Different Times, Different Worlds

Jonathan Chandler
The Wild East

It snowed dream-like and blew bone-flaying gusts of Artic wind last week. The sky was bleeding lead with pure white snowflakes floating along and then for two days a purplish sea-fog rolled in and tied Qingdao into a manky, ice-cold blindfold.

Kate McGarrigle
Kate McGarrigle
Sombre enough for the news that broke of the death of Kate McGarrigle, the great Canadian folk singer, at age of 62 from a heart attack. Kate with her twin Anna, were singers of mesmerizing purity and in the spirit of those wild and free times, told it like it was in gems of short songs about love, heartache, fun, radiance, cruelty and grief. Kate was also the partner of Loudon Wainwright and the mother of the current Wainwright musical clan.

If none of these names mean a thing to you, no matter. Just suffice it to say an old ‘un remembers his first broken heart like it was now…

I was living in a garret in South Ken in the early Seventies (they still had them in those days — 25 quid a week – probably worth a few million at the height of the gluttony) and working as a waiter at Joe Allen’s. My North London Jewish Princess had dumped me and I would retreat to the attic flat and wallow in the McGarrigle Twins and Gram Parsons.

Do yourself a great favor and seek out their early albums- sublime, angelic and other-worldly.

avatar Which brings up the worldwide cultural phenomenon – Avatar.

I saw it in 2D with some Chinese teenagers while the snow fell at the beginning of the year. It was a ravishingly beautiful visual experience, akin to eating fresh mushrooms up on Eshaness – Europe’s highest cliffs — during the perpetual Autumn sunset/rise of North Shetland.

Then following the spat with Google, the rigid face of the Middle Kingdom’s supreme rulers decided, with the wisdom bestowed by the Mantle of Heaven, to allow the movie to be shown in 3D theaters only.

Since there are only a relative handful of such facilities available around the vast hinterland, this effectively censors the movies and prevents the masses from seeing Avatar. But why? Is it saber-rattling to unnerve the young guns at Google and Yahoo? Is it just some form of trade protectionist retaliation for recent U.S. and EU moves to curtail Chinese imports?

Or is it something a tad more sinister: do the leaders wonder if the dystopian images of a ravaged planet earth are too disturbing for the teeming members of the Harmonious Society… or perhaps too familiar?

Is the dream-like beauty of the idealized planet of the Na’vi too provocative for the eyes of the toiling class in their toxic wasteland of quarries, mines and dead rivers…. ?

That one I will leave for the political pundits and the economists to puzzle out.

Meanwhile it seems a particularly 21st century kind of sad affair that such a thing of beauty should be kept hidden from innocent eyes.

Nearly as sad as the extinguishing of the light from the lady who sang like an angel all those years ago, “Hearts have a way of calling when they’ve been true.”

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