June 17-23, 2010
It is going to take a long time (many months) to rebuild what was destroyed in Bangkok on May 19th. But, the work is starting: rubble is being hauled away and scaffolding is being erected. There is even optimistic lettering on the SkyTrain's walkway to Central World.
They are back! This time at our west wall. Rung gave them drinks to keep them happy.
While getting a haircut at The Oriental today I browsed through an old copy of THAILAND TATLER. On page 72 I came across an article entitled "Recurring Dreams"; a spread about the Chinese oil painter who painted from black and white photographs that were taken in the 1960s and 1970s of ordinary people and things by ordinary people. The scenes in this article show the first place I stayed when I visited Shanghai in 1981 (Shanghai Mansions) as well as the building (Shanghai Overseas Seaman's Club) where Jean and I first met Dan, our Shanghai/Taipei friend. The paintings also show the bridge that connected the Bund part of Shanghai with the neighborhood that housed Shanghai Mansions and the Overseas Seaman's Club.*
* Formerly the Soviet Consulate in Shanghai.
This from the June 5, 2010 issue of Spectator.
In Competition 2650 you were invited to submit a letter from a publisher rejecting the Book of Genesis or Revelation.
You lambasted both for a lack of coherent plot and narrative inconsistencies, and prescribed extensive editing. There were redeeming features, though: Paddy Briggs applauded the 'geriatric sex narrative' in Genesis, while J. Seery found much to commend - 'Noah's robust response to environmental challenge has current market appeal...' - but ruled out publication on the grounds of 'the author's unwillingness to undertake the usual promotional tours'. Brian Murdoch also saw signs of promise: 'The opening nude romp, the phallic snake and all that begetting could be a turn-on, and we liked the trendy eco-disaster stuff with all the cuddly animals, and especially the fun bit where Noah gets plastered and exposes himself.' Gripping!
Commendations to Terry Saunders, Jan D. Hodge, D.A. Prince and Barry Baldwin. The winners, printed below, get £30 each. The extra fiver is Chris O'Carroll's.
Thank you for letting us read the manuscript of your multi-generational family saga. We find much to admire in your economical storytelling style, and the leitmotif of hostile, destructive relationships between family members is well sustained. However, the episodic nature of the work and the occasional haphazard intrusions of magical realism strike us as significant weaknesses. Moreover, many characters seem rather sketchy and underdeveloped, too often performing momentous actions for unclear or inadequate motives. In particular, you appear to offer no credible explanation for the bewilderingly mercurial behaviour of your character God, with his comic-book mood swings from benevolent superhero to thin-skinned, psychopathic supervillain. We also find your sex scenes brusque and perfunctory, marred by such unappealing locutions as 'knew his wife', 'went in unto her', and the much overused 'begat'. The story could benefit from substantial rewrites in this area. --Chris O'Carroll
Genesis, though not without merit, needs reworking before it is publishable. For instance, in the Creation sequence we need to see some of the process in action. Show, not tell. Your dominant character, God, says 'Let there be light' and you continue 'and there was light'. Not good enough. Creation of light is a fascinating theme and we need to see God in his lab, mixing protons or whatever. Details. The Adam and Eve triangle with the serpent is engaging and well told. But here's another missed opportunity: explicit detail as the characters discover their sexual feelings would add that 'oomph' factor. There are plotting flaws too. Where do A&E's offsprings' partners come from? Are we touching on incest here? If so let's have it, hot and strong. Kiddies will like the Noah story. Is this a separate book? And, please, if you resubmit, single-sided A4 rather than stone tablets. --Gerard Benson
Our reader was taken aback to find that your manuscript was not, as the title suggests, a contribution to rock-group history, for which there is still a considerable demand, but a piece of speculative fiction, part magical-realist, part-allegorical, all taking place on a planet created ex nihilo by an omnipotent Ming-like dictator. Unfortunately the market for speaking animals, invented mythologies, protagonists with only a forename and the like has reached saturation point. Also, to take up a formal issue, the genealogical lists of implausibly long-lived characters which occupy several chapters do not advance the story and hardly seem relevant to the outcome. Nonetheless, there is evidence here of literary skill as well as of a bold if undisciplined imagination, which suggests that with different material you may find a publisher. Have you ever considered writing a biography of the Pet Shop Boys? --G.M. Davis
I can honestly say that we have never before seen a manuscript quite like yours, although its imagery and diction recall some of the verbal pyrotechnics associated with Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl', or with the psychedelic excesses of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing books, or perhaps with the promiscuously allusive surrealism of Bob Dylan's early electric phase. (And your overwrought, sanguinary, self-conscious occultism might put some readers in mind of certain passages from the work of Aleister Crowley.) It is a noteworthy accomplishment to hold your narrative voice at the febrile pitch you have chosen, and no doubt there will always be some vogue for non-rational literature replete with arcane symbolism that hints at multiple meanings without clearly signifying any one. In the hands of the right speciality niche publisher, your book might acquire an avid cult following, but I fear there is no place for it in the mainstream market. --K.M. Smith
When I saw that your Book of Genesis was but the opening volume in a projected 'Pentateuch', itself but the opening of a yet longer sequence, I felt the despair common to most publishers confronted with science fiction or fantasy epics. Congratulations! Your book exhibits all the shortcomings of the genre: crashingly portentous authorial voice, ludicrous nomenclature, a frankly sociopathic failure to engage with human character and a total absence of humour. Still, at least you don't attempt to describe characters or landscapes, doubtless having your eye on the film rights. Your hyperbolic pedantry rather fails you where plot is concerned. Why does God place a Tree of Knowledge in Eden when he doesn't want Adam and Eve to eat its fruit? Where did Cain's wife spring from? Don't answer: we will not be publishing your book. If there's one thing the publishing world doesn't need, it's another Silmarillion. --Adrian Fry
PS: River City, the shopping mall next to the Sheraton Riverside Hotel has been getting a major face lift for the past six months. Here is how it looked a couple years ago when we were weekending at at The Millennium Hilton. Here is how it looks today.
Perhaps you have noticed that Webmaster Paul has enhanced the viewing pleasure of THOCBDC's photos by making them bigger and brighter for broadband users.* Today I'm posting some early evening photos taken toward the west, north and east from our home. These shots seem to capture the upgrade best.**
* Dial-ups may not like this upgrade.
** Well, OK, beach bunnies probably might capture it better. Hmmm, I wonder if Paul could go back in time and bring a beach bunny right up here in this 'enhanced' form.
The other day I posted some photos of oil paintings made by a Chinese artist. They were of scenes with which I was very familiar. I also sent them to my friend Dan who I first met in Shanghai in the early 1980's. Here is his reply in regards the Waibaidu Bridge which spans Suzhou Creek in central Shanghai.
Thanks for your e-mail. I visited your blog last night and got to know the whole story. Now I wish to share some more information about the bridge for you:
Waibaidu Bridge (Pinyin: Wàibáidù Qiáo), called Garden Bridge in English, is a steel bridge on Suzhou Creek in central Shanghai, connecting the Huangpu and ongkou districts where the Suzhou River flows into the Huang Pu.
The present bridge is a steel truss bridge with two spans. It is 106.7 metres long and spans 52.16 metres. There are currently three north bound lanes with a total width of 11.2 metres, and two pedestrian walkways each with a width of 3.6 metres. It was the first true steel bridge in China and the only surviving example of camelback truss bridge in China.
With its rich history and unique design, the centennial Waibaidu Bridge is one of the symbols of Shanghai and its modern and industrial image, and may be regarded as the city's trademark bridge.
Name and history
The name "Waibaidu" is closely tied to Shanghai history, with a total of four bridges, always at the same location, having borne that name. Before bridges were built on the Suzhou Creek, citizens had to use ferries. There were three ferry crossings, one near Zhapu Road, one at Jiangxi Road and one near the mouth of the Suzhou River. With Shanghai becoming an international trade port through the Treaty of Nanjing and foreign powers being granted concessions in the city, traffic between both sides of Suzhou River soared in the 1850s, increasing the need for a bridge close to the mouth of the river.
The Wales Bridges
In 1856, a British businessman named Wales built a first, wooden bridge at the location of the outermost ferry crossing to ease traffic between the British Settlement to the south, and the American Settlement to the north of Suzhou River. This bridge, 137.2 metres long and 7 metres wide, was called "Wales Bridge" in English. It was a draw bridge, the middle part being raised whenever a ship needed to pass. Foreigners could cross for free, but the local Chinese had to pay a toll for the bridge.
The Chinese name of the structure Waibaidu Bridge alludes to both this fact and the position of the bridge, ??? (pinyin: Wàibáidù) literally meaning either "Outer ferry crossing" or "Foreigners cross for free".
The local population regarded Wales' toll policy as yet another of many restrictions for Chinese people by foreign powers. They responded with protest and boycotted the bridge. With profits for the wooden bridge decreasing, Wales built a new, iron bridge in 1871, which collapsed soon however due to constructional faults.
Wooden Garden Bridge
In August 1873, the Shanghai Municipal Council resolved the situation by constructing a new bridge several metres west of Wales' original wooden bridge, to be opened to the public only one month later. In October in the same year, Wales sold the old bridge to authorities and it was destroyed soonthereafter.
Due to its proximity to Public Garden at the northern end of the Bund, the new bridge was called "Garden Bridge" in English, or "Free Ferry Bridge", because there was no toll anymore. This wooden floating bridge was 100 metres long and 12 metres wide.
The current bridge
The original Garden Bridge was demolished in 1906 and a new bridge was constructed. This fourth "Waibadu Bridge" and second "Garden Bridge", finished in 1907, is the current structure known under these names, the largest steel bridge in Shanghai.
Waibaidu Bridge became a place of infamy for many Chinese residents in 1937, when the Japanese had invaded Chinese quarters of the city (north to Suzhou river), but left the International Settlement (south to the river) untouched at first. Japanese soldiers on both sides of the bridge would stop any Chinese, humiliate them and punish them if they hadn't shown proper respect, while foreigners were allowed to pass. This only changed after the Japanese took all of Shanghai in the aftermath of the attack on Peal Harbor in 1941.
In the 1980s to 1990s the traffic volume on the Bund increased dramatically, and the then 90-year-old Waibaidu Bridge could no longer cope. In 1991, a new road bridge was constructed to the west of Waibaidu Bridge and the river crossing traffic was mainly diverted onto the new bridge.
Nevertheless, Waibaidu Bridge remains a popular sight of Shanghai and one of the few constants in the ever-changing metropolis. In mid-1999, extensive restoration works were carried out, and in 2007, the steel bridge celebrated its 100 year anniversary.
In March 2008, as part of an extensive reconfiguration of traffic flow along the Bund, Waibaidu Bridge was cut into two sections, detached from its pylons, and moved by boat into a shipyard for extensive repairs and restoration. The bridge will be rebuilt in its existing form in early 2009. After the completion of the entire Bund reconfiguration project, the new concrete bridge built in 1991 will also be rendered obsolete by a new tunnel, and will be demolished, restoring the historical sightline from the Bund to the north bank of Suzhou Creek. The restoration work formally started on April 05, 2008.
PS: Dan also sent this photo of the bridge as it looks today.
Please take a look at the attached file. The old bridge looks young now.
Watcharee seeks non-medicinal relief from a migraine.
PS: The Bund anew.
Shanghai's Bund, once known as the "Wall Street of Asia", has reopened after a painstaking $412 million two-year restoration to bring back a touch of its 1930's glamour.
Next: Part IV