I was shopping for an external hard drive this afternoon (with Steve's help, both in technical knowledge and communication, although I was quite proud that I was able to understand a majority of the conversations, if only at a painfully slow pace), and I saw a nice 2.1 (read: front speakers and sub woofer) set of speakers that I was eying when I bought my router a few months ago. It's a sleek NEC branded (whether or not it's actually NEC will forever be a mystery) set, some solid and loud front speakers and a nice hefty sub that outputs strong, heavy bass. Back then, with my even more crippled Chinese, I was able to bargain the price down to about 300 yuan, from an initial 350. Well, today, I was quite proud of myself when I walked in and, asking for the price in Chinese, was quoted by a quite shocked clerk a price of 250. And then I was able to bargain it down to 200! So I got these really nice, sharp, loud speakers for about $25 US.
And let me tell you ... you really need to listen to your favorite music with a decent set of speakers. Putting iTunes on random just reveals a layer of vibrancy and richness you don't get out of tiny, tinny speakers. Tom Waits went from sounding gravely to sounding like a goddamn quarry. Subtle bass lines that are just lost through headphones or on crappy stereo speakers sound fantastic.
I felt great getting these speakers so cheaply, and for bargaining and understanding a decent amount from the vendors. But I also had some great classes today, and not coincidentally, they were about music. My freshmen read about, wrote about, talked about, and finally listened to some music, and it was great. It's so strange to hear The Velvet Underground being piped into a classroom in the middle of China, and the weird combination of events that brought it here. And it was really interesting to see the faces of listeners that love the music of Sweet Jane, but just have no idea what to make of the rushed, idiosyncratic vocals.
We read a long, vocabulary-packed history of a popular Taiwanese pop group, S.H.E., and I gave them the lyrics to a Beatles classic "In My Life" as I explained the concept of "bittersweet." And then we had the incomprehensible, angelic Hawaiian and joyful ukulele of good 'ol Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. It was great to introduce my students to some new music. They loved the Beatles, I think seeing the lyrics in front of them really helped, and though no one could understand Iz's words, the amazing music in Panini Pua Kea had them dancing and smiling and just loving it. And asking them to put those thoughts and feelings into words, well ... it was a good day of teaching.
Yeah, so, S.H.E. Here's one of their more popular songs, "Superstar." Their similarities to Western pop (and music videos) are so scary, it's almost like they've got it down to a FORMULA or something!