January 26th, 2009
Well, we did our best to keep Nian away last night, and it seems to have worked.
And I was right: Culinary magic.
And we set off a few more fireworks this morning, just to make sure.
And the Spring Festival Gala- well, yes and no. lzh’s first reaction was that it was like the opening ceremony of the Olympics, and it certainly did have a bit of that about it. This was both good and bad. It felt a bit ‘been there, done that’, but it also spiced up what quite likely would’ve been yawn-inducing song-and-dance numbers with a certain element of the surreal and psychedelic- I’m thinking particularly the forest scene.
On the whole, though, I found it rather bland, but with a few bright spots.
The opening song-and-dance set the mood for the whole thing: Technically brilliant, but just like every year, like drinking weak, cheap tea when you can see there’s a pot of perfectly good Longjing sitting right there. Jiang Kun’s (姜昆) triumphant return continued that. His crosstalk raised the occasional giggle or snicker, but had only one really laughable line, the one that went along the lines of “30年前又一个老婆一大堆孩子,现在有一个孩子…. 还是一个老婆. (30 years ago you had one wife and a whole lot of kids, now you have one child and….. still only one wife)”
And Jay Zhou/周杰伦 and Song Zuying/宋祖英? Well, I’m not a fan of either, but I was expecting more than just tacking Song onto the end of Jay’s song.
But I did find most of the skits and crosstalks to be pretty good. Well, the Taipei vs. Beijing 团团圆圆 crosstalk was a bit messy, and I could’ve lived without the “Lost my ticket to the opening ceremony” skit’s sudden descent into weepy-eyed nationalism, and the submarine?… yeah. But on the whole, pretty good.
Zhao Benshan’s piece was quite well done- certainly better than last year’s. Perhaps the Zhao Benshan/Song Dandan format was getting a little tired? Anyway, enjoyed that one. The security guard skit reminded me of Monty Python somehow. Perhaps it was the slight note of the absurd combined with the taller guy’s John Cleese-like ability to send limbs apparently made of rubber in a million different directions as he collapses in a lump with a luch of sheer stunned guppyness on his face. Ma Dong’s (马东)’s crosstalk featuring everybody’s favourite Laowai Mark Rowswell/大山 I have to see I really enjoyed. And much as us lesser Laowai love to loathe 大山, you’ve got to admit it, he’s a damn good crosstalk performer. I particularly liked his “我是国外出生的,外甥,所以叫他舅舅.” or words to that effect. Uh, no, I won’t attempt to translate that line. Instant update: I forgot to mention Feng Gong/冯巩, who also did a great job.
Anyways, on the whole the gala was more or less as I expected it to be- large stretches I didn’t much like but didn’t loathe, with a few bright spots that I enjoyed.
And then, of course, we went outside to make sure Nian knew he wasn’t welcome. Ba and I have this down to a fine routine. I’m given a lit cigarette- best thing for lighting fuses, it’s small and isn’t affected by the wind- Ba selects the fireworks, exposes the fuse and places them, then retreats to safety. I work my fuse-lighting magic then run like hell (some of those fuses, especially on strings of crackers, are very short, and more than a few occasions I’ve had crackers start exploding while my hand is still held up to the fuse, or shrapnel hitting my back just as I turn to run). Nian scared off, we retreated to the warmth of the kang.
This morning, as I said, we set off a few more fireworks just to make sure. After breakfast we did the rounds of the aunts and uncles, then just after we got back, I bunch of cousins, aunts and uncles showed up. All the greetings and presents were exchanged. I’ve found myself with a quiet patch, which is how I can be online.
And a discovery: before we left this morning there was a bit of downtime in which I found some Henan Opera/豫剧/yùjù on CCTV 10 (I think it was 10- the opera channel, anyways), and I was pleasantly surprised. At first I thought it was 黄梅戏/huángméixì, it was so much more down to earth and easier to understand than the ‘regular’ Chinese opera. But no, lzh corrected me. And I enjoyed it- it was easy to follow and with plenty of comedy, physical and verbal, through the story. Think I might see what more I can learn of both yùjù and huángméixì.
Seems the wind is picking up again, and somewhere off in the distance I’m hearing snatches of the rhythm section of the village Yangge troupe. I’m hoping they make their way down to our corner of the village, I like watching Yangge.