Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Long Last Year, Hello This One

2010 ended with an argument with my girlfriend, in the midst of a stressy getaway to the seaside city of Qingdao. The plan to even go out for midnight got scrapped.

From there, the months started rolling by. Here's what i think of when i think of 2011 highlights.

  • Super stressy negotiations and secret meetings about bullshit decisions made by ill-qualified educators.
  • Travelling solo to Chengdu and Chongqing, eating MSG laden street food intensity.
  • Sort of quitting, sort of getting fired, and thank God for that.
  • Tuesday meditation nights, barely attended, but generally ongoing.
  • Trigger happy photoshooting w/ my GF in Vienna.
  • Lucky enough to score a new job.
  • Generally lucky all around.
And for NYE, a bunch of friends spent midnight underneath the world's 2nd biggest television screen along w/ a couple thousand people. Then we slipped into an underground dance club where i was happily drunk and the GF was happily sober, and the music was a lot better than we'd expected.

As for 2012... i have a feeling that it's going to be pretty different from 2011.

Not sure about Mayan calendar mayhem, but... i suspect that energetically, things could be more intense than usual. So i reckon that taking that into account, it could be particularly beneficial to be self-aware, doing your best to promote your own good karma, as well as that in others.

And of course, i won't be surprised if global economic/environmental meltdown starts happening. i know, i know, patience is its own virtue...

Cheers, everyone. Hope that your 2012 is as balanced, forgiving, epiphanic, wild, and peaceful as you need it to be.



Photo: not mine.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Modern Technology

A old friend who sometimes spends too much time on the computer recently informed me that he checks my blog too frequently to chk for updates.

And i thought: wow, cool, but what waste of time considering that i sometimes have a month or so without a post.

Well now, in today's days of high tech wizardry, you can RSS feed it (which i don't know how to do exactly) or you can get an automatic email reply from each of my (possibly) elucidating, enlightening, and downright entertaining ramblings.

If you ACT NOW you'll get a FIFTY PERCENT DISCOUNT, and we'll even send you a FREE bottle of SKIN TONER!!!

Just drop me a line if yr interested.

Boneheads


Wow, i just realized that the architecture articles and the sound piece i did actually got linked to quite a bit.

But, when some boneheads go and post to the audio file, but include a picture of Steven Holl's Moma (above), as opposed to any of the building's that were actually written about in the article, well that's just a disgrace.

Not to say that the Moma building isn't great. It is. Good cafe and arthouse theatre there too.

But those boneheads are still boneheads.

But mostly it was fun to see that a bunch of architecture and design sites were interested in my articles.

More interest in that than in my rather tardily submitted radio piece about nonconsumerist xmas. Which we did, btw. Not buy presents, i mean.

Oh yeah, merry Christmas, everyone, btw. If you celebrate it. i'm Buddhist, so don't tell anyone that i said that, 'kay? but in China, everyone can get away w/ saying merry Christmas. Most people have never even considered that Christmas is, like, religious, or anything. And Kwanzaa's not the thing here quite yet.



pic from http://www.clauss-markisen.de/161.0.html

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hitting the Air Waves

Well, i definitely feel that this could be a better product, but it's not bad for a 1st go, after teaching myself Adobe Audition, and how to use the recording studio, blah blah.

i submitted it to a radio head, and she aired it on China Now. Then the weird thing, is the next day, my brother says he listened to it on Global Times, which is not even the state media i work for.

Anyhow, for those interested in my 1st ever self-produced radio piece, i present to you:

The Changing Face of Beijing Architecture

Here's some pix of the buildings too.


Galaxy Soho

Local car attendant: "It's beautiful. Of course I like [Galaxy Soho], but I can not live in it." [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William Wang]

Wangjing Soho

Phoenix International Media Center

Friday, December 16, 2011

Life, as per normal.

Bumped into an unexpeceted somebody at an unexpected place and got some totally unexpected news. 

All i can say is that life is a pretty weird thing. Or to be more accurate, nothing is weird, but thinking makes it so. (or feeling). 

Enough about that already. 

Believe it or not, i'm not actually trying to be cryptic at all, ha.

Also.

Spoke w/ a couple dear but far removed friends recently, and while not exactly happy to hear about their problems, i felt like i could relate, y'know? And felt happy that they could relate to me. 

i dig life, but it's true, i am pretty far removed from many loved ones, and certainly could do a better job staying in touch. Drop me a line, and i'd be happy to set up a skype date, yo. 



News alert?

Um, wow, nobody told me that Jack Layton died while i was vacationing in Europe. 

That stinks. 

i thought that he was a pretty decent guy. He was a lefty, but looked like a righty. A fierce sheep in wolf's clothes. 

i'm pretty darn out of touch w/ Canadian politics. Can anyone give me an update on how things have shifted since that Conservative majority? 

Aside from that f'ing sickening disappointment that came out of the Durban talks, that is... 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wet Dreams


The other night i was asleep in bed, cozily snuggled under the heavy blankets. It's bloody cold in a house that lacks working central heating, don't you know. And i was having this dream that somebody had spilled tea in the bed, and the tea was turning colder by the minute. Well dang, that ain't cozy or comfortable.

In a state of semi-consciousness, the bed was indeed wet. Oh fuck, some idiot spilled tea in the bed. Hm? That's weird who could've done that? Maybe... i reached down and stuck my hand in my underwear to reassess the situation, and sadly confirmed my suspicions.

(Oh fuck, did i really just do that? What the hell, i haven't done that in months decades!!!)

So i crawl out into the cold air, take a(nother) piss, throw my wet jammies in the hamper, and figure... well hell, everything's already soaked through. No point in disturbing Q in the middle of the night.

So i crawled bk into the wet spot and fell back into dreamland.

Anyhow, i have no explanation for the above incident. i had had one single drink of fake scotch at a bar, hours previous to hitting the sack, but took a leak as per normal before bed.

Just one of those situations where you feel blameless, 'cause it's not like you (consciously) DID anything, y'know?

Jerry Seinfeld told his daughter once, "It's good if you're embarrassed. That means you're making other people feel good." Well screw Seinfeld! Who says i'm embarrassed? i posted it on my own f'ing blog for crying out loud!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Not Pathetic: It's Ascetic



Hung out the other night with a guy who's adopted an ascetic life style.

He's pretty hardcore.

He's from Santa Barbara, CA, and came out to Asia on a spiritual quest of sorts. For the last 11 months he has neither worn shoes (or socks) or touched money. 

In fact, he hadn't planned on doing this for so long. He's on a journey to India, but a lost passport kinda threw a wrench in the works. Well, the embassy got him a new passport somehow, but... he has no visa. He can't leave China without one, and he can't get one without buying one. With money. He's kinda up the creek on that one, thinking about how to sneak over Tibetan borders. 

First question. How does he eat?

He would walk through restaurants and grab food that customers hadn't finished. "French fries are good for picking up." Sometimes, he'd go for 3 days without food. Sometimes people would give or buy him food. Veg only. And sometimes he's teach english at a monastery and dine with the monks. He was definitely thin, but seemed fine.

Food is the only thing he let's people pay money for. Although when a handful of us went for dinner, we hopped on the bus, and he got all stressed out that we paid for his 15 cent bus ride. "I guess I'll just call that part of the dinner cost," he said forlornly. 

He can't speak chinese, but he can more or less write it. 

2nd question. Why no shoes? Dunno. But he did say he's intentionally framed himself as an outsider. His feet were pretty dirty, though the rest of him seemed quite clean. His hair was long, his face unshaven, but you know... he was clean.

3rd question. Where does he sleep? Usually on the street. Do note that it's pretty darn cold at night in BJ these days, below zero for sure. Sometimes he's invited to spend a night at someone's house, but he only allows himself to stay at one person's place for one night. 

He calls himself a prisoner to the rules that he created for himself, accepting the hardships as His Path. But he admits that he hopes that he can get to India soon, since he feels like hanging around BJ is a total waste of his time. Well, i don't know if my own spirituality would keep me uppity either in his shoes. 

So. Yes, his lifestyle is extreme. Yes, he has a life filled with hardships. For example, when i commented on his red eyes, he said that he's been wearing contact lenses in his eyes for 8 months straight, since he has no saline solution or lens case; he's well aware that his "rules" are f'ing with his health. But, talking with this young guy, he struck me as an intelligent, articulate, and sensitive guy. I'm sure I'll see him again sometime. He might join in for meditation night sometime, but i don't know how Q would handle him at this point. Hey, i'm well-acquainted w/ leftcoast hippies, so i can get on this guys level okay!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Alex Kristof 1994-2011


In what has been the worst possible outcome of events, Alex Kristof has passed away, at the young age of 16.

He was a really cool kid, intelligent, and respectful. i'm thankful that i got to spend more time than usual with him this summer, cycling and camping.

My thoughts are with his parents (mom and stepdad) whom have been two of my closest friends for many years. My thoughts are with his younger sister. With his friends, peers, and community. i hope everyone can make their peace.

Weird how all stumble through this life, making the best decisions we can, sometimes getting lucky, sometimes unlucky, getting some things right, some things wrong. I hope we can accept that terrible, unjustifiable tragedies happen, and that there still is a power greater than us trying to steer each one of us where we ought to go.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 30 - i Love My Job (for today, at least)


Have you ever thought, "i love my job"? i might've once before when i worked at a sorta hip cafe when i was 20something, but not since then. (and obviously, noone loves cafe work for the LT.)

'Til today.

Didn't go into the office today, 'cause i had managed to set up three interviews w/ architects.

First, i was rather surprised i even managed to score an interview w/ Zaha Hadid Architects, since they're one of the hottest firms on the planet right now, but i interviewed the director of TWO massive Beijing projects right now, Galaxy Soho and Wangjing Soho. i laid aside my list of questions, but we basically covered everything through our wandering and totally fascinating conversation. Smart dude. i might take him up on his offer to tour the Galaxy Soho site.

Then i went to shoot photos of another site. Flash a business card, and ask people to let you into their top floor offices to take photos, and most people will shrug and show you the way. Score.

And also talking to Beijingers on the street about the projects, and getting them to explain themselves. There's three responses. "It's great, why wouldn't everyone love it?" "I don't understand it. I don't know if it looks good or bad. I don't get it." and one super cool lady who was selling barbecue skewers who initially said she had nothing to say before eventually talking my ear off about how it's totally wrong to put this sort of massive new structure into the hallowed grounds within the Second Ring Road, and it pays no respect to tradition, and old Beijingers got cheated out of their homes, and it'll be all foreigners working in the new building, and all the Beijingers will have to move outside of the 6th Ring Rd, etc, etc. i was really disappointed that she wouldn't give me her name or let me take a picture. Hell, she didn't even want me to write about her ideas... but i don't know if i can keep that many nuggets of gold to myself...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 28 - Questions

I'm frantically trying to throw together 3 articles about modern architecture in BJ this week, trying to get interviews w/ the architecture companies. In the event that i actually get to interview some people, i wrote some questions. And dang, i think some of them are pretty darn good.

Note: BJ's got some pretty wild building slated to be built. They look so cool, i can almost forget about their cost and elitist orientation...

1.         The design of _________ is massive in scale, creating a strong impact on the viewer. Is bigger always better?

2.         The design is distinctly modern, but also alien. Alien, referring to something beyond the Earth clearly goes beyond boundaries of countries. Can this design be dropped into any country or any location? How does this building fit into Beijing differently than it would in another country or city?

3.         Many people complain that Beijing is just a testing ground for international architects, implying that these buildings wouldn't be built in other international cities. What would be your defense to this?

4.         There was a real interest in sci-fi influenced design in the 1970's. The design of __________ seems to fit into a revival of futuristic or outer space design. What do you think about the past and future of this trend?

5.         Why is architecture happening today called "futuristic"? Why isn't all architecture "futuristic"?


Busy today, work taking longer than it should. And then dwelling on some troubles that some close friends are going through in the side moments. Metta, metta...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 27 - Sad News

On top of yesterday's bad news comes more today.

When bad things happen to close friends, it can affect you strangely directly. Sorry, i don't have much more to say than that.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 26 - Rest in Peace, Sofia Rumeau

i got a message on Facebook today from my friend Sofia's daughter that my friend Sofia in Paris has just passed away.

i worked with Sofia in 2004 at the France Vipassana centre, and she generously invited me to stay with her husband and 2 (of 5) kids in the Paris suburbs. i lived with them for a full month during which time she and her husband repeatedly and emphatically insisted that i was not in any way imaginable overstaying my welcome.

Sofia was a truly unique person, born in Portugal of African descent. Reared 5 children from 4 (maybe 5) different fathers. All but 1 of whom loved her to bits as far as i could ascertain.

She was also tuned in to higher planes. Vipassana courses are a very logical and scientific form of inward exploration, but in these courses Sofia alone had the most interesting visions of and dialogues with enlightened beings (Buddha, Jesus). In one course i myself had a vision of Chinese faces which passed through my mind's eye in procession. Some old, some young, each one perfectly detailed. i wondered, "Wow, is my subconscious creating all these uniquely realistic faces?" Sofia later matter of factly commented, "No, those were angels." i never questioned how she knew.

She was somehow touched. Born in silence, not crying, she entered the world in refusal to demonstrate the suffering which Buddha uses to describe humanity's condition. In fact she was mute for 2 years or more, until her father finally used his belt to discover if she could cry out loud or not.

She suffered much violence from her father, yet also described fondly his hospitality at feeding any people and any number, friends or beggars, who happened to be near the house at a meal time.

Sofia had a touch of clairvoyance, and sometimes her desires were granted. She had wanted to independently give birth to a child, and did so once. Attempting to walk the miles to the hospital, she stopped at the side of the road and delivered her own child using her only her own hands.

There was in fact much suffering throughout her life. At the time when i met her, her marriage to Jack was starting to fall apart. i ended up acting as a buffer zone between them, even offering to act as a moderator to help them communicate. i wasn't surprised to hear later that Jack had left her, but it was a real blow to Sofia. She became reclusive.

Things for her became worse when one of her sons wound up dying destitute. i had met him a couple times and he was doing okay, but it was clear that he of all the siblings was unhappy. Sofia was devastated by his final downward spiral, but could only say that he had chosen his own path. Her love for her children was unrestrained.

She and i had discussed recording her memoirs, and it's a tragedy that this was never done. Her unembellished stories were amazing and touching.

i regret that i never really paid back her generosity. i regret that i let my fading skills in French prevent me from keeping contact with her. i regret that i started a letter to her just last week that was never sent.

Sofia, je t'embrasse trop fort. Je souhaite que tu as trouver ton paix.

Day 25 - Breathe Easy(ish)


Oh. So that's what it feels like when you don't take your work home with you. Nice.

Funny. The CRI website has 4 "recommended" articles on it. They're all by me.

And due to someone's slip up my official job as copy editor is delayed by another week, and so i'm on reporter duty for another stretch. Everyone says how boring it is to do copy editing, though my employer tried to convey how important it is to step up the quality of the CRI website content. And yes, it can be pretty shit.

Today two people (and one was my supervisor) said i should push to get on the air doing talk radio, to make life at CRI bearable. Really. i don't want to be a downer or anything, 'cause really i'm stoked to be doing this stuff. But everyone at CRI talks about how working there sucks the enthusiasm out of you. "You need to stop caring" they commonly say. Oh come on people. Can't you let me dream for just a little bit?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 24 - Damn Americans

What? It's thanksgiving AGAIN? Oh fine already.

i'm thankful to have a new job.
i'm thankful to have bust out of education.
i'm thankful to have been in education.
i'm thankful for my VPN.
i'm thankful for the bit of patience i have.
i'm thankful to be at least slightly cognizant of a Buddhist perspective.
i'm thankful that some strange beings still read my ramblings.
i'm thankful that i have enough self awareness to know i'm slightly grumpy and underslept right now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 23 - Spa La La

Dang, missed a day. Busy chilling in the hot springs.
Did 2 in 1 day. That makes for a lot of running, rescheduled interviews, and blazing through as many hot pools as possible in 25 minutes.

Also...
Broke some rules with a cool taxi driver.
Interviewed someone who was apparently sort of famous.
Drank beer brewed at the hot spring.
Turned down the VIP tour. 'Cause that would be waste of time.
And i had none.
Talked my way into the hot springs after me and my boss received repeated prior refusals.
Skipped lunch for the first time in like a decade.
Worked several hours of overtime.

And enjoyed the last hot spring that much more.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 22 - Sick Girlfriend

Q's sick. She went in to the TCM doctor today, where they stuck massive needles into her neck. Then came the flame-heated cups to suck about a cup's worth of tainted blood out. Hurt like a bitch, apparently. Now she's all freaked out that she's supposed to do it again tomorrow.

And the next day.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 21 - Biked Out

Rode to work today.

75 min to get there.

Longer to get back.

It was cold out.

But i felt pretty good.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 20 - Finishing Touches Finished


Untitled (temporarily)
By statusq
Acrylic paint and duct tape on canvas

Well, last weekend i did work on my painting, but finished it just the other day. Still working on the title though. Like many things, it took a long time and a lot more work and frustration than is apparent in the final product. But now i feel pretty satisfied.

Here's what one critic said about it:

Red duct tape which simultaneously references the Communist flag and tools of common labour is delineated from a virtually black night sky. Partly figurative, hinting at abstraction, the towering buildings give a spatial two point perspective dynamism to the composition. Communist stars are distorted into organic splatters, creating a dichotomy with the rigidly structured city which they seek to dominate.


Wow, that guy know what he's talking about, apparently.

I also have a partner painting to go with this one, but i'm a bit uninspired/lost for the moment. Maybe next weekend.(Don't ask about the song. That one's moving backwards).

Day 19 - Cold Weather



Saw this movie a while ago and really dug it. My bro saw brief intermittent moments of it and thought it seemed dull. Q left about an hour into it.

This is the movie that convinced me to read Sherlock Holmes (also, Haruki Murakami mentions Holmes stories now and again in his novels). And there's no doubt that there's this all-pervading sense of normalcy that manages to stick to even the most Hollywood aspects of the stripper, heist and chase scenes. I absolutely love the way the adrenaline has been pried out of every moment.

The dialogue is achingly mundane. But not boring. Just like regular ol' good conversation. And this sense of the everyday is what makes watching inevitable turns of events so interesting to watch when they play out.

Also, i feel like i know these people. Working graveyard shift of a Prince Rupert salmon canning factory puts me right at eye level with the sort of environment these characters live in. Also the protagonist is weirdly similar to the guy who used to drum in my band.

Well, that's just my opinion. Frankly i was kinda weirded out to see a review whereupon Roger Ebert positively drooled all over it.

So anyhow. As the December approaches and the temperatures drop, you may (or may not) enjoy this lovely piece of indie cinema.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 18 - JiuHua Resort - In Hot Water

Hot Springs visit #2.

The Tibetan Bath and Massage was alright, but really the highlight was sitting in the outdoor rock pool filled with Chinese herb suffused waters, along with a dozen wrinkly old Chinese folks, all of us perfectly distracted from our sagging skin by the China vs Germany women's volleyball game, as shown on the sort of large TV screen.

It's perfect really: as the stress and tension arises, they're simultaneously relaxed and dissipated.




(China won.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 17 - The Real Dirt


Tonight me and Q walked to pick up her dry cleaning. She was so happy to see her black clothes delivered so clean and shiny. If you didn't know she's a real clean freak about her clothes.

Back outside our apartment, we stopped so she could buy a roasted sweet potato, and i held her clothes for her. Then i thought it'd be a good idea to fetch a plastic bag outta my bag. (A plastic bag saved is a plastic bag earned.)

And i was sure i had all three pieces of clothing secured. Not realizing that there were four. And the rebellious fourth snuck out and hurled itself onto the ground, which was covered in particularly muddy mud.

Q was furious. She gets that way about pristine clothes. i felt bad about it, but not that bad. But there was no question, how it managed to elude both my arm and also its plastic sheathing was a real Houdini move. That fucker. Q angrily threw the forlorn sweet potato to the soggy ground before attempting to wipe the mud off of the other wrapped clothes.

Then we somberly marched back to the cleaners so the lady could laugh at us. Q was mad, humphing and pinching me occasionally. It's true, she knows no middle ground in terms of anger. But... it was kinda sweet somehow. We came back, had a smoke, and then she played some Patrick Duff for me while i put the finishing touches on my painting.

His guitar reminds me of the Jesus and Mary Chain.



pic from http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyperjet/414214512/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 16 - The Good Life


Today. Out on assignment from CRI to report on hot springs. Sent out to a reasonably posh place where most tourists are Japanese and Korean.

An attractive young lady with a bit of English struggles through my interview questions and gives me a thorough tour.

At the end, I'm like, Okay, can i use the hot springs now?

"Oh you want to go IN the springs?"
"Yes, then I can write about how i feel about them."
"But then you need to pay." (Ridiculous! i already phoned twice and they said i could try things out) "Or we can give you a discount."

My supervisor tells me there's no budget for it.

Me and the woman argue a bit, eventually i speak to another manager, she calls another manager, he makes a phone call, and then i'm told, "No problem. We give you complimentary spa and food. No massage." (Well beggars can't be choosers.)

Ahhhhh, so soooothing and relaaaaaxing....

Day 16 - You Gotta Problem Wid Dat?

So i missed a day. Sue me.

Work: I don't particularly like being assigned to write shit that's essentially advertising for high end hotels. i'm going to try and bend the piece into an article about Slow Food.

That's it.

But here's a couple of my favourite youtube vids to keep you entertained!



Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 14- Officially Working For China State Media

First day on the new job. Reporting in the travel section for 2 weeks before getting switched over to copy editing. Which everyone says i gotta get out of.

Already got one article up online.

And now researching/writing a piece on Beijing hot springs. As of Wed, i'll be out to interview people and have a hot tub.

And assigned to attend a lecture and interview a photographer/blogger on Saturday.

All things considered, a pretty sweet intro to the new job.

And after work, came downtown w/ a handful of coworkers for 2 for 1 burgers (mine was portobello) and beers.

Welcome to China state media.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 13 - It's Not Money; It's Momentum

What makes the world go around?

For the time being, i think it's just that we, and the systems which we are stuck in, are in so deep that we can't figure out how to make a figurative left hand turn.

My dad recently told me that nobody trades in stocks in denominations of less than 100, and advised me to quit pissing around buying 20 of this or that stock. (Hey, those 20 stocks cost me $500, Dad!)

So i'm presently selling off a bunch of losing stocks. Lots of the stocks, like Carmanah Tech, look like this:



i just threw a bunch of money at some green companies in an effort to get money out of the bank system, whose ethics ought not be admired. i looked at a few charts, and bought some stocks that didn't seem to be dying any faster than the others.

But.

Some really are dying faster than others.

Well that is annoying. For now, i prefer not to count up the total amount lost, or the equivalent number of hours spent attaining said sum.

i'm not big into money, since i grew up comfortably enough, and prefer not to think about it too much. But i know that that's exactly how the Wall Street CEO's like it. So i should be more informed and aware of money dealings. But fuck, is it boring.

Also, my financial self-education is pretty limited, taking cues from Youtube videos, like the one below. Which i suspect is true, though i still haven't taken his advice. My bad.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Day 12 - Improving the Soil Conditions


It's official. Today we started a compost on the balcony. i pray it doesn't stink up or get fruit fly infestation as i occasionally had in Van.

Mostly i want to improve the shitass dry soil that i got from the store, which basically prevented most seeds from even sprouting, and even the mint requires watering every 3 days.

Paired up with BJ's summer heat, the excessive sunshine didn't help matters.

Here's to better days, and fresh greens and cherry tomatoes for the salad. When shit falls apart, we'll just subsist happily in the apartment for another 24 hours before facing the desperate mobs below...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 11 - Single's Day


'11-11-11!!!
That many single digits of singular value can only mean one thing: today is SINGLE'S DAY. You poor suckers in North America have no day to celebrate a life which hasn't tossed a partner onto your pathway. So. Why don't you guy find some other lonely souls and have dinner together. Ironically, Singles Day is to help people hook up.

News: CRI called me today to ask me to start up on Monday. Sure ok, can do.

Sorry to the Chinese school. i went in today, and they gave me another free 3 hrs of trial lesson, and i promised them to be back on Mon. But now i'll have to stand them up.

i guess now i really need to exploit my last few hours of free time. Speak of the devil. i got me a deadline. Who's an [artist's] best friend?


pic from http://makergo.com/shutup/index.php?s=Dirt+Balls

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 10 - (Not) Enough Time

If you had more time, what would you do with it?
-Read more?
-Spend more time with friends and family?
-Meditate?
-Exercise?
-Play music?
-Create art?
-Write a book?

Well, I'm blessed to have quite a bit of time these days, being underemployed and all. I could (and should) a bit more than i do, but tend to get distracted or lack motivation.

In fact, i try to do everything on the list above, though frankly get embarrassingly little done. It's easy to waste time on things of little consequence (although i have really been enjoying the hours of Twin Peaks lately.)

Also, in order to make myself more productive i'm going to re-enter Chinese classes tomorrow, and then hit Greenpeace for a few hours.

Inspiration on the painting and song have dwindled sharply. Deadlines are an [artist's] best friend: and i have none. If anyone out there would help me commit to a timeline, i'd certainly appreciate it. ie) If anyone out there wants to complete a song within 24 or 48 hours, i swear i'll do it too (or at least a working version).

Also, i wrote a 4500 word piece of creative nonfiction, and have been wasting all sorts of time trying to find a publisher. Sorely disappointed that Vice magazine didn't take it, since i don't know who else deals with both literature and trash...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 9 - Twin Peaks


i started watching Twin Peaks, that old TV show, possibly the weirdest stuff to ever hit mainstream television, thanks to the gifted likes of David Lynch.

i love it.

i love Detective Cooper.

And i love apple pie (and coffee).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 8 - Being a Model Citizen

Models always say that being a model is hard work. That's bullshit.

(Kind of).

Okay, I was on site for 9 hours. But most of it was waiting around. Got well- fed, including booze for dinner.

3 boy models, 3 girls, and about 20 other people onsite, about 1/2 flown in from Shanghai.

The hard work part was acting like an energetic teenager, repeatedly swinging from the light system, climbing over shaky scaffolding, clamboring over rusty fences, or jumping off dangerously high speaker stacks. Now my thighs are sore, and i ripped a toenail somehow.

I dug how the first thing that happened for each shoot was someone would take the shiny shoes, take them outside, and return w/ dirt and grease all over them. Later they'd stomp on your feet a few times for good measure.

At one point, me and the girl model were sitting in a graffiti'd up van from the dump, and the producer, director, photographer and videographer were directing us. "Ok Kyla. Now get behind him. Look him in the eyes. Walk up. Good, now straddle him. Wil. Put your hands on her legs. No not her bum, her legs!" They all seemed to think that was pretty hilarious. Looking into my eyes, she said, "It's ok. Just pretend I'm your girlfriend." We both had a smoke after that shoot.

Many outfits later, and bearing freezing temperatures in t-shirts, me and everyone else was happy to call it a day. i got paid a lot more than i'd expected, which is great. Yes, you can make a living for looking pretty, but i sure as hell wouldn't want to do this regularly: having photographers ask you to look more excited, and then being told by producers to stop making faces, and then being told by photographers to look more excited again. And then the producers laughing at the faces you make when the chick is practically giving you a lap dance.

Apparently the footage may end up in videos shown in taxis across the country. If so, i'll post it for ya.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 7 - One of Those Skate Shoes Companies Wants Me


Today, i went up to some hotel room and tried on some clothes for a stylist.

10 or so fashionable people (and 1 semi-pro skater) were bustling about. Healthy chunk of foreigners. All spoke pretty good English.

Tomorrow morn we go to a club to do a fashion shoot for the website.

My friend's gf had called me to ask if I was interested. "Sure, I'm free. Does it pay?"

They wanted musician-types. Although later it was clarified that ugly musicians need not apply. Or those who don't fit into skinny jeans.

Weird. This city of 18 million other slanty-eyed people, and this is the 3rd time i get asked to model. It's my double eyelids for sure. And i did notice that one of the producers had hers glued up...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day 6 - In Space Noone Can Hear You Yawn



So these 5 Europeans and 1 Chinese dude spent over EIGHTEEN MONTHS in a fake space station, simulating a trip to Mars and back.

1.5 years of airplane food.
Windowless rooms.
Sobriety.
Man to Man bonding.

Talks with family members and mission control included 20 minute delays to mimic the distance.

But don't worry, they had books and DVDs.
Time to wax philosophical.

Why no women? Many volunteered, none chosen. Because shit went down the last time that a woman was on a 110 day simulated mission, when a Russian forcibly tried to stick his tongue down her throat a couple times, and Mission Control didn't think it was a big deal. This prompted the departure of a disgusted Japanese crew member.

Russia's RIA Novosti news agency: "After all, women are fragile and delicate creatures; that is why men should lead the way to distant planets and carry women there in their strong hands."

No comment.

Anyhow, wouldn't it feel great to play a pivotal role in enabling humanity to survive on Mars after we fuck over Mother Earth? Yes! But is it worth 520 days that could otherwise be spent procreating? Maybe...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 5 - Til Death Do We Live

At present, I'm reading the following books:

Sherlock Holmes - The Complete Novels and Stories. Pretty good, though the stories have started to feel repetitive, with different details. Now i'm just hitting the stories highlighted on the back cover blurb.

The Copy-editor's Handbook - Kind of a nerdy, yet surprisingly interesting look at keeping keeping grammar consistent.

and

The Words of My Perfect Teacher, a book about the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. This book, had a pretty damn dull beginning, but it's certainly gotten better, and I was into this idea in it about death. Meditating on death every night, 'cause you might not wake up in the morning. Meditate on death each morning, because there's no guarantee you'll make it to nightfall.

Even Mr Steve Jobs (who i'm rather sick of seeing and hearing about all the bloody time) said something about how if he goes through too many days feeling like he wouldn't feel satisfied if they were his last days, then something needs to change.

Unfortunately, these thoughts on death don't yet rouse me to action. For this week, before i die, i wanna: finish that painting, write another song, study more Chinese, talk a bit more w/ my girlfriend.

Day 4 - Greenpeace

Well, when yr barely working, you have time for things like... surfing the internet! And... reading books! But more likely surfing the internet!

But also, I've been hanging out at the Greenpeace South Asia office a bit. It's alright. Volunteering in China for an enviro organization has been on my list of things to do for a long time, and some woman in a club who worked there totally said it would be useful for me to do so. So i did.

And it's true, they put me to work. i do internet research on Google Analytics. i write media guides to tell new employees about social networking media and how to take good digital photos, and how to write for a digital audience. i choose photos to create thematic and artistic essays.

In some ways, i admit it would feel better if i were actually getting paid for it, but that's just how it rolls sometimes.

Anyhow it's cool to know that there's other enviro heads in China (inc lots of locals), and they all seem pretty caj.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day 3 - BlogHim

Gotta say. 

Nablopomo (National Blog Posting Month) had its own website, which recently closed. 

The new website hosted on blogHer.com. 

The organizer loudly states clearly that Yes, men are still more than welcome. 

But frankly, i'm not particularly keen. 

And i consider myself of an egalitarian feminist than yr average joe. 

i feel excluded.

Or out of place. 

Is this how women felt about the Walkman? 

I don't mean to complain (for fear of being compared to those idiots who started Straight Pride or something). 

Just sayin'. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 2 - PalindromemordnilaP (MOM and DAD)


Today is 2011-11-02. Woohoo!oohoow.
Palindromes are oft believed to be good luck.

Today was also the last day of my parents' 2 week visit to China. My bro and i showed them a rather good time. We're both barely employed, which gives them reason to nag here and there, but it also freed us up to really take them around, which i was totally unable to do the last time they were in town. In fact we hung out way more than in Calgary even.

Me and D really played the Good Sons, i thought, by organizing most everything, getting them transit passes, playing tour guides, picking up and dropping off, all that.

Also me and my folks ducked out to visit Pingyao, the incredibly well-preserved Qing dynasty financial capital of China. Which they enjoyed, despite the offences of every noise and inconvenience which make the place charming.

Other stuffs:
-Patiently let my mom shop as much as she wanted.
-w/ Q's help lined up many quality eateries.
-and a few select cheap-o ones.
-went to see a Puccini opera.
-taught Mom how to use a cell phone.
-forced my mom to appreciate modern art (and Ai Weiwei)
-Got drunk a couple times drinking baijiu with my dad.

If you didn't know it, my parents are actually pretty cool. i'm a lucky kid.

But back to the palindromes (note the cyclic structure) here's Weird Al to drive the point home.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Nov 1 - Halloween


Well, it's National Blog Posting Month! And strangely enough, i'm still blogging. Tune in for daily quirky and cute observations about current events and random musings.

First: the night of Satan worshiping.

On Saturday, D bumped into our neighbours (who we'd never met before) and got invited to their Halloween party, which was very entertaining drunken time. I was a mediocre Hank Williams Sr, D had a black bag on his head. "I know who you are," announced one girl to him, "You're the rapist!"

Monday we hit a club to see a ridiculously packed concert of banging electro rock. Before leaving i figured i oughta throw together a costume, found a box, a tennisball, some wires, and a bike light. Presto: the 30 minute robot. Boy, it sure is easy to impress sometimes. Although i couldn't see that well. i mean, i posed for pictures w/ people including w/ Muammar Gaddafi's arms around me, and i never even saw the guy.

And the show was rad. A Brit duo, done up like Kiss rocked it, as did local act Pet Conspiracy. Okay, even i admit that they could be criticized for more show than substance, but frankly at a drunken party, people dig the show. The more choreographed dramatics, the better.

Here's an older version of the band if yr curious at all...

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Foshan Girl - Hit and Run

Warning: the video below is pretty disturbing. Not exactly graphic, but you can get the gist of everything happening.



I just watched the above video, having avoided it for some time. I post it here because it's one of those things (like the twin towers) where visually there's an impact that affects you in a rather different way than reading all about it.

In a nutshell, a 2 year old girl was hit twice by a van, and then hit by another. And too many pedestrians turned a blind eye to the girl. This certainly made headlines across the planet, not necessarily because it's important news but because it's certainly the kind of story that resonates with people and with people's impression of China.

Not that that's wrong. Chinese media's also been all over this thing. I think this Guardian article's got it right (by a Chinese writer) who connects the event w/ a population still struggling to get over the survivalist mentality of the cultural revolution. And embarrassingly, the courts here have in the past attacked rather than praised good Samaritans.

Personally, i was surprised at my reaction to watching the vid above. Often, in fact, when i see stuff like that my get craves for retribution. Where's the culprit? Where's their shameful apology? i don't know why i want to see that stuff so bad, but i do. So much for forgiveness. i might forgive after i see the tears of shame and guilt.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Biking to Cuandixia

Well, i stayed in BJ for the whole of Golden Week, so still had itchy feet. i decided to cycle out to Cuandixia, a tiny spec of a Ming dynasty village. Although i've been there once before, taking a bike the 90 km there would be a whole new adventure.

My bike. Which has its frame and forks misaligned, after (i suspect) a car backed into it. No gear shifters or cables. Broken seat. A bit of a ramshackle machine, which i love nonetheless.

Headed out at ten. i figured i could get there in about 5 hours. i was wrong. i was def into the mountains when some cyclists heading the other way asked me for directions (ha). Upon hearing my intended destination, one girl exclaimed "Cuandixia is still 40 km away!" This was a revelation. My feeling was that it was 5km away. So not trusting her, i happily poked my head into a tourist office, i passed soon after. "Cuandixia... oh maybe it's 50km further on," said the lady, along w/ some other stuff I couldn't understand.

I was in fact, getting a bit tired already, but figured i'd keep going, and see how far i could get. If need be, i could probably find a hotel somewhere.

I was elated to eventually see a sign reading Zhaitang- 19 km. Zhaitang and Cuandixia are the same place. i pumped those pedals with newfound vigour, and allowed myself more rest stops and pauses to shoot the scenery.

But it turned out that Cuandixia is just a part of Zhaitang. Arriving in Zhaitang means that there was only about 10 more km to get to my destination. i plodded on. Traffic and people were nil. The sky was totally black. Street lights were few. Luckily i had a bike light.

i arrived in Cuandixia at 6:30, took the first room available and pigged out on the overpriced meal that the guesthouse offered.

i figured i deserved a day of rest and to explore the area a bit, before heading bk to BJ. i spent the next day attempting to summit a mountain, giving up both times after getting tantalizingly close. But it also dawned on me that i'm not covered by insurance, and the one mountain face was getting pretty dodgy. the next time my scratched and scarred body gave up in the face of 300m more of dense thorny bushes and trees.

So instead i found a spot to sit, had a toke, and sat there for a long long time enjoying the quiet.

Then went back to town. Ate dinner. Smoked more. Got a beer. went back to my room, and studied mandarin, then watched a show about raising camels. That was a great evening.

Apart from a flat tire, riding back was like lightning. Fast Times at Zhaitang High(way). Five hours return. Plus stops to eat and poke around.

Lessons: Don't calculate distance based on 20km/hrs. Climbing mountains is more like 5km/hr. Install gears on bike before next long trip. Don't forget your patch kit on the stairs at home, dumbass!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Jojo Mayer



Having established himself drumming w/ the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Nina Simone, Mayer has been hammering out drum and bass riffs for a long time since. I caught him last night in a performance w/ his three-piece group Nerve.

The hype in the sardine-packed joint was tangible, and Mayer's riffs inspired people to hoot and holler throughout the set. Even though there were a couple of times when the music seemed pretty holycrapthisongisolamespeciallytheterriblekeyboard but at other times, my jaw was on the floor wondering how Mayer was producing beats that usually require supercomputer-generated algorithms, and my best efforts couldn't keep me from busting out a bit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Very Important Number


37 is a scintillating prime number, the fifth lucky prime, the first irregular prime, the third unique prime and the third cuban prime of the form



It is, of course, a factor of all 3-digit base 10 repdigits, such as 111. 37 is the smallest prime that is not also a supersingular prime. It is a centered hexagonal number and a star number!

And did you know that 37 and 38 are the first pair of consecutive positive integers not divisible by any of their digits???

And 37 is a Størmer number! (Since the greatest prime factor of 372 + 1 = 1370 is 137, which is obviously more than 37 twice). How cool is that?

And surely you're fascinated to know that 37 is the only two digit number in base 10 whose product, when multiplied by two, subtracted by one, and then read backwards, equals the original two digit number: 37×2=74, 74-1=73, 73 backwards is 37!

And you probably already knew that 37 is the only two digit number in base 10 with the following property: The difference between the two digits equals the square root of the difference between the number itself and the least common multiple of the two digits!

Today i'm going to try to be the me i want to be.

Info courtesy of wikipedia. Embellishments courtesy of the author

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thanksgiving

To Whom It May Concern,
I'm thankful for: 
-a girlfriend who loves me.
-family and friends near and far who love me, and whom I can love as well.
-air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink. Polluted or not, it's still a godsend.
-the opportunities i've had to travel. 
-a job on the horizon.
-a job behind me finished.
-bicycles.
-Google Chrome Translator.
-Dan Savage.
-tofu.
-cheap prices and knockoffs in China.
-decent food at dirt cheap prices in China.
-entertainment luxuries available to me that 95% of Beijingers can only dream of.
-a principal who'll write me a ref letter despite how I "quit" after i got my visa.
-more and more understanding about how immature i am.
-the bit of equanimity I have now and again.
-a body that works pretty darn good. 
-people fighting for stuff I'm too lazy about (Occupy Wall St).
-Skype. 
-weed.
-the weird fact that some people still read this blog! 
-that means you, numskull ;) 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Forget About Education


A while ago, i had an interview w/ China Radio International. I hyped my time blogging for Beyond Robson, said some charming stuff, whipped out some photos of Japan to impress the guy, spent 1hr+ proving my salt as an editor (rewriting a disgustingly badly written article about internet dating in China), and did a voice test in the studio. I was told i'd get a call in a few days. Which i didn't.

About a week later i called CRI and was informed that i got the job. Well sort of. I got offered the package. The boss guy said it could be January before i actually start working. Because there's all this documentation required that i need to gather. Health check, letter of reference, Canadian criminal record check (which is a HUGE mof'ing hassle to get done from here)... and then apparently after documentation's provided, things're still slow on that end.

Anyhow: the job is for a Copy Editor with some journalist duties, and also i'll likely do some radio production and even photography for them. Articles to be written about arts, culture, and travel. In fact, there's no job for me to fill, but after looking at my credentials, the guy thinks there's room in the budget to take me on in order to improve the product of CRI's English program and website.

Hard to ask for a sweeter intro into the world of media. It won't pay much, but it's livable for China. Shit, i'm really exiting my former chosen career in education! Oh baby. We had our times, kids.

Oh, and also this is state-owned media, but produced for people outside of China. This gives us a bit more freedom, but there's no denying the hilarious fact that I'll be employed by the CHINESE GOVERNMENT! Well, there ya go, kids. Whodathunkit.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Detonate Intellectual War

I bought a can of walnut drink the other day. Quite tasty. Supposedly good for the brain. Marketed towards students.

I ignored the third word of the text which said it was Pulped Walnut Latex Product.

But below that, it stated quite beautifully: "POWER: Detonate Intellectual War."

Not quite sure what that meant, but I knew I had to drink it.

Bamboozled



China has a reputation for producing knock offs. Fake iPhones, fake Gucci bags, fake baby food, you name it.. There's also a lot of fake alcohol. Even a 60 cent bottle of 40% baijiu can be fake. Shots of tequila from the bar taste like tequila but they don't pack the same punch. Unless you're in a swank spot, it's always safer to stick to beer.

The other night i felt like drinking scotch, which i haven't had in a long time. So i went to buy a bottle from an int'l grocery store, but Qianqian advised me that the Russian convenience store would be cheaper.

It wasn't, but the selection was better. So i was able to choose a bottle of Glenfiddich single malt scotch, which was about CAD $40. Fine. My dad will be in BJ before long, so I don't want to disappoint him with Johnny Walker Red Label.

Upon returning home, I poured a couple glasses, toasted w/ my brother, and enjoyed. Mm good. But not that good. Sometimes i really enjoy my drink and other times not. But really. This should've tasted better than that. It tasted ok, in fact, but definitely did not taste like 40%. I was disappointed. Q said i should take it back and graciously offered to accompany me.

We went down to the store w/ a glass in hand, and said, “It's fake. We don't want it. You try it. Can we get our money back please?”

“No. It's real.”

“No, it's not. I've drank this before. It's not the same.” (Although my brain was actually struggling to recall whatever Glenfiddich tasted like).

A supervisor came in. Telephone calls were made. One converstion included suspicious information such as “He' a foreigner. In his 20s. Maybe a student.” I realized I shouldn't have dressed so casually.

We were told that the bottle would be sent for a quality control check up. It could take a week or so before we were notified of the result.

It was turning into too much hassle. I suggested to Q that we forget it and split, (to which she commented I was being a nerd).

She told them said we'd handle it tonight or she'd call the police. She said to me, “You're 100% sure it's fake, so why should you be worried?” To myself I thought, “Only 85% sure, actually.”

So what could happen? They send it off for quality check. Somebody says, “Sorry it's real,” and that's the end of it. I was scared that my tastebuds were going to be put to the test.

Five minutes later, a full refund was silently slipped onto the counter, which we pocketed before slipping out.

Success! I wasn't stuck w/ a $40 bottle of mystery scotch. We had beat the system. Or rather, Q had. She was admittedly annoyed that I had considered ducking out, after I had dragged her into the situation. But in her mind, of COURSE we'd get the money back, from this store which was totally loaded with illegally imported and untaxed goods. Well. What would the foreigner know about how things work?

The lesson: don't buy booze (cheap OR expensive) from the sketchy Russian store. Or other sketchy establishments, for that matter.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Life After Teaching

Hey gang,
Well, at the conclusion of last June, I was officially unemployed. However, before I'd gotten back to Beijing, a friend of mine who does voice work in BJ knew some guy who was looking for writers to create ESL oral tests. So I put on the tie, and did the interview where I sounded totally overconfident in my capabilities.

I did a rough calculation of my hourly wage from last year, and asked them to match 118rmb/hour. They said sure. Then i realized that $18/hr isn't that much, and holy shit, is that all i was making last year?

So i emailed the boss, asking for 200rmb/hr. "Sorry I miscalculated." And he said... okay. Wow.

Part time i've been writing dialogues and questions and editing other stuffs. Correcting enviromental misinformation whenever necessary. "Actually, the cows don't destroy the grasslands. It's just farmers who naturally accept payment to raise cattle," etc etc.

But.

This job's been just a handful of hrs/wk.

So i've kept myself busy by playing music and painting. Yay.

And also doing some writing along the side, some of which looks pretty good, but i haven't submitted any of it to anyone. My bad.

And also i've sent out some resumes.

Had an interview yesterday at Radio China International. That would be rad. But i ought not to talk much about it yet. If i get confirmation on it, i'll wax poetic. So in the meantime, you can wish me well if you so desire.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Eurotrip Part 2



Hopped on a train to Bratislava. Woke up on said train and was informed that Bratislava stop was 100km back. Jumped off at Brno and convinced an angry girlfriend that Brno was a nice place to spend a night. Which it was. Forked out a lot of money on a swank medieval style hotel, strolled the car-free cobblestoned downtown core, and ate a pork hock the size of an overinflated football.

Bratislava – boring renovated castle, touristy old town, great hipster band, one Jazzanova DJ, and one drunken couple who seemingly tried to proposition us into swinging, which we opted against.

Convinced by the large number of recommendations to visit Vienna, Austria, we veered off to Vienna, Austria. Jaws on the floor, to witness such ubiquitous sculptural precision and emotion on public display. Statues are great. Stone statues of embattled people transforming into writhing sea creatures are so next level. Prominent galleries which prove that Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele did much greater things than decorate yuppy living rooms. The world's undisputed best apple strudel. The city that Mozart himself chose for his freelance years. The place is f'ing civilized.

Prague. Never seen a city so well preserved in my life. Sure, it's touristified, but the winding maze of roads and historic architecture, and the wonderful absence of modern buildings creates a real feeling of going back in time. A tourist packed cathedral which still manages to bring tears to the eyes. Obviously , everyone says, “It was better before,” which it undoubtedly was, but the place still deserves to be prioritized among European destinations.



Berlin. Second time for Qianqian and I, and we stayed w/ my brother's friend and her bf (who i got on w/ rather well). He and i went out for beers in a sweet little living room of a club when our gf's were too tired to deal w/ us. After about 3 wks of travelling attached at the hip, Q and i eventually had a fight, where we both act like immature kids, and ended up taking separate routes in the gallery for the day. I take a full 50% of the responsibility. I need to voice my issues earlier instead of letting stuff stew in my gut to the point where i can't deal w/ stuff rationally anymore. Also got to meet up w/ my punk guitarist friend Matthias, who i hadn't seen in 6 years. He's still shredding. Berlin, if you don't know, is cool. Not overcool, but very cool. It's also “the poorest” city in Germany, as all the artists and indies go there. Organized, and efficient, but the DIY attitude is still in full effect. Spent rather too much time “shopping” w/ the gf, but did get to see lots of different chunks of the city.

So.

Eastern Europe is def underrated. Good to hang out w/ Gavin and Abe (and we didn't even rehash our drug laden university days). Totally happy to witness Abe and Judit's wedding. Also in three weeks i had more meat than i've eaten in the last three years. That coupled with the daily beer consumption created a small beer belly on my skinny body.

Back in Beijing now: meditate. Read a book about buddhism to start being the Buddhist that i officially am. Run / bike / swim more. Get a job.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Eurotrip Part 1 – Budapest

Budapest – totally cool city in a way that's predictably totally different from Beijing cool. Lots of cool hipster areas, Banksy graffiti, and artsy bars. And century old cafe culture. Qianqian and I had the good fortune of being invited out to Budapest for friends Abe and Judit's wedding, and got to hang out w/ them a decent amount.

The bachelor party: Sziget Music Festival. Well this one choked Q. She'd already stated she wanted to go to Sziget to see the Chemical Brothers, who happened to be playing the day of the boys' party. However the boys' party was for the boys, and she had another (slightly less wild) party to attend.

A gang of about ten guys, mostly new to me, had a rather spectacularly entertaining day/night. All members quite drunk. Nobody too drunk. Tons of ADD distractions provided by Sziget such as badminton, tight rope walking, machine bull riding, and others we didn't get around to like zip lining, bars in the sky, karaoke, bungee jumping, yadda yadda.

But mostly when I think of Sziget I think about the Crystal Castles performing in some massive black tent. Everytime I listen to Crystal Castles at home, my bro or gf tells me to turn it off because it's too intense. I admit, I too had never listened to the entire album. But i had a feeling they'd be mad live. And they were. Or at least the show was. Not once did I really even see them. (I admit I shot a video which showed a lot more than anything I witnessed during the show, that's for sure). I just saw a lot of fog and a strobe light and was crushed amongst thousands of people yelling, screaming, and jumping up and down. I had a full beer in my hand which I was inadvertently splashing all over everyone around me, so I tried to gulp it down as fast as possible, sloshing a large portion of it over my chest and more on bystanders. Anyhow. It's pretty insane how you can get totally caught up in the mad focus of such a huge mass of people.

Here's the vid that I shot. Oh yeah.



The wedding was great too. Lots and lots of artsy types as the bride's father was an artist, the bride is an artist, the groom is an artist, and they studied in school w/ a bunch of artists. Never before have i been asked “Are you a graphic designer?” so many times in a night.

The bride was beautiful in her dress, cape and shoes. Shoes which I had formerly seen and thought, “Uh, you made those crazy shoes for your WEDDING???” The wedding ceremony was sweet and simple and brought tears to my eyes. The dinner and speeches were all quite entertaining, despite the periodic translations.

And then there was the party. A band played some traditional songs, some Velvet Underground, and other dance hits. The bride was “kidnapped” and had to be woo'd back by the groom's impromptu epic performance of an epic indie love song he penned years ago.

Anyhow, admittedly me and Q ducked out earlier than others, and hence missed swimming, people forced to eat by losing pingpong, and the DJ angrily packing out after being upstaged by the groom's brother. Fun.

The rest of Hungary: swimming at the lake w/ the wedding party. Me and Q checking out art galleries, castles, and cathedrals, and a small serving of mushrooms.

Stay tuned for more on Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republik and the Deutscheland...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Brief Meditation Retreat

Scooted out to the outskirts of the city for a 4 day meditation retreat. My friend Yuqi works at this Buddhist centre which is NOT a meditation retreat centre, but he said i could spend some time there. Two Tibetan lamas had just vacated the place, so i didn't have to sleep on a couch.

Too bad, I just missed this one 26 yr old lama who is apparently the 7th incarnation of some important lineage, and all these people were bustling to pay their respects. Yuqi was impressed by the number of China's filthy rich who were present to pay homage.

One lama was still around. He struck me as a slightly grumpy fellow, and I was amused to hear the sound of television commercials sneaking out of his bedroom. "Don't judge," I ineffectively advised myself.

Anyhow.

Nice place. i was informed (several times) i shouldn't pay anything to stay; just help out.

In the end, i didn't get in half as much sitting as i'd hoped. i was busy cleaning and resetting hundreds of candle jars.

And one day we went out to purchase $300 worth of fish, eels, frogs and turtles to be released in a lake to celebrate the anniversary of Buddha's first teaching. We went to some fish market drenched in horrible stink and selected the lucky SOB's who would taste freedom for the second (first?) time. A couple workers lugged our blue bags of fish, amphibians, reptiles and chunks of ice into a van and headed out to the lake with us.

“Hey Yuqi, if we buy these fish, then the store will just be happy and buy more fish to sell, right?”
“Yes, this is a problem.” Yuqi redirects to how these fortunate few turtles were saved from having their bellies sliced open, clawing the air as their blood spouts into a pot of boiling broth before being plopped whole into the pot for a writhing public execution.

“Do these workers think we're weird that we're buying these fish to set them free?”
“No. After the cultural revolution this is a common Buddhist practice.”
Oh.

And of course i had reviewed carefully in my head the dangers of introducing non-native species into local ecosystem and shared my insight.
“Oh yes. Food chain...” Yuqi gave a rather insufficient explanation of how these species wouldn't fuck things up so bad, but i didn't press my case.

At the lake, the lama led the present Buddhists in five minutes of prayer before pouring some blessed water into the squirming bags which were carefully lined along the sandy bank.

It was cool to see those turtles sprint out of the bag and swim into the depths out of sight. I dedicated the turtles' liberation to that poor bugger back in the mandarin school. The frogs who were clawing their way up the walls of the bag were less climactic to watch. Once they'd tasted the air and sun and water they seemed content to lounge. Which is fine, but the few frogs who didn't survive the journey sadly tainted the scene with their limp limbs and pale bellies.

The next day, i had offered to cook dinner since at the centre there seemed to be some interest in western cuisine. Oh! You like potatoes! Fried potatoes! That was their understanding. I concocted a menu of mushroom cream pasta, salad, and (for them) potatoes.

However the list of ingredients i'd requested weren't all available. Nobly, I held my tongue and said, “Great! No problem.” I prepared the meal for seven, which admittedly was not stellar. The lama in particular seemed unable to eat what i'd prepared. Others smiled and said “Delicious!” Internally i rolled my eyes and said a not insincere “thanks.” My suspicions were later confirmed when later bottled peaches and apricots were bust out to ensure the lama or anybody else didn't go to bed hungry. However, in fact i think i did a decent job at trying my best to make a decent meal, and in not beating myself up so much when it didn't pan out according to plan.

On my last day there, some cute woman arrived to attend the lamas' prayers. As soon as i saw her, i felt conflicted. In general i avoided her and made evasive comments before going off to whatever i was going to do. Later we ended up working together cleaning more candle jars. She was super friendly and interesting, explaining about how she had turned to Buddhism after she was diagnosed with cancer, and survived the experience. It was all pretty fascinating, but i did my best to stay somewhat aloof 'cause i thought she may be interested in me. Anyhow, I need to figure out how to be open and friendly with open and friendly people while keeping within appropriate boundaries. In the end I think I probably came off as a touch rude. Sorry, lady.

I sat less than 1/2 the hours i'd planned, and certainly did't get to the depth of meditations i'd hoped for, but coming home afterwards, i disembarked the subway and walked through Beijing alleyways while listening to a guided meta (loving kindness) mp3, and could feel this field of positivity emanating from my core as i strolled along. But I still avoided eye contact w/ passers by. Just in case.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Up Up and Away

Well, sort of.

Here's my unsuper recap of summer.

Mandarin class wrapped up surprisingly quickly. I wrote the school an email and talked to some lady about the turtle who lives in an aquarium that's far too small for him, and lives a life of utter boredom and discontent, but it doesn't look like they're gonna do anything about it.

The class itself was ok, and met some nice foreigners who all speak roughly the same level of chinese as me (except that i was by far the illiterate one). And i also would have preferred a teacher who was more of a Nazi. Less friendly chit chat, and more Today we MUST get through exercises A, B, C, D and E!

Watched a bunch of vids and movies w/ my gf, who's worked as much as ever through this rainy, hot July. Transformers got slaughtered by the critics, but i thought it was pretty refreshing after the abysmal part 2. I won't tell you why, in case you go and see it. But it does some interesting historical reinterpretation.

Also: The Hangover. Pretty f'ing funny. Don't read the back of the DVD box first, if you can. Really.

And then: today i'm of to some buddhist place for a 4 day retreat. Although i'm sure the place isn't set up as a retreat centre, and there's a possibility i may be sleeping on a couch. Which is fine.

Then back for a couple days, whereupon me and Q will throw our lives into suitcases for a few weeks. YES she got the visa! So we'll be off to Budapest, Hungary for Abe and Judit's wedding. Then off solo to explore Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Germany. Yes, it'll be a busy few weeks.

And then i'll return to a jobless life in BJ, whereupon i'm hoping that my ex-employer forgets that they gave me that 1 year visa, and DON'T cancel it leaving me an illegal resident who could get kicked out of the country forever more.

i don't expect it to come to that.

Expect more scintillating updates upon my return, dedicated readers!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Crazy summer MADNESS!!!

Well this is summer alright.
Beijing's hot and peculiarly humid. Admittedly this is my 1st July spent in town, so I'm not sure if all these sporadic torrential thundershowers are the norm.

Unbelievably, it seems like July is already drawing to a close, and what've i got to show for it? Well, i've been in mandarin classes for 3 hrs/day, 3 days/week. And that's been ok, although i'd frankly like to see yet more rapid improvement.

I've sloppily recorded most of the guitar songs i've ever written so i don't need to worry about forgetting any more of them.

i went running once. Did a bit of writing.

and...?

This is a disappointingly small list of accomplishments for 3 weeks. Yes, i'll be off to Eastern Europe in August, but what can i do to exploit my time here?

Intentions:
finish the painting i started 8 months ago.
Visit Fragrant Hills area.
Visit Temple of Heaven area.
Get something published on a local website.

Q is working all summer long, including some wkends, so trips out of town aren't too feasible. I kind of want to get her out more, but i know that when i was teaching i sure as hell didn't want stay up past 11:05...

In the beginning of August i'll hopefully skip out for a 4 day self-guided meditation retreat.

Also, i'm unsure about the plans for next year. After politely saying thanks but no thanks to my employer about working next year (right after i received the 1 year working visa from them), they contacted me twice to ask me to reconsider.

i had actually said that i decided not to teach FT next year, and now they just asked what that would look like. And that if I don't work for them, they'll recall my work visa. With a sigh, i responded politely saying that of course i'd be happy to work 3 days/wk.

We'll see what happens.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Hits of Yesterday


I remember before I'd left Canada for China, I asked a Chinese (from China) girl about biking in China. Is it dangerous? I'll need to get a helmet... She informed me, "If you wear a helmet in China, people will think you're... special." But it didn't take long on the roads of Beijing to realize that a helmet's not a bad idea.

I've witnessed numerous collisions involving bikes (only one involving a head injury), and had a few instances of forgettable contact myself.

Yesterday was my first real accident. Chill. I got off scot-free. Zero employment of my helmet.

It wasn't yet late, but the sky was already black. I was finishing up a rare recreational bike ride, and was 1 minute from arriving home.

I raced ahead to catch the green turning light, noting the approaching taxi who was turning into my lane. No problem, he'll see me. Generally speaking drivers somehow manage to find the brake pedal in time, regardless of the unpredictable shit that foggy drivers and pedestrians thrust in their path.

But this time he didn't see me. I yelled at him at full volume, thinking that my left leg could be on the brink of some serious pain. Then he hit, slamming on the brakes milliseconds later than preferable. I found myself amazingly having landed on my feet, completely unscathed. But the adrenalin at least got me to start yelling at this guy in broken chinese. "I have a green light! You are wrong!" He apologetically concurred that he was busy looking the other way.

A few people stopped to watch, before puttering on. This wasn't serious enough to garner a proper crowd.

I made a show of whipping out a red pen and writing down his license number on my arm. The driver was worried. But elated that I wasn't hurt. And that even the bike seemed alright. It did seem to be strangely untouched. The way things are handled in China, you could call the cops, but both parties usually prefer to take of their own business with one party passing cash to the other.

So i contemplated: 200rmb maybe? 100? But as the adrenaline receded I started to think about the life of the average cabby, the 14-24 hr shifts, dealing w/ drunks and idiots, relentless traffic and ubiquitous bonehead drivers...

Ok, ok, ok. You go. He smiled and pumped my hand with both of his. "Xiexie xiexie xiexie!" Yeah yeah, no problem.

I hopped on my bike and realized that it wasn't exactly riding properly. Eventually i realized the car had struck exactly one place on my bike: the side of the pedal. Thus warping the crank and/or bottom bracket. I groaned wondering if this was gonna cost me some coin. In the end it did: 5 kuai. Or 80cents to get it bent back into shape.

The end.

Lesson: use your front light. It's not useful sitting (conveniently) in your bag, you lazy punk.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Changes and Pivotal Moments

I may have hinted before that there's been some troubles at the school, and w/ the employer and w/ the public school that my private school is held within. In fact, there's been doubt for quite a while about how my school will cope w/ the falling student numbers (no more enrollment since my school's contract is almost up).

But last week, I was still rather surprised (but not totally surprised) when I was told that there's no job for me next year at the school.

So that kind of annoyed me.

'cuz it's pretty f'ing late in the game to drop that sort of info.

I was told that there are no other guaranteed openings in the other 2 Beijing schools (which immediately struck me as suspicious). But I was told that I'd be first in line to get one, as if continuing the same contract. (Pragmatism advised I should get that in writing, but I didn't).

I was assured they felt terrible about it, and that it had nothing to do w/ my teaching, blah blah.

"But you know that my visa expires in a week. If you're not renewing it, I need to get out of China. I was told when hired on, that the company would take care of all visa issues."

Whereupon I was told that it was no problem, I just had to pop down to Hong Kong and get a tourist visa. No, they wouldn't consider paying for it.

The end.

I realized I didn't care so much about the job, but was rather incensed that I might have to leave the country on super short notice to revamp my visa. I considered the options. "Well sure, actually I'd be happy to move to Xi'an and work at the school there. What an opportunity! And don't forget to renew my visa. Thanks!"

But then I spoke w/ my principal and my last year's principal who said it was bullshit that there were no jobs at the other school. They spoke w/ the employer, and the next day I got a phone call, saying wow there actually is a position available (at the suburban school I was at last year) and could I please bring in my passport and a couple pix so they can do my visa.

Score!

So. Priority #1: taken care of. The situation: possibly working bk in Fengtai district at the old school, commuting maybe 3 hrs/day. Not likely.

More likely: work education jobs part time, possibly subbing, and use this as my opportunity to stop teaching. A decision I made 6 years ago. Because I never was sure I should be a teacher. And don't want to be a mediocre one. And working alongside a great staff this year of teachers who should be teachers, i certainly noted that whenever they talked about LT teaching plans I thought to myself: Well, that's not gonna be me.

I consulted the iching, (which i do now and again) and it said

Keeping Still

Keeping one's back still,
uncaught is one's self.
Walking in the courtyard,
not paying attention to the people.
Without fault.

Not doing something, being unmovable. One does not allow oneself to be influenced by others. This is not a mistake.


Which I think means... meditate. Take my time. Don't listen to what anyone says. BTW, i heartily recommend you check out the iching if you have questions and you wonder what the universe would suggest.

For now... i hope to get my visa bk soon. Then (most likely) tell the school i found something else to do.

July: take mandarin classes.
Aug: did I mention that me and Q are going to Eastern Europe?

Sept: maybe do some part time teaching/tutoring. And start writing. Like writing everyday. A bit scary, but I'll try to do this freelance writer business. See what I can dig up, and see what magazines/newspapers/websites might be interested in using, paying exorbitantly high prices per word.

Yup. Plans are of course flexible. But that's it for now... Wish me luck.