Sunday, March 29, 2009

Miscellaneous Updates For YOU, Yes YOU

1. yesterday i slept on the grass in the sun. dream-like spring.
2. Today it snowed.
3. Almost cried when i saw the trained elephants at World Park
4. Did you know elephants can be trained to walk on their front legs only?
5. Or shit in a wheelbarrow on command?
6. World Park is better after a couple tokes, oh yeah.
7. Presently forcing my gr 8's to write enviro essays.
8. PSA: yr cell phone initially lets out very strong radiation when it searches to connect w/ a call. Hold yr phone away from yr head until it connects.
9. i learned that when i made my students contemplate the dangers of their cell phones.
10. i hate using txt messages.
11. it's scary how often i check msn now. Lame.
11.5. i wax nostalgic for the days when i could brag about how i deleted my Facebook account.
12. dating my French friend which is cool, though i don't know how deep it can go really.
13. Kinda fun though. She says the sex is "crazy" whereas i thought it was normal.
14. We had planned a quiet weekend in the 'burbs, bike riding and cooking food.
15. Plus 3 last minute unplanned concerts/parties.
16. yesterday i weirdly contemplated earning a living by making art.
17. Recently met H's boyfriend officially, which was cool.
18. Although i had previously to stay away from Canada for the next 3 years because flying makes me feel guilty about carbon emissions, when my parents said they would visit me here again, i realized that me flying bk to Canada would halve the emissions of my parents. So i'm looking at summer 2010, fyi.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Great Progress

In the last week, two people have told me that... my mandarin's not very good. You have to understand, this is a huge step forward. If your chinese really stinks, everyone will say it's great.

For example, a bunch of my students realized recently that i can speak a bit of chinese, 'cause i had to call the computer tech during class. After class, one student was so amazed at my luxurious language skills because i could correctly identify the words "window," "map," and "door."

On the other hand when you can more or less explain why the Chinese Olympics were ok, but the Vancouver Olympics are a swindle, people will be more inclined to shake their heads and roll their eyes at your deficiencies in listening comprehension or inability to say words like "pants" or "cooked."

Seriously, how many times in a month do you use the word "arm"? i don't know how much energy i can invest trying to remember all these basics.

As a side note, i've weirdly been speaking more french lately than i have in years.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Security Insecurity

Since the Olympics, at every subway station in BJ you have to stick your bag through an x-ray before you can get onto the platform. Some low wage employees sit and watch the x-rays or direct people with bags to the x-rays.

The system is highly flawed. Because sneaking past the x-ray machines and security was superduper easy, the few times i tried. And if i want to get a gun on board, i simply take it out of my bag, and stick it in my crotch.

At first i considered it a monumental waste of time and money, until i figured that they're not really trying to stop bombs from exploding the trains, they're just trying to employ people. Up to 20 people employed to stand around a given subway's entrances is emplying hundreds of people in the city.

But then when i read the following govt endorsed "news" item, i can only shake my head.
More than 3,600 passengers who carried unsafe items, or attempted to do so, were sent to the authorities. At least 16,000 people were barred from getting on the trains, the Beijing Subway Operation Company said in a statement.

Subway staff had seized more than 37,500 dangerous items, including detonators, tear bombs and gasoline, with the help of about 2,000 X-ray machines installed in 123 stations since June 29, when the city started compulsory security checks of all subway passengers.

wow, i hope they're not really trying to convince me.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Shock Doctrine

I just finished reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. Having also appreciated her 1st book, No Logo, a book touted as the manifesto for the new left, i was keen to get into this one, which was getting great reviews. The Shock Doctrine is a much much better book.

The book focuses on how the use of shock has been used both on individuals and societies, and how right wing groups have learned and practiced how to push their capitalist schemes on people and governments who have lost their footing in times of disaster.

It's very very scary. And also terribly fascinating. Never before have i read a book which has so dramatically shifted my understanding of the world we live in. When i saw the planes crash into the twin towers i had this dirty feeling that a handful of people were gleefully rubbing their hands together. And now i know who they are how they came to be.

i admit that somewhere in the middle of the book i was becoming rather frustrated at how pervasive and deep the roots of the problems go: right wing ideologies using populations of people as testing grounds to see how conflict and disaster can put heaps of money into the pockets of a few, while millions get pushed (often violently) into poverty. (The chapter on South Africa was particularly heart-breaking). But by the end of the book, i felt oddly comforted by the relatively brief final chapter, optimistically showing that societies and people can recover, rejecting what was once known as the only game in town, as touted by the IMF and World Bank.

The book has deservedly won accolades from the reviewers who you'd expect to love it, but weirdly enough even sources like Dow Jones Business News is saying The Shock Doctrine is "the most important book on economics in the 21st century," Go figure.

Anyhow. i should also mention that while i appreciated reading No Logo, i would often look at it sitting on the table and sigh, "i guess i should read it." But i was always keen to pick up The Shock Doctrine. It's immensely readable, full of crazy amounts of information. i am truly so happy that someone has found a way to bring this story to the public sphere. Ms Klein, i take my hat off to you.

ps. Here's a quick vid film about it.

Girls Girls Girls

A childhood friend of mine spent a decent amount of time in Japan in his teens and 20's. He turned into a bit of a player. I recall him once talking about hooking up with women in Japan. I asked him, "But don't you think it's pretty weird, since these women like you 'cause you're... white?"

He answered, "Think about it. If you could meet the coolest people, go to the best art shows and bars, and hang out with gorgeous women, do you think you wouldn't?" I concurred that it could be more interesting that being the wannabe i was at the time, but still conscious of a lingering "But still..." in the back of my head.

Today it seems i know quite a few people in Beijing, though i wouldn't say i have any particularly close friends, save a lone expat.

i axed things with the 19 year old before the break, because the minimal amounts of communication taking place felt like a non-relationship to me. i suggested we consider ourselves single for the break, and asked what she thought of it. No reply. Too bad, 'cause she was really really cool in many ways.

So then there's been kind of a slew of people who i've met as of late, the large majority of whom are single women. Had a handful of dates with a super cute girl from a bar who was a very groovy dancer. She virtually never talked English with me and helped my chinese a ton. In the end we decided that we're better as friends since we're really really different from each other. She's definitely too innocent.

Had a quick hook up with the sexy cell phone pictures girl, which was pretty hilarious. She was clear from the get-go that she's not looking for a bf, and that she wanted to jump me.

And then last night i went to see a couple San Fran mash up djs with the French woman from the photo shoot. After drinking a poorly planned roster of korean wine, cheapo chinese hard liquor, beers and a vodka shot, i ended up quite sick, lost my glasses, and woke up with a headache in my friend's bed. Neither of us is sure if anything should happen with us, since i suspect our mutual friend has a thing for me.

So basically, there's lots of stuff going on, and it's great hanging out with writers, artists, photographers, dancers, and musicians, but i really don't think i've met anyone particularly suitable for me (and frankly don't expect to for a while: i've come to the realization that my personality is a touch... unconventional). Also, my chinese still has a long long long long way to go. Way too often someone will say something to me, and i truly have no idea what the hell they're talking about. So frankly, if milking the "Exotic Westerner" schtick is the thing that grants people the patience to deal with my shitty Chinese... i'll take it.