The Bookworm. Why did you pick it? Are you going to come with a special costume? How do you usually celebrate Halloween?

Our Halloween event this year is I AIN’T AFRAID OF NO GHOST! an 80s film celebration – we’ll be showing Ghostbusters and the full version of the Thriller music video – we wanted to go for something fun this year, and lets face it Ghostbusters is a great film. We’re having an MJ-OFF where budding Michael Jackson impersonators can strut their stuff for the chance to win some MJ-goodies, there will also be a costume comp and if anyone can dance their way through the Thriller vid they’ll be rewarded I’m pretty sure I’m going to be coming as one of the characters from Ghostbusters – there’s a pretty obvious one but who knows I may have a flash of inspiration and go for the ‘most creative interpretation’ prize by coming as the two streams crossing Before moving to Beijing I never used to really get into Halloween but this will be my third at The Bookworm – I was a part of the now infamous murder mystery (which almost ended in a real murder – mine) and then last year’s, shall we say unforgettable, Rocky Horror Picture Show. I don’t know what it is about those Bookworm types, but I’m yet to experience a Halloween event that didn’t end in complete and utter chaos… it’s always the quiet ones…

Han Han’s 文化大国

A big thanks to James Brodie, Xioaying Wang, Danni Zheng and English Trackers for making last night’s Translation Slam a success. If you missed the event – or would like to delve more deeply into the translations – English Trackers has all three versions of Han Han’s文化大国 on their blog.

Between the Stacks: Sinologist & linguist Edward McDonald

This Thursday, October 20, Sinologist and linguist Edward McDonald will be at The Bookworm to give a talk about his latest book Learning Chinese, Turning Chinese: Challenges to Becoming Sinophone in a Globalised World. McDonald, a Lecturer in Chinese at the University of Auckland, explores links between language and culture, from the classroom to real-life situations.

Here he sits down for a quick Q & A about the most common myths about Chinese and why learning to cook Chinese food can help you master the language.

Mengfei Chen: How many foreigners are learning Chinese in 2011? How much of a difference from 20 years ago?

Edward McDonald: I couldn’t give exact figures, but there’s no doubt Chinese is becoming more popular. In the university context that I’m most familiar with, however, it still takes second place to Japanese. Most universities these days, however, would have Chinese programs, and many high schools, and even some primary schools are offering it, both changes from 20 years ago.

MC: Chinese has a reputation for being an extremely difficult language to learn. How much of that is deserved? Myths?

EM: Difficult for whom? If you’re Japanese or Korean or Vietnamese half of your vocabulary is derived from Chinese – like English and French. Chinese does have some features that are unfamiliar to, say, English speakers, for example, the use of tones, but a lot of the talk about Chinese being “difficult” simply serves to disguise the fact that often it’s very badly taught.

Its relatively unfamiliarity to speakers of European languages means that a lot of its special characteristics – features of the grammar like so-called “resultative verbs”, or the fact that in reading the written form you have to work out for yourself where the word boundaries are – are not systematically taught.

MC: Tell me something interesting that you learned about how Chinese is taught to foreigners. Have there been changes in recent years?

EM: Most Chinese programs these days insist on teaching Chinese characters right from the beginning, along with the pinyin Romanization. This means that when you are learning a new word you have to memorize its a. meaning b. pronunciation c. grammatical use d. Romanization and e. the relevant characters all in one hit – a huge memory burden.

A generation ago many textbooks taught the spoken language solely through Romanization and introduced the written language and characters separately – in my opinion, the field of Chinese teaching has gone backwards in this regard in the last 30 years.

MC: Why do you write that learning Chinese inevitably leads the learner to become, at least partially, Chinese?

EM: After a certain stage, once you’ve mastered the basic sounds and wordings of the language, learning how to use Chinese appropriately means being able to operate in Chinese with Chinese people in ways that they recognize and expect – so in this sense, you have to become (partially) Chinese yourself – perhaps a better way of putting it is that you have to develop a Chinese-speaking identity.

MC: How does language fit into the Chinese governments efforts to boost China’s soft power?

EM: The Hanban (Office of Chinese Teaching International) and the Confucius Institutes it is setting up around the world are clearly intended as an extension of China’s soft power. The thing about soft power, however, is that not only does the home country have to offer it to the rest of the world; the rest of the world needs to be interested in taking it up.

Japan has been doing this very successfully for some decades, and so Japanese pop culture and the Japanese language, both supported by significant government efforts, have proved very attractive to the rest of the world.

China has not reached this stage yet either with its own (pop) culture or the language, and perhaps is proving slow to recognize that it needs to make them something foreigners want to take up for their own purposes, not simply for China’s.

MC: Will Chinese ever be able to challenge English’s dominance as a global language?

EM: People make all sorts of predictions about such things – British academics David Graddol and David Crystal are on record here. I personally don’t like to go in for predictions. But I think it’s safe to say that Chinese won’t become a global language simply because it’s an “important language”, or because it has “five thousand years of culture” behind it – there would have to be much more pragmatic reasons: English became a global language because of the global reach of the British Empire and then the American Empire – is something similar happening in the case of Chinese? I don’t know.

MC: What do you think the impact of the computer (pinyin input) will be on the Chinese language?

EM: There are numbers of other input methods used apart from pinyin, for example, ones that use letter codes for the different strokes of Chinese characters, and I don’t know that pinyin is the most commonly used input method in China itself – there are probably statistics on such things.

It is certainly the case that pinyin is more widely known among Chinese than it was say 20 years ago because of its use as input in text messaging and the like. It is certainly true that the use of input methods of all kinds mean that Chinese people are writing characters much less than they used to, and so are probably getting by with visual recognition of many characters rather than the active ability to write them.

I understand that Internet language uses a lot of classical Chinese, e.g. classical terms that are “lifted” and given a particular meaning on the Internet. And text messaging also uses a significant amount of classical Chinese because it’s much shorter and more concise.

MC:  And finally, do you have any tips for people who are trying to learn Chinese?

EM: Find an opportunity to DO something with people in Chinese – play volleyball, practice tai chi, learn how to cook Chinese food – where you’re not having language lessons as such but the language is part of some other activity – it’s much easier than sitting with a tutor trying to make conversation, and if it’s something you’re genuinely interested in, you’ll have much more motivation to learn.

Learning Chinese, Turning Chinese -a booktalk with sinologist and linguist Edward McDonald, The Bookworm. Thursday, October 20, 2011. 7:30pm. 20/30rmb

The Ultimate X-Man: The Beijinger, CityWeekend on Douglas Coupland

In preparation for Canadian artists and writer Douglas Coupland’s event here at The Bookworm Tuesday, October 18th 7:30pm, check out a great interview with Coupland on The Beijinger and CityWeekend.

Amped: Blackwater

Beijing-based Blackwater joined us on Saturday for a rousing gig with gigs, reels and more. With Desmond McGarry (vocals), Daniel Brustman (guitar), Zoe Wang (accordion) and Nico Torrese (tenor banjo and mandolin).

Before the event, guitarist Daniel Brustman spoke with us about

Who is Blackwater? Can you tell us more about the members of the group?

The four members of Blackwater come from four different countries. Our singer Desmond McGarry is Irish. Nico Torrese, who plays banjo and mandolin, comes from France. Our accordionist Zoe Wang is Chinese. I am from the United States. We all met each other here in Beijing.

With such an international group, how did you meet?

Nico, Zoe and I have played together in the group No Name Trio for many years. The two of them used to have an Irish instrumental group called the Dublingers. Around the same time, Desmond led Irish jam sessions around town. It seemed only natural to merge the two. They invited me along.

How do you pick which music to play?

Desmond has an encyclopedic knowledge of Irish music; he grew up around it. Usually, he comes to us with the songs he’d like to sing and we make an arrangement together.

What is Blackwater known for and how do you find Beijing audiences?

As far as I know, Blackwater is the only traditional Irish group inChina. We’ve had a pretty good reaction from audiences so far. Even when people can’t understand the lyrics, they seem to respond to the music. I chalk that up to the timelessness of folk melodies. These songs have been passed down generation to generation for hundreds of years, by musicians who did not necessarily have a way to precisely notate them. Over time, only the catchiest and most intuitive songs survived. These melodies were distilled to their essence in an almost Darwinian process.


The Art of Translation

With Google translate easily at everyone’s fingertips, is the art and trade of translation on it’s way out?

David Bellos’ new book, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? takes the debate of robot v human translation head on – and comes out firmly on team human.

Will automation completely replace human translation? Are we about to see the end of multilingualism? According to David Bellos, a professor of French and comparative literature at Princeton and Booker Prize-winning translator, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. In his new book, “Is That a Fish in Your Ear?,” about process and social meaning of translation, he persuasively argues that human translators are as crucial as ever. At a time when the world seems more globalized and small than ever, they play a central role helping us understand each other and bring art to a broader audience. (Salon)

For all of your bookworms and word-nerds interested in translation and transcreation, don’t miss our Translation Slam on Wednesday, October 16th. Two (human) translators tackle blogger/race car driver/social critic/heartthrob Han Han’s short essay on the state of culture in China.

Translation Slam: Han Han, Wednesday, October 19 7:30pm, 20 rmb (members), 30rmb (non-members).

Brought to you by English Trackers. 

Douglas Coupland on Marshall McLuhan

In preparation for Douglas Coupland’s event here at The Bookworm on October 18th, check out this great interview he gave to The Paris Review last February about Marshall McLuhan, Canadians writing biographies of other Canadians and Annie Hall.

The Bookworm Download Map

Building 4, Nan Sanlitun Road,

Chaoyang District, Beijing

100027, P.R China

Tel: (010) 6586 9507

Email: [email protected]


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