Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Next 2.5 Years Laid Out In Stone

Signing on for another 2 years is great 'cause H and i will get lots of time to ... do stuff on this hemisphere of the planet. Here's what we're thinking of:

Summer 08
statusq goes to India to meditate and maybe say hi to Satya Sai Baba.
H goes to Canada
Then they meet up and go to... Rats, it doesn't look like Taiwan will pan out due to $ and transportation issues. Maybe Korea? Don't know.

Oct 08
mom and dad (and bro?) swing into China for a visit. we can go... somewhere maybe.

xmas 08
another long wkend in Shanghai, just for old time's sake

Feb 09

Summer 09
Hungary, Geneva (to meet up w/ friends), and a couple other EU spots

and other things to squeeze in: i gotta visit family in the Philippines, and we definitely gotta hit Japan.

On the bad side, i was thinking that i don't need to to go to Canada this summer, cuz i can just go next yr, but then i forgot that now we have unofficial plans to go galavanting in Europe. Oh well, i'll get bk sooner or later. Hey, year 1 is practically over!

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Long Haul

Well it's not official yet, but it looks like Heza and i will be sticking it out for (count 'em) THREE years in BJ and not our planned two. This is largely 'cause we got inadvertently wrangled into a new contract since our previous agreements weren't signed or on paper. Let that be a warning to you folk.

So were feeling kinda choked and lost when we found out that we weren't at all getting what we were expecting for our 2nd yr in BJ. And the forces at hand trying to lock us in for 3 yrs were making me feel a bit manipulated.

Me, i don't mind BJ at all, but i know it wears H down. So we acted aloof w/ the admin and owners, and sat on it. Officially i left the ball in H's court, stating that we could split or stay depending on what felt right for her.

i was kinda getting ready to pack out, when some news arose, which had a surprisingly (to me) big impact on H. She is now likely to start teaching high school next yr, which is a big draw for her. that's what she came to BJ expecting to do in the 1st place, before being told, "No sorry, we want you to teach Kindergarten now instead."

Also, the pay grid is now set up so that at the end of 3 years there's retroactive bonuses galore.

So now we've told the owners and admin that we're happy to stay. The school is stoked to have us on for more, as we've been such stellar teachers. And truthfully, after a totally unreasonable Sept and Oct, the job now is ... totally reasonable, i'd say.

Anyhow. H will be able to kiss her student loans g'bye! And me, i'll be making big fat charitable donations, shopping at the finest 2nd hand stores, and supporting hard-working musicians.

Friday, March 21, 2008

And Here's a Good Article

This one's from Cup of Cha, a China blog that Heza and i read regularly. Re: Tea-bet, of course. Nice interpretation on the proceedings at present.

And the Latest Headlines...

I was pretty interested to see the BBC article which stated

A senior Chinese diplomat told a European China watcher recently that China felt bewildered by the criticism it is getting in advance of the Olympic games and was inexperienced at handling it.

And also Ms Pelosi getting lots of hype for the most official looking plea i've yet seen for Tea-bet-an Indy-pent-ants.

so i thought i'd check out what China Daily had to say about it. There, the top headline read Torch relay will visit Tibet as planned, organizers say
. And there was hardly any other mention of the situation, which i thought was rather comical. i admit that i often check China Daily so i can roll my eyes.

Regardless, the torch article was pretty interesting. Did you know The 137,000-km relay will visit 134 cities in five continents? That More than 20,000 torchbearers and 5,000 escort runners will take part in the 130-day relay? That It will pass by some of the world's most famous sites, such as the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, the British Museum in London, the Eiffel Tower in Paris? That it will scale the peak of Mt Everest?

So fucking ridiculous! Not to mention that scaling Mt Everest is, like, dangerous. So good thing they're not letting for-in media in to, like, confirm anything.

Sins-or-ring the Tea-bet Pro-tests

i was pretty curious about what a regular ol' Chinese person would think about the Tea-bet pro- tests, so i asked a Chinese gr1 teacher for her opinion on the subject at meal time yesterday. Her eyes got wide.

"Oh, i can't talk about it with foreigners!" she exclaimed.

"Oh, that's ok. i was just wondering what people thought about it since it's been getting so much attention in the international news," i said.

She then seemed to have forgotten her disclaimer and went on to answer any questions Heza and i had about it. It wasn't a super intense grilling but we learned that MsX was aware of the following:
  • that the China news differed greatly from the int'l coverage
  • that China and Tea bet numbers regarding cajualties differed greatly
  • that China is known to fudge the numbers
  • that internet and media is being tightly controlled, but that as of late more video clips have become accessible
  • that the Dolly Llama is known for encouraging peace, and not for inciting violins or unrest
  • and that therefore the Chinese gov't scoop re: the Dolly Llama and the pro tests are... bunk.
I found all this particularly interesting because i had no evidence to show that MsX was political in the slightest. i didn't even know if she ever watched the news. Forgive my tiny sample population, but i think her surprising amt of knowledge on the subject represents a LOT of Chinese folk.

In fact, any Chinese people with whom i've taken up a subject of anything controversial have shown themselves to be WAY more attuned to the truth than i would've expected. (Recall my cousin's hubby who commented "Chinese people aren't stupid, you know").

As for media con trolls:
cbc down
globe and mail down
Youtube down (which is a big pain in the bum when you use vid clips to help teach)

So that's a drag. but
BBC up
the Guardian up
NY times up

i understand that what's available in BJ could be different from what's available elsewhere, but still, i don't know what the hell kind of clampdown they call that.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Music in Beijing: Young and Tender

My brother (living in London) sent me an article from The Guardian about the BJ music scene. I was pretty tickled that the author was detailing a quirky show which i had attended some while ago.

The scene is definitely alive and happening and, optimistic people feel, burgeoning and breaking out. There's definitely hype around BJ bands who are totally deserving of a Pitchfork Review, whether it be good or bad.

A couple weeks ago i went to see these BJ bands New Pants and Queen Sea Big Shark (a horribly translated name, i read somewhere). And i had a good feeling about everything when in between bands they played this CSS song that i love. New Pants were a pretty comical brand of electro-pop, and QSBS had this crazy shakin' skinny girl of a singer, who sounded bizarrely NYC. Maybe a surfy sort of Le Tigre.

Check this episode of Sexy BJ about women in music. It features Atom (named after Astroboy's size and power), the cute-as-a-button hardcore drummer of my fave local band Hedgehog. She's too cool. It's so funny to hear the Hedgehog frontman say that she's the one everyone wants to see.

Punk rock is very very big in China right now, though i'd hardly call it the cutting edge. Think about it. You've got a country where the masses were musically deprived for decades, and then suddenly they have access to as much as they can handle.

Also you've got a population which is suddenly able to express itself more freely than it's ever been able to. No kidding you've got a lot of angry people who want to yell and shriek for the first time, and a lot of people who are willing to listen to it.

Do what you gotta do folks, and power to you, but sorry that music isn't my speed rt now, not to mention punk is a sort of musical early adolescence.

But there's still enough other people who are doing more experimental and innovative music. And some of it's not so innovative, but hell it can still be great.

i think China's music scene is in a stage of crazy development. The Sex Pistols and Ramones were making their mark in the late '70s, and i kinda think that's where China is too. The Pistols and the Ramones had to pave the way for new ways of viewing music, paving the way for more sophisiticated artists. The likes of Beck, Wilco, Broken Social Scene, etc all owe their inspirations to a comprehensive understanding of music, history and culture. China may not have everything under its belt now, but hey, give 'em another 6 months. Then we'll see where they're at.

Michael Moore Hates America...?

H's friend was telling us about how she saw Michael Moore in a new light after watching the docuflick Micheal Moore Hates America.

When she was telling us about it, i noticed a strong reaction in me, saying NO I DON'T WANT TO WATCH IT. And then i was like sheesh, what's up w/ me? i'm like those rt wingers who don't wanna watch Michael in the 1st place, so then i was like ok, i'll watch it before trying to slam all of your arguments.

Then i watched it.

And i still found myself trying to pick apart the movie at every turn, and was disappointed at how un-open i was to the experience of watching it.

But in the end, i just don't think it's a very good movie. Fair enough, Mr Moore isn't the most ethical film-maker. Not that we really thought he was: we know he's a master media manipulator but it is interesting (and a touch disappointing) to see how he's twists things up sometimes.

But at least Moore has the lofty goal of shifting the political will of the american public, whereas this Wilson guy uses many of the same pathos tricks just to blab about how Moore is hypocrite.

He accuses Moore of being a hypocrite for making corporate money off of a movie which is counter corporate, and he's a rookie film-maker who sees a niche to make a flick, knowing that popular media would jump on a movie to counter Moore. So good on you Wilson. You made a movie, stated some facts, and made your money. It's the American Dream! except for the stating facts part: that's not the dream, is it?

1/5 communist stars

Media Discrepencies Expected

Hey, even China Daily mentioned (way dn on the page) the rioting in Tee-Bet. Terrible, the way this all "embarrasses" China on the eve of its god-given right to have the glorious Olympic spotlight shining brighter than its ever shone before.

The BeeBeeSee confirms that 80 folk are dead, whereas the Chinese sources claim 10 dead as a result of rioter-started fires. The China Daily article largely focuses on how the riots have hardly disturbed local life. The author also states, "It's the common aspiration of the Tibetan people to maintain national unity, ethnic solidarity and social harmony."

This sort of rhetoric may be closer to the truth than you think, considering that the Chinese govt has been actively promoting migration of Chinese people into Tee-bet for years now, increasing the non-Tibetan population and interbreeding of people and cultures. Basically the concept of separation there is getting messier by the moment.

The recent rioting has brought the spotlight onto China again, but weirdly enough, hardly anyone mentions how weird it is for Tee-betans (who we westerners like to imagine are all peace'n'harmonious-y meditators) to be rioting and looting. But the fact is, just cuz yr tee-betan, doesn't mean yr anything like the Dolly Lamma.

You could just be some punk-ass 18 yr old who's pissed off that chinese people are taking over yr 'hood and who gave them the right to send their olympic cigarette a-running through yr gramma and gramp's streets?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Protect Me! Protect Me!

According to the National Office of Cleaning Up Pour Nog Raffi, they've officially blocked 200 million pieces of "harmful information" from the internet!

Good work, ol' chums!... But i should let you know....

You missed LOTS.

Also, BJ is likely going to allow the publication of Playboy in China for the 1st time during the Olympics. In order not to deny the planets' world class athletes from their healthy wanking needs.

Many are all too happy to point out the hypocrisy in China's stance on Playboy and other publications, but hell if China's opening its doors, now's the time to do it. How many times has "temporary" turned out to be more than temporary? Maybe i'm being optimistic, but i think it's about time China gave up the heavy-handed Pourn is perverting young minds! stance.

This is just a short post, so i won't wax philosophic about craving, stimulation, release, nature or the media machine.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Arts and Crafts and Market Value

i was crossing the road on this pedestrian bridge which has been taken over as a sort of impromptu market of people peddling knickknacks and puppies etc, and i saw this fellow there who was selling these amazing insects and creatures fashioned out of grass.

After he let me take a picture, i cautiously enquired as to the price of one of the insects. "3 yuan" (42 cents) he replied, to my surprise. So i got the dragon for 8 yuan, and told him to keep the change, and then he tossed me the hopper pictured above.

If i could speak mandarin, i'd say, "Dude, these things are amazing. Where's your business sense? Spend the 14 cent bus fare to take your talents somewhere touristy and yank up your prices a decimal place or 2. You won't make jack sitting on this bridge trying to sell to these local yokels."

These days i've been feeling a bit weird about how cheap lots of things are around here. Have you seen The Story of Stuff yet? it's a super easy-to-digest short online vid about where stuff comes from and where it goes, and why stuff is so bloody cheap.

Although around here, cheap is like the undervalued radioshack $5 radio, plus undervalued time and labour. It all kinda disturbs me.

And then slap that next to Chinese bars or restaurants that charge expensive western prices and the whole situation seems rather fucked.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Random notes

The China train transportation crisis didn't affect me or Heza's travels in the slightest.

CBC no longer available, w/out some inconvenient sidestepping.

BJ decided that spring temps are more timely than icy frigidity.

BJ is on a streak of sunny blue sky days.

Officially Blue Skies according to the gov't formula.

I'm now teaching gr7 Science in addition to the rest.

Very busy.

A bit like September.

But not quite.

Now meditating daily, if only for 5 min.