Monday, September 14, 2009

Be Loyal to Chairman Mao

Learning Chinese is a ridiculous endeavor to say the least. I though I knew what I was getting into, but at each step, I'm still realizing how challenging of a task this language is.

That's not to say that it's not without its rewards. Every now and then you'll overhear something hilarious, read something amazing, or have an incredible conversation that reminds you why you're doing this, and makes it all worthwhile.

I had another experience like that a few weeks ago when I visited the Great Wall for the 6th time this summer. We were at a part of the wall that I had never been to, and I saw in the distance 30 ft. letters, Hollywood-style on the side of the mountain. It took a few seconds to sink in, but I  realized that I recognized every one of the characters. As I started to put it all together I was overcome with joy upon my discovery. The sign read: "Be Loyal to Chairman Mao". After talking with some folks on the wall, it turns out that this was a remnant from the Cultural Revolution, and has been up since.

As I passed the hundreds of other foreigners on the wall who had no idea what the sign said, it made me think about how they didn't know what they were missing and how happy I was to be able to read such an amazing piece of history.

Propaganda knows no bounds.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tiananmen in Preparation for 60th Anniversary of the PRC

For those living here in China, it's no secret that the country is preparing for its 60th birthday early next month. To celebrate the event, in addition to denying thousands of foreigner's visas and other incredibly paranoid behavior, the government is throwing a military parade that is supposed to be greater than a million Super Bowls. ChinaSMACK has some amazing, must-see photos of the preparations.

While this would be an amazing time to be in Beijing, as it turns out, practically no one will be allowed to watch the parade in person. To be more specific, subway lines will be closed around Tiananmen Square during national day. Roads will be closed. All businesses within almost 1/2 mile away from the square will be closed the week of the event. They are not taking any chances with anything. Me and my fellow Beijingers will have to watch the event on television along with the rest of the world.

Some friends and I were on the way to a lounge last week, and happened past Tiananmen Square at 11 o'clock at night. To our surprise, in a month in advance, the whole area was lit up like a stadium with enormous spotlights and several 3-story tall LED screens. Seems quite impressive to say the least.

(Forgive the shoddy camera work.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Worst. Band. Ever.

Of the multitude of pleasant surprises of living in Beijing, nothing was quite more unexpected than the existence of a fairly rocking music scene. Living in the South for a year, I had completely dismissed Chinese music as being utter crap. It seems that close to 100% of the population here listens exclusively to Mandopop (the cheesiest, most syrupy-sweet, gagging pop music you can imagine).

What blew my mind is that even the most bad-ass thugs you would see on the streets, would come blasting the most bubblegum Celine Dion-esque pop music. Rock music seemed to have missed the entire country.

Coming to Beijing, I found out that not only was rock music beginning to take hold in big cities here, but that Beijing was actually the heart of it. I would have assumed Shanghai to be the center for new rock music, but alas, this is not the case.

In the past 6 months, we have been host to Battles, Jose Gonzales, Ratatat, Yann Tiersen, Dragonforce, The Handsome Furs, an international electronic music festival featuring DJ's from all over the world, and many, many more. (Even washed up pop-punk bands such as MxPx and No Use for a Name stopped by in the past 6 months!)

As it turns out, the heart of the local home-brewed Beijing bands happens to be located just a few blocks away from my apartment, at a club called D-22. Dubbed by some as the CBGB's of China, D-22 features local rock bands 6 nights a week.

I try to make it a habit to stop by once every couple of weeks or so, checking out everything from jazz to deathmetal, punk and alternative to screamo. The quality runs the gamut, per usual the local scene. Sometimes you'll find absolutely fantastic bands, and sometimes you'll get typical, garageband crap.

However, nothing compared in outright crapulatude as the concert I witnessed last week. It was 'experimental' night at the club, which evidently meant 'noise...with trippy delay and phaser effects!'

The first band stepped up to the plate, and for 30 minutes did nothing but make horrid, horrid noise. A melody (or heck, even a rhythm) was nowhere to be found. During the final song, the guitarist put his guitar down and picked up the mic, and proceeded to scream - but not in a hardcore/metal controlled way, more in a 'I'm really mad at my little sister for taking one of my toys' way.

Once they finished, the next band hopped on stage. In a similar fashion, they went on to torture our ears - nay, souls - for another 40 minutes. The band consisted of a keyboardist and guitarist, and I must applaud them for at least playing 'notes', if not playing a melody. However, these notes were completely hit at random, with no regard to whether or not it could be construed as pleasant by anyone's standards.

The experience was not unlike a tribute to their 2-year old brother who at times would pick up the guitar and smack it with his hands, entertained to no end at the noises that emanated from the device.

...and yet, it continued.

...and yet I still feel I should not be one to judge. I used to be in a ska band.


Props to Steve for the pic.

More Photos From The Creepy Mannequin Store

Props to Steve for the pics.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

"Lazy Fail" Fail

This photo was posted on our much-beloved FAIL blog with the caption of "Lazy Fail". I'm not positive, but I'm quite sure this photo was taken on line 10 in Beijing. (At least it was in China or possibly Hong Kong, given away by the Chinese characters on the sign.) While I admit it's a pretty humorous scene, I take issue with this accusation.

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

The point of contention is that this comes from a very American viewpoint. More specifically, referring to this behavior as lazy assumes that these people do the same amount of exercise as people do in America.

This idea neglects the fact that most of these people have walked at least 15 minutes to get to the subway. Once in the subway, there might be anywhere from 2-4 flights of stairs that must be ascended without the aid of an escalator. Add another 2-4 flights for each transfer you need to make, and then another 15 minutes to their final destination from the subway exit. So when there is an escalator present, most people feel perfectly satisfied to wait in line guilt-free. (See any fat people in the picture?)

All that to say I'm not intentionally trying to be smarmy. I did have quite a chuckle on seeing this photo. Perhaps it's my own jealously that in the wealthiest country on earth, our public transportation is such a travesty compared to a still-developing country such as China.

There's really no excuse for this. So perhaps this is my way of venting my dissatisfaction with that fact that we have no way of commuting publicly that will simultaneously help us work off our fat asses.

Until then, I feel quite justified in waiting in line for the escalator.