Globalization and the Beijing Bicycle

Posted by Beth-Jo Gewirtz on 4:19 PM comments (0)

When I was first asked to pick a film and create a globalizational analysis of a film, at first, I was scared of the assignment. After the majority of the class chose “Slumdog Millionaire” as their film, I wanted to pick a different path, so I chose “Beijing Bicycle”. Almost from the first frame of the movie, we are shown the obvious love affair between two very different young men over a simple mountain bike.

The story begins when two boys’ fates become tangled in each other’s due to the bicycle. The first boy, Jian, is a student from Beijing. His father has remarried and he has a new stepsister. The family does not have much money, but the extra money they do save, goes toward his stepsister’s education. The other boy, Guei, comes from rural poverty; recetnly has earned a coveted bicycle courier job. The courier company provides him with a top-notch bicycle, but he must pay for it in payment installments. These installments are deducted from his earnings, which are decided on a gradual basis per delivery. For each delivery, the company gets 80% and Guei keeps the rest. Jian, the other boy, has long been promised a bicycle by his father, but his newly blended family moves the father to give priority to his stepdaughter’s needs as an honor student. In turn, his father repeatedly goes back on his promise to his son. Jian desires a bicycle so he can fit in at school and with his friends, which are bike obsessed, and so he can woo a pretty classmate, Xiao. Just as Guei has earned the title to his bicycle, it is stolen and sold to an unsuspecting Jian.

Both boys feel a pressure to fit in amongst society. Jian amongst his classmates, and Guei so he could afford a proper home. Because of this pressure, they have desire and need for a bicycle. This need leaves them both wanting something neither can afford on their own. This relates to a term coined by the Chinese mass media and paparazzi, globalization. Globalization is often the spread of Western ideas and the need or desire for something. In “Slumdog Millionaire,” it was the choice for Jamal. Was it worth falling and landing in the feces filled water to get a signed picture by his favorite Bollywood actor? Moreover, if it was, was it still worth it after his brother turned around and sold it? In “Beijing Bicycle”, both boys are willing to go to the ends of the earth for “his” bicycle.

To keep his courier job, Guei is forced into creativity to find his bike. He attempts to steal a new bike but is caught by security. He loses his job, but is promised it back if he locates his bicycle. He eventually locates his bicycle but is beaten up when he tries to steal it back. In all honesty, he does not speak up much about how it is rightfully his, but his determination is encouraging. Jian, being unaware he bought a stolen bike, things Guei is the theif. Both boys feel a rightful ownership to the bike. Nevertheless, both boys also feel a loss when the other takes it. This bike represents the disorienting effect that economic modernization and consumerism have had in China. Both boys feel that without the bike, they would be incomplete in society’s eyes. Jian could not successfully woo the pretty classmate, Xiao, and Guei could not keep his courier job, which would force him back to the rural, poor countryside to live.

When Da Huan, another boy, successfully woos Xiao because he has a bike that is not stolen, Jian becomes jealous. When Jian is then teased by the same classmate, he snaps. He picks up a brick and strikes Da Huan in the head. Jian’s need to fit in with his classmates and his desire for Xiao, make him feel impotent and inadequate compared to his wealthier classmates. His own feelings of failure force him into violence and almost death of another classmate.

When Da Huan recovers, he finds and attacks not only Jian in retribution, but also Guei for believing they were in it together. After the boys finish pummeling Jian and Guei, another boy stays behind to destroy the bicycle. After pleading with him to stop, Guei, in a moment of pride and anger, picks up a brick, and hits this boy in the head. When the bicycle is dropped, as the boy does to the ground, Guei picks up the bent bicycle and limps home with his trophy. He risked his life to get his bicycle back and he would stop at nothing, including extreme violence, to get it back.

Within the movie, there is also a smaller subplot of Guei and Mantis, Guei’s friend and property owner. They often spend some of their time observing Qin, an attractive young woman who lives in the large house above them. Both men believe Qin is a rich city girl who owns a large number of clothes, but they notice she does not seem content or happy with her life. They find out later that she is a not a rich woman, but in fact, a maid, who simply likes to dress herself in her boss’s clothes when she is home alone. Qin felt the need to wear her employer’s clothes so the world would look at her differently. She too felt the desire for material possessions to elevate her status in life.

In “The Beijing Bicycle”, two stories paint an alarming cityscape, where nothing positive happens, where the wondeful fa├žade of globalization appears to the underpriveleged boys. Both are teased with the process of something better. Something, which never happens.

Works Cited

Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality: The South Atlantic Quarterly - Volume 100, Number 3, Summer 2001, pp. 627-658

Letteri, Richard. "Realism, Hybridity, and the Construction of Identity in Wang Xiaoshuai's Beijing Bicycle." Asian Studies 1 Jan. 207. Web. .

Towards a Critique of Globalcentrism: Speculations on Capitalism's Nature Public Culture - Volume 12, Number 2, Spring 2000, pp. 351-374

Zhang, Yingjin. "Remapping Beijing." Editorial. Other Cities, Other World 2007. Web. 08 May 2010.

Ice Cream -- revised

Posted by Beth-Jo Gewirtz on 12:31 PM comments (0)

In the early eighteenth century, Wallace Stevens first published his poem, “The Emperor of Ice-Cream.” It was immediately appreciated amongst the public and his peers, despite the unclear message it provided. It is now clear Stevens did not intend to relate the title to the actual meaning of the poem. At first glance, I assumed the poem would be about a sweet cold dessert. I was not sure what it was about until I had read the entire poem through multiple times.
The first stylistic pattern I noticed was this poem is written into two different stanzas. Each stanza has eight lines, neither with a clear meter pattern. The first stanza is about one party while the second stanza is about a funeral or wake. The first stanza is about a party where in the kitchen the neighborhood women are having a good time. They are making ice cream “In kitchen cups concupiscent curds (3). These women are dressed scantly. “Let the wenches dawdle in such dress” (4). The enticing young men are bringing these women flowers to woo them. They are flowers wrapped in “last month’s newspapers”. Because they are not wrapped in cellophane or tied with yarn, the reader is led to believe the men are poor and maybe do not have extra money. They do not buy flowers; they pick them from the ground. The second stanza is about a different story and a different idea.
The second stanza is not about ice cream, but about death. In line twelve, Stevens wrote “And spread it so as to cover her face.” We now know it is a wake and the woman is having a sheet she embroidered pulled over her face. The sheet is not long enough to cover her face and her feet at the same time. Short sheets were common among the poorer population in the 18th century. They could not afford more material for the sheets to fit or they had to buy the marked down mis matched sets. She had to be poor, as she did not even have nice cutlery and plate-ware for her guests, “In kitchen cups concupiscent curds”. The only kitchen cups she had were for eating ice cream. She also did not have a nice clothing dresser, but an incomplete one. “Take from the dresser of deal, lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet”. Her dresser was used so frequently and so often broken, she could not afford new knobs. Most likely, it was acquired second hand and incomplete to begin with. In this time, wakes were often in the deceased’s home, as a parlor would cost too much money.
Stevens not only used themes and non-pattern meter to write his favorite poem, he also used alliteration and repetition. In the first stanza, Stevens uses consonance. “In kitchen cups concupiscent curds” (3). By repeating the “C” sound, it sounds like the reader could be cold and shivering. In lines 7 and 8, he uses alliteration with the joyful and happy “e” sound. “Let be be finale of seem, the only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.” Alliteration is often used to put emphasis on certain words or phrases. In those two lines, he also uses repetition. When he used “be” twice in the first stanza, at first, I wondered if this was not a grammatical mistake. Nevertheless, on my third reading of the poem, I realized it was important to the idea of the poem. It was meant to take down the appearances put up for others and fills those holes with reality.
In this poem, a woman has died and is lying during her wake. The sheet covering her is not large enough to cover both her face and her feet at the same time, but her friends do not even seem to notice. They are enjoying their time. By their friend’s passing, they have seen how fragile life is and how she did not waste hers. She did not waste her money on new dresser knobs or enough yarn to knit a large sheet. She had fun and made friends. During her life, she made enough friends to fill her kitchen with women making ice cream. It is also possible; they are more than just friends are. Maybe these women are her family, or her work friends or roommates. These were women she was close enough with to and not have to have worried about her “horny” feet showing. Stevens used “horny” to describe the woman’s feet. He did not use “horny” in a sexual way but in a descriptive way; meaning calloused. Her feet were calloused and “horny” from standing all day. Was she standing on the street corner, working as a prostitute? Then, that would make these women her sisters on the street? That also could lead the reader to believe the “roller of big cigars” mentioned in the first line of the first stanza could be her pimp or her manager. It is clear there are many hidden meanings behind this poem, as there is with most poetry. Fortuately, the title "ice cream" is a pair of positive and encouraging words, which can make almost anyone smile.
Bottom of Form

Posted by Beth-Jo Gewirtz on 12:31 PM comments (0)

Golden Banded Skipper -- Revised

Posted by Beth-Jo Gewirtz on 3:50 PM comments (0)

My uncle was a gentle man
Neither wild nor weak
He was an tough oak
Standing strong in the wind
While we are loud
He was soft
Serene and bright
As a caterpillar
He entered his cocoon
Leaving his armor on Earth
Now he soars
His soul flying free

Hallie -- Revised

Posted by Beth-Jo Gewirtz on 3:40 PM comments (0)

I know she is waiting
It’s late
I’m not home
Miles of metal between us
She can’t remember when I left
But she knows it was at least ten naps ago

In the door
She is on me
Wagging her tail
As if her butt will wag itself home
Yes yes yes, I missed you too.

Yes yes yes, it’s been such a long time.
Love is relentless
Tying me to its leash

Globalization in the Beijing Bicycle

Posted by Beth-Jo Gewirtz on 10:48 AM comments (3)

I intend to prove that.......The bicycle in "Beijing Bicycle" represents the disorienting effect that economic modernization and consumerism, or globalization, has had on China.

The fight for the bicycle between Guei and Jian is similar to the fight for Latika between Jamal and Salim.

Globalization is a term created and approved by Chinese mass media, so only fitting it should start there? What else?!?!

Tie in bike and tricks from X Games in USA?

19th Century Literature

Posted by Beth-Jo Gewirtz on 4:06 PM comments (0)

On page 73, Buckingham discusses the strategy of contextual analysis. This strategy works by removing texts from the contexts in which they are usually encountered. Here, we should "encourage students to focus on the elements of a text that they might usually ignore." I chose this clip because these days not many eleventh grade high school students voluntarily watch "The Simpsons". "The Simpsons" is now seen as a show that has "run out of ideas" so become "lame". So, why not chose a Simpsons clip!?! I could probably teach a whole class based on "The Simpsons". In September 2002, "The Simpson’s" received its 38th Emmy nomination and "The Simpson’s" have been awarded over 40 major television awards. Especially since it has been on the air longer than any other weekly show.

Coyote Ending

Posted by Beth-Jo Gewirtz on 5:52 PM comments (0)

Long ago, when man was newly come into the world, there were days when he was the happiest creature of all. Those were the days when spring brushed across the willow tails, or when his children ripened with the blueberries in the sun of summer, or when the goldenrod bloomed in the autumn haze.

But always the mists of autumn evenings grew more chill, and the sun's strokes grew shorter. Then man saw winter moving near, and he became fearful and unhappy. He was afraid for his children, and for the grandfathers and grandmothers who carried in their heads the sacred tales of the tribe. Many of these, young and old, would die in the long, ice-bitter months of winter.

Coyote, like the rest of the People, had no need for fire. So he seldom concerned himself with it, until one spring day when he was passing a human village. There the women were singing a song of mourning for the babies and the old ones who had died in the winter. Their voices moaned like the west wind through a buffalo skull, prickling the hairs on Coyote's neck.

"Feel how the sun is now warm on our backs," one of the men was saying. "Feel how it warms the earth and makes these stones hot to the touch. If only we could have had a small piece of the sun in our teepees during the winter."

Coyote, overhearing this... pulls out a deck of cards and fanned them expertly. Distracting all of the other "people", the fire slowly died and then, so did the "people". Because as we all know, you can't live without fire.


Posted by Beth-Jo Gewirtz on 7:32 PM comments (2)

I know she is waiting

it’s late. I’m not home.

She can’t remember when I left

But she knows it was at least ten naps ago!

In the door and she is on me

wagging her tail, as if her butt will wag itself home

I love her too,

but I need a moment to breathe.

Yes yes yes, I missed you too.

Yes yes yes, it’s been such a long time.

Love is relentless tying me to its leash

wagging it’s tail and licking my face.

Ok ok, now, go get your leash

Picture.....from left.....Kota, Jill, Hallie and Bob