Tuesday, 20 April 2010

My View of China

The entire Raoow! editorial team just arrived back from China where we were for a wedding. I managed to sneak back into Europe two hours before the ash cloud crippled the continent, though others weren't so lucky. Right now my girlfriend is stuck on a beach in Egypt, and another Raoow! contributor is trying to find a route back to London from Shanghai. No matter how great we think we are, mother nature has a way of putting us in our place. Anyway, I thought it was timely to write about what I thought about my time in China, outside of my memorable wedding experience. Blogger is blocked in China, as is YouTube and Facebook, hence the lack of updates for the past couple of weeks. I didn't miss being disconnected, though I can understand those who say that China is in danger of becoming a big intranet. It seems so closed off, and even though Shanghai is an international city, once out of it English is of little use and you get the odd stare from passersby.

Czech Easter Traditions

This is a late post due to the Raoow! team trip to China.

Last year I went to a Moravian village in Czech Republic to experience a traditional Easter, and I did the same thing this year. On Sunday there is a village wine tasting held in the local "culture house", with a thousand different wines to try, and on Easter Monday groups of boys walk around the village with willow whips and visit various girls to whip them on the ass while reciting a poem. I'm not kidding. The whipping symbolises good health, beauty and youth, though most girls hide in their houses hoping the local boys think they're not home. They're usually invited in for pastries, wine and slivovice, and they're also given a decorated boiled egg.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Dylan Horrocks

I first heard about Dylan Horrocks three or four years ago after I finished reading the long-running Vertigo Comics series The Books of Magic. Created by Neil Gaiman, and later written by others, the series featured boy-magician Tim Hunter, a protagonist with strikingly similar characteristics to Harry Potter, yet published a full six years before Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. After The Books of Magic was done, it was logical to read the next instalment, The Names of Magic, written by one Dylan Horrocks. Books was a long, surreal twisted ride, and I remember noting that Names was far more grounded (nice art by Richard Case, also), which is by no means a bad thing. I enjoyed Names immensely, and got a hold of the follow-up, Hunter: The Age of Magic as soon as I could (thanks the internet!). I really liked his work, and wanted to find out more about him, and I was surprised to find out he was a New Zealand writer-cartoonist who I had never heard of before. Hicksville dropped out of print, and I’d been trying to get a hold of it for years, so now that it has recently been re-released through Victoria University Press, I thought it would be a good time to write about the guy. I got to meet him this evening at the Wellington book launch of Hicksville and I put this blog post together with help from interviews and articles from other magazines and websites, including Horrocks’ own site at http://www.hicksville.co.nz/.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Czech Public Transport

I catch the tram to work every day. It's an efficient form of transport. Cheap, on time, high capacity, environmentally friendly. The one thing that drags it down are the people who use it. As my friend Kris puts it, Czechs have a tendency to adopt the "public transport face" as soon as they board a tram. A frown or scowl is commonplace. I've even started doing it without realising it. In New Zealand, we say "thanks driver!" when we get off the bus. Not here. The driver would sooner tell you to "go to the ass" than accept any kind of compliment.