Saturday, January 26, 2008

Zaijian, BJ (he nimen)! [Bye Beijing (and you!)]

Tomorrow afternoon H and i are flying out to Hainan for a wk to hang out on sunny beaches and read books. i admit i'm a wee bit apprehensive 'cause it's likely to be quite touristy, and i wonder if i might be bored. (that happened the last time i tried to hang on a beach, and that was only for 2 days).

Then we're off to Hong Kong to take in some modern urbanity for a while. Then H will go off to her 1st Vipassana course, leaving me celebrate Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day solo. i'm trying to seize this chance to be unstructured and spontaneous... except what if i can't find a room anywhere???

At any rate i'll pbly spend time in Macau, maybe some islands near HK, maybe even go into the city of Guangzhou. I'll let you know later on.

In the meantime: Cheung jie kuaile (Happy Spring Festival).

Ice and Rock

My friend Joy invited me out to Houhai Lake to go skating yesterday, and i jumped at the chance since just the night before i unsuccessfully proposed it to Heza.

Houhai Lake is a happening restaurant, bar and lounge area that gets quite busy on the ice come winter.

But surprise surprise there were no skates in my size. So instead i rented this ice-bike thing, which rocked severely, much to my surprise. That thing trucked.

Joy told me, "They say that there's no point in living in Beijing if you don't skate at Houhai." So that rocks. Except that i didn't skate. I biked. Final judgement, folks?

(aside: Also, apparently you don't really live in BJ until yr bike is stolen. Check!)

That night we hit went to Mao Livehouse to watch a slew of BJ rock bands, where the theme was 80's cartoon theme songs. Most of it wasn't so hot, but there was one band who really nailed the electro-punk thing a few times, and pretty much all the theme covers were pretty goofy and entertaining.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hangin' Out With the Po Po

I never mentioned that i've got a bit of blood in town. My deceased grandmother's 88 yr old sister lives dntn in a very modest apartment. She is tres tres cool. Pretty laid back, and surprisingly progressive, and she speaks some pretty sharp English. Hey did she just say 'dilapidated'?

i couldn't believe it when we went out for lunch, and she brought her own chopsticks and tupperware for leftovers. She even claims that she doesn't want xmas cards because of the environmental waste they create.

She talks about the cultural revolution when her husband was locked away in a building for a year, and where she had relatives put to death without reason: "you can't imagine how horrible it was!"

She occasionally makes comments about how it's not good for families to spread out all over the place. Parents end up never seeing their kids and families grow distant. She gets the guilt flowin' a bit about how i should be more involved w/ my folks, and that my parents are disappointed when me and my bro go to Calgary for xmas but don't hang out w/ them much.

i've met up w/ her a 4 times now, and she helps me w/ some mandarin, and i help her w/ some English. Today H and i hung out at her pad for some chit chat and mandarin time so she could give us lots of encouragement and sincerity while letting us know our accents were all wrong.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Movie Overload

i don't think i've ever watched so many movies in my life. It's too easy. Work often leaves me and Heza a touch braindead, so we've acquired quite the stash of $1.40 flicks gently whispering to us, "watch me, watch me, watch me you f'ing couch potato whom i love so well."

Anyhow, for lack of anything better to write, here's the quick and nasty list of reviews. (note: the availability of media in China is largely inexplicable. Lots makes it over, and lots doesn't)

  1. North Country: an amazing flick that got me and H all pissed off at the awful male characters in it.
  2. Pursuit of Happyness: Will Smith and his kid show that a big heart and determination will make you a rich mofo.
  3. Lost in Translation. What? you haven't seen it yet? You're joking.
  4. La Haine: gritty movie about life in the Paris ghetto. Good flick, but no characters to care about.
  5. No End In Sight: great doc about the excruciatingly badly planned Iraq occupation.
  6. Hairspraty (2007): pretty good, but i wish i'd just seen the orig John Waters flick.
  7. The Kid: Charlie Chaplin classic. Pretty universally entertaining, but admittedly not as good as i'd hoped.
  8. Nanking: a rather depressing and rather touching doc about the atrocities committed by the Japanese in Nanking during WWII. i chose not to mention it to my dad after all, since he'd likely get all mad and racist towards the Japanese.
  9. Sideways: intelligent romantic comedy (far and few between) w/ a sympathetic protagonist, even if he's a jerk.
  10. Yi Yi: An awesome Taiwanese movie that broke the int'l scene bigtime. Very intelligent, and totally captivating.
  11. Destricted: wtf? I can't believe that an art flick about porn and sex, with moneyshots et al, somehow slipped across the border. "oh it's Art, is it? Well alright then."
  12. Cashback: Just because it gets lots of int'l film fest attention doesn't mean the plot or characters are interesting.
  13. Hot Fuzz: UK cops go from comedy to comic ultra-violence, in the good way.
  14. Singing in the Rain: Some very impressive production in this 1952 movie, but sorry i'm just not into that dance style. And the story? weaakkkkk.
  15. Life is Beautiful: a romantic comedy about the holocaust. I liked it a lot better this 2nd time.
  16. Casablanca: Holy shit, this movie is HOT. i wish i'd seen it earlier since every hard-nosed cop/detective today seems to be influenced by Bogart. I was so inspired i taught a film study unit on it. One 12 yr old (who's a frighteningly sincere fellow) wrote "Casablanca is one of the best movies ever made".

That's about it. And the In Box is still plenty full.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Beijing Prayer Flags

This homage to the blessings and luxuries of contemporary living are just steps away from my front front door. Ubiquitous plastic bags have been a (relatively) long standing tradition in contemporary Chinese living. But times move fast and a change is gonna come.

In the news today... China is going to ban plastic bags! About f'ing time, imo. The ultra thin bags pictured above and below will be kicked off the production lines.

China is to ban the use of some plastic bags and force consumers to pay for others in its latest attempt to conserve resources and ease environmental pressures, the state council announced yesterday.As many as 3bn plastic bags a day are used in China, putting intolerable pressure on the country's resources, it said.

Part of me wonders if China can handle it. Disposable goods are DEEPLY ingrained into society. It's pretty bloody hard to be an environmentalist around here. Let's hope that unnecessary packaging is next on the block.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I'll "New York Times" Your Ass!

I practically pooped my pants when writing the last blog, 'cause in researching nose picking, i came across this NY Times article, which prominently featured this photo:
And i was all ready to go raving mad about how the fuckers somehow gave the credit to some Doug Kanter guy when I was obviously the one who shot the pic, and had been naive enough to post publicly on flickr:
But in the end, a bit of detective work revealed that Mr Kanter had not stolen my image. But seriously the composition is pretty bloody close, even if his really is more professionally executed.

Frankly, i haven't been all that stoked on the pix i've been shooting in CN. Lots good, but few stellar. And stellar is obviously what i'm after.

Nose Picking: the future of nose hygeine

You may have heard about BJ's efforts to curb people's spitting on the curb. While i admit i do find the issue pretty interesting, i find it particularly interesting that spitting's in the spotlight, but nose picking ain't.

Yes, it was pretty gross this morning to pass by a looger on the floor of my building entrance today, but the nose picking's at least as much of a western faux pas as all the fingers driven way up into the nostrils.

Really, it's like a public norm comparable to say... blowing your nose. Sure we don't like it, but hell, you can't exactly just let snot run all over your upper lip now can you?

Some people are wagging their fingers about how BJ needs to stop spitting so China doesn't lose face in Aug 08. And maybe those wagging fingers have dried chunks of snot wedged underneath them.

Because once you feel the freedom of eradicating a malevolent and tenacious booger while striding tall on the sunny sidewalk, well hell, there's no going back. Yes, i've joined the legions of cashiers, servers, bus drivers, and cooks who understand the true meaning of freedom!

photo by Mr Mark.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Years BJ action!

After my friend J and her band played a gig at an indie craft-fair in a shopping mall, a handful of us ended up forgoing all parties and clubs and just watching CCTV's live broadcasts of NYE Craptaculars while downing several bottles of Great Wall red wine.

Most people around these parts couldn't really give a crap about the gregorian nye. But if they do, then you double the annual party action!

Now H is already counting down to our Spring Festival one-month holiday which kicks in Jan25. FYI, we're hitting Hainan island province for some warm beach action, then off to Hong Kong so H can meditate and i'll just go where the wind blows for 10 days of solo adventuring.

ps. Lots new pix posted on Flickr, from Shanghai and earlier.