Life imitating The Onion: “Russia and North Korea discuss visa-free regime”

The Moscow Times just published this gem. Cue the jokes “You know you’re a pariah state when…” image

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Mind-expanding Richard Ayoade interview (and some Jean-Luc Godard interviews as well)

Director and comedian Richard Ayoade showed us the full potential of live television this week. Talking to Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 News, Ayoade exposed the utter absurdity of the medium in an interview on par with anything Jean-Luc Godard ever gave. Channel 4 veteran Jon Snow (no relation to Ned Stark’s bastard) can be seen laughing uncontrollably as Ayoade exits the studio.

And here are some Jean-Luc Godard interviews thrown in for good measure:

Pingyao – the forgotten banking hub of the Qing dynasty

How things change. The places we associate with finance in today’s China are Shanghai and Hong Kong, but in the first half of the 19th century, the finacial centre lay was Pingyao [平遙], a town in Shanxi: it was here that Rishengchang Draft Bank [日昇昌票號] issued China’s first cheques in 1823. For a brief moment, Pingyao was the Qing Empire’s financial hub. Last week, The Economist published an article about the town then and now:

The city lay on the path of a lucrative trade route. The bank’s manager spied a business opportunity when he saw silver shipments passing each other in opposite direction. He replaced pricey security, wagons and pack animals with a clearing house.

The bank spawned around 50 competitors across Shanxi (nearly half in Pingyao) with hundreds of branches across the empire. At the time Chinese bankers were held in lower esteem than peasants and tradesmen. They tried to keep staff honest by making them pledge their homes and even to surrender their families as slaves if they committed fraud; investors had no control over the banks’ daily operations.

Pingyao’s old town centre is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Yan Lianke on famine advice and today’s China

The New York Times recently published a short piece by Yan Lianke [ 閻連科 ], the author of Dream of Ding Village [《丁莊夢》] and Lenin’s Kisses [《受活》]. As you might expect, his description of modern China is rather bleak, even compared to the horrors previous generations in mainland China experienced – Yan was too young to remember much of the famine caused by the Great Leap Forward but recalls what his mother told him about survival:

Holding my hand, my mother pointed to the white clay and yellow earth of the wall, and said, “Son, you must always remember, when people are starving to death they may eat this white clay and elm tree bark, but if they try to eat that yellow earth or the bark of any other kind of tree they will die even faster.”

As many other writers who lived through the Mao era, Yan doesn’t have much good to say about contemporary China, but offers little in terms of solutions. For him, it might be about survival, though – the last writer to offer any alternative is still locked up in prison.

¥100 All-You-Can-Drink Lager, Saturday 18 Oct @ The Swedish Beer Club

7pm @ The Swedish Beer Club
700 South Huangpi Rd., Building A2 (Near Hefei Rd.)
黄陂南路 700號 (近合肥路)
All-you-can-drink alert: on Saturday the 18th of October, a Swedish beverage importer will host a glorious free-flow beer event here in Shanghai!

For a mere ¥100, you’ll have a chance to try out exotic beer brands like Arboga, Mariestad, Norrlands Guld and Spendrups, as well as talk to tall blond guys/girls with cute accents.