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Author Archives: Brendan O'Kane

Updating my CV

“Collections of fables translated in the late third century by K’ang Seng-hui (d. 280) [who was probably Sogdian, going by the surname] describe Mu-lien’s previous incarnations as a king, a cygnet, an otter, a serpent, a minister of state, and an ascetic.” (Stephen F. Teiser, The Ghost Festival in Medieval China, p. 120.)

Pulling a China: David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald, Lao She

Exhibit A: David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to […]

5,000 Years Is Not Enough

Exhibit A: From the English Global Times/Xinhua, “Archaeologists push back origin of Chinese characters by 1,000 years,” July 10, 2013: Archeologists in China have confirmed that the inscriptions found on artifacts unearthed in Zhejiang Province represent the earliest record of Chinese characters in history, pushing the origins of the written language back 1,000 years. Archeologists and […]

New post: “Peking Opera Masks and the London Book Fair”

Only ten days too late to be truly timely! A few years ago, a few other translators and I were talking with employees of a Chinese publishing house who said that they had some books that they wanted to translate into English — things that they said would show foreigners the real China. There was a brief […]

扎堆儿就要抱团儿: New Group Blog

So about a month ago, Jeremiah sent around an e-mail to a few China bloggers pointing out that our individual blogs were gathering dust faster than Jiang Zemin’s corpse. I am paraphrasing here, but let’s run with the image for a bit: In the same way that massive intracardiac injections of adrenaline and periodic applications […]

Soft Power从我做起

OK everybody, it’s Genius Time: I’m going to write a screenplay. It’ll be a romantic comedy for the 90后 teenyboppers. Premise: two online censors meet cute when they accidentally delete the same forum thread. The entire thing will be shot indoors, preferably in bad lighting, with all dialogue to be overdubbed slightly out of sync […]

Today in non-Chinese Language Politics

Exhibit A: Geoffrey K. Pullum, Language Log: “David Starkey on rioting and Jamaican language” A week after the riots that sprang up across a large part of England, pundits are struggling to find smart and profound things to say. One of the least successful has been David Starkey, a historian and veteran broadcaster. Speaking about […]

Morning, October 1

Last night’s dismal attempt at rain — whether artificial or manmade — doesn’t seem to have done much: the sky is distinctly overcast, though the air at least doesn’t seem to have the velvety quality it did yesterday. I’m guessing that right now there are a lot of people a couple of blocks south of […]

[Help], [Help], [Help] the Police!

In response to the recent New York Times article about Hip-hop in China (and partly inspired by the execrable Jay Chou/Song Zuying performance on last night’s CCTV gala), I present to you a video that perfectly sums up, for me, everything that’s wrong with foreign attitudes to allegedly underground Chinese music. A minor digression first: that […]

John DeFrancis, 1911-2009: You Can't Do That Anymore

The Sinologist John DeFrancis died recently at the age of 97. You can read more about him elsewhere – in the NYTimes obituary or on the memorial site set up for him – but I thought I’d write something, as a student of Chinese, about what he meant to me. I first heard of John […]