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Showing posts from 2008

Still Kicking

Well it's been more than a month since I left my old company to its inevitable prolonged withering demise, and have since promptly lost all motivation to continue posting here. Despite my lack of creative impulse, things have been good.  I've been keeping afloat with a little bit of translating work for Greenpeace  (see the PDFs), which fills me with a warm glow of self-righteousness and makes pandas shed tears of joy.  I've also been doing a little research into the possibility of realizing my long held dream of opening a bagel shop (and investors, I think this is a great opportunity for you.  A low risk alternative to the U.S. financial system, I think).  I should be moving into a nice new apartment with the French guys where I'll finally have my own private bedroom at the end of this week, assuming the agent we're using is only acting like an infuriating cheating lowlife scumbag and is, in fact, not.  And I just bought a roundtrip train ticket to Hong Kong next

Cognitive Dissonance or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Job

Don't let the title fool you, I don't actually love my job. Nor have I seen Dr. Strangelove. Nevertheless, it's been such a long time and I wanted to write something about my job.  The reasons I haven't written about it for so long are a mixture of respect for whatever nondisclosure terms might have been lurking in my contract, a fear of seeming disrespectful or disloyal to any potential future employers who might grace the pages of this blog, and mostly, the fact that my company's website is so ridiculously awful and the content is so immensely stupid that it's not even worth the space on this page to point it out.  I was also somewhat concerned that a coworker would stumble upon my site and I would be in trouble, except that a) my coworkers can't really read English, and b) I kind of half want to get fired at this point.  So what merits this special occasion today?  Well, I just happen to be so numbed by the Olympics, the insipid circle-jerk of the

Thugs and Goons, Resilient in Face of Change

As I began work this morning, and dove into my daily task of figuring out how to procrastinate for eight and a half hours, I started, as usual, by reading through the China articles on the New York Times website.  The first article to fall across my screen was yet another monthly reminder by Jim Yardley of why, exactly, the Chinese Communist Party is still in power, because apparently we keep forgetting.  Either that, or we're just downright impatient.  The headline was: China's Communists, Resilient in Face of Change A few hours later I found that the page had refreshed itself, inexplicably bearing a new title: China's Leaders Are Resilient in Face of Change The second title is actually more fitting for the article itself, which is more informative and less colored than the first title would lead you to believe.  But I wonder what the explanation is for the title change.  Did it all of a sudden occur to some editor that "Oh yes, those pesky Communists are

Unfettered Crazies Tarnish Beijing Olympics

Dreamy riot police, where are you now? (from There was a crazy man on the subway during my commute this morning.  He sat across the car by the door and swore uncontrollably, punctuating the end of each string of curses with a tight swipe of his arm, as though he were smacking a child upside the head.  Then he would look around, half indignant and half afraid, and self-consciously stroke his long thin hair back behind his ear with the other hand.  As if suddenly remembering that the imaginary child hadn't quite learned his lesson, he would then burst out with another barrage of cursing, and strike the air again with his palm. This went on for at least ten minutes before I reached my stop.  Some people got nervous and went to other cars, and some people laughed at him openly.  Eventually one lady wearing a red security volunteer armband came by from the adjacent car and peered worriedly at the man.  People looked from the man to the lady, wondering if she

I Like

This was yesterday's picture of the day on , taken at Crab Island, a beach resort area near Beijing.  Who is this guy?  He is my new hero.

PSB More Awesome Than Before

Welcome, foreigner! Although it's been policy to require foreigners to register residency with their local PSB for a long time now, it's probably only this year that the policy has grown some teeth, and the police have actually become insistent about enforcing it.  Just last week I found big white posters on the bulletin board by the gate of my apartment, and also on the doors to our units, marked with our police cartoon friend Jingjing (not to be confused with the Olympic panda mascot , whose name is spelled the same), giving us a friendly reminder to register at the local station for a temporary residence permit within 24 hours of the start of our stay.  And though personally so far I've been spared the intrusion, over the past several months I've been hearing stories from friends of friends who have had the police go door to door through their apartments asking to see foreigners' registration and fining those without. But what I just discovered, to my shoc

Reporters PK Bloggers

And now for some glimmering insight from a real China correspondent: Now, for the foreigners out there, here’s the No. 1 dud question to ask a Chinese person. It’s a question that will draw a blank, non-comprehending stare: “Hey, pal, tell me about your president. Is he doing a good job?” - Tim Johnson

Olympic Plant People and their Makeshift Equipment

There is a cute row of sculpted plant people engaging in various Olympic sports on display near Baishiqiao.  The artists behind the installations must have run out of time or funds by the time they decided to furnish these green creatures with actual sports equipment, to quite an amusing effect: The tennis and badminton players each have a ball and birdie respectively dangling sadly by a wire from their rackets.  I'd guess the tennis player is not actually supposed to be holding a tennis racket; he'd look much more comfortable with a kendo sword in his hands.  And I think the rifleman is aiming with something that might have been picked off a construction site across the street.

How to Interact with Foreigners, and other Olympics Propaganda

Don't be "excessive" when helping handicapped people. The diagram shows how to say "Beijing Welcomes You" in sign language. Today I happened across a new series of posters on the neighborhood propaganda bulletin boards about etiquette to be observed during the Olympics.  Olympics propaganda is not new to Beijing, nor are paternalistic slogans on how to be a "civilized" citizen, but this new series in particular caught my eye because of one poster with a list of rules for how to act around foreigners.  Always curious to understand more about Chinese behavior towards us Western folk, I stopped to take a closer look.  Most delightful was a list of eight questions Chinese are not to ask us, which if observed, would leave these curious and enthusiastic hosts with essentially nothing with which to make conversation.  Following are some translated excerpts along with photos from some of the posters: Smile When Communicating with Foreigners A Smile

Beijing's New Pajamas

One World, One Dream, One-Piece Pajama Suit Usually when an area in Beijing is fenced off for destruction, the fencing is covered with huge canvas printed with repeating pictures of greenery: woods, lakes and parks with elderly people in wheelchairs happily being pushed along brick paths by healthy role-model youths, strolling one way down the right side of the picture and then the other way back in mirror image.  "No destruction here!" said the facades.  "Only beautiful greenery!" Now as of last week they have all been uniformly replaced by coverings printed with Beijing's Olympic slogan, brightly decorated in solid rainbow colors.  There are so many construction sites and all of the coverings were replaced so quickly that it's as though the whole city slipped into a new pair of pajamas.  It doesn't seem right that it should remind me so much of pajamas, seeing as Beijing is getting ready for either a party or an important formal occasion rather t

Disaster of Red Cliff

Part I of The Battle of Red Cliff is coming out in theatres here on Wednesday, the culmination of, from what I hear, has been the most extended and expensive game of grab-ass in Chinese movie history. When I first went to see the set with the American special effects team back in December of 2006, we took a van down to Yi Xian, three hours south of Beijing, to look at three of the biggest projects requiring special effects.  One was a shallow rocky creek, which the construction department proposed to dig out to a wide rushing river, over which the special effects crew would build a bridge which was supposed to shake and collapse, and be able to reset for several takes.  Another was a full village on the side of a hill by a river which would be required to burn over and over again.  Last was two wooden ships which, in addition to listing mechanically side to side, were also required to burn over and over again. We didn't discuss the bridge effect very much that day because it w

Subway Sign

Relatively new errant signage in the Dongzhimen subway station.  I don't know how this one managed to slip though.  Translating "fragile" into "crumbly" I can understand, but translating "North" into "South?"  Come on, China, you can do better than that. Update: Ah, they fixed it!  How boring.

Fruit Bus

This bus is parked in the alley outside my window. It's filled with fruit, and I don't think it can move. When I moved in, the wall behind it enclosed a field of rubble. Maybe there were houses there before. A couple of months ago work crews came and started drilling the ground and digging a pit, and shipping out truckful after truckful of dirt. There is now such a massive deep pit behind the wall that I can't see the bottom of it from my window. But the wall is still there and the bus is still parked beside the wall, as though there were no menacing gaping chasm behind it. I imagine some big yellow metal arm of a crane or digging machine reaching up out of the pit, chomping down on the bus and snatching it back over the wall.

More Fuwa, More Fun

Endlessly inspired by Beijing's androgenous mascots, I drew this at work the other week.  My teammates on the B team going to the frisbee tournament in Shanghai liked it so much that they decided to name the team "Beijing Bling" or "Bei-bling," hence the hat in my recent Flickr uploads .  I paid 35 RMB for the hat at Yashow, plus the half hour or so of walking in and out of the store it took me to get the price to that level.  The silver glitter came off on my fingers once I brought it outside.  They don't make bling here like they do back home.


The rest of my old comics


XMLBoard Dies of Spam Infection

Last week I visited the XMLBoard website to show one of my coworkers how awesome I am, only to find that the sample site had been crippled under a flood of spam comments. Come to think of it, it's quite surprising thatit lasted as long as it did.  But I suppose that's only really by virtue of the fact that neither it nor any of the sites that used it were at all popular and worthy of spamming to begin with.  I took the script down and replaced it with a solemn memorial.

Earthquake tonight?

An hour ago the news came out that there will be a 2 to 6 degree earthquake from 10 to midnight tonight.  This is exciting.  My friends and I decided to meet up for some drinks.  Now the news just came out that the earlier news is a complete rumor, and that there will be no destructive earthquakes tonight, and we should keep on with our regular business.  I don't know who to believe.  I was hoping we could all hide under some tables and drink champagne. In the case that both of these news reports are false and we will actually have some serious destruction tonight, well, then so long and thanks for all the fish.

A Day in the Park

I took this video maybe a month ago now. Took me a while to get around to putting it together. These were just some clips I took during a really nice weekend visit to Beihai Park.

My new job and poop gardens

I finally started a job on Monday.  It's with New Oriental, the big English training corporation, but the branch I'm with is fairly small and new and does online Chinese teaching aimed at foreigners.  It's supposed to be a new competitor of Chinese Pod , which is well known and seems to make a fairly decent product.  See New Oriental's pitiful efforts at Target Chinese .  Note the panda wearing headphones, and of course the obligatory gong sound as you enter the page.  Fun fact: not only did the Chinese invent gunpowder and movable type, they also invented stereotypes!  Also key are the three sexy babes who really like learning Chinese, and let's not forget Jack, the awesome black dude who will be teaching live class in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 38 seconds.  Better hurry up and subscribe. Here is a picture of my cubicle: I don't know if the picture quite portrays how small this thing is.  I can't really turn my chair if somebody comes to talk to me, an

Beijing Go Club

China Daily came to do a piece at Go Club a couple of weeks ago.  Sadly I had neglected to shave that day, and soon all of China will see how filthy I am.  They don't seem to have put the footage up yet, but you can see a couple of pictures of me on the Go Club website.  As you can see, I was happily destroying my opponent: I'll post another link when I find out that China Daily's piece is up.

Skating in Beijing

Today I visited a park I hadn't gone to before. There were lots of people skating around on chairs. I took a video. These things are too cute. You can also hear the Chinese music playing in the first clip. That's how you know I'm in China.


I moved out of my friend Frank's on Wednesday and into a place near Dongzhimen. It's working out really well since a friend happened to be leaving for a month in the Philippines, so I'm paying for his rent for a month and staying in his room. I'm living with a French guy and a Chinese girl. It's a really nice place, it's incredible what you can get when you split the cost with housemates. I took some pictures but I'll have to post them in a few days since I left the USB cable to my camera at Frank's. Although this isn't quite as close to the center of the city as Frank's, it's still pretty good. We're right on the loop line. It's hard for me to get oriented, since I'm so used to being way out east near the fourth ring, and now I'm right on the second ring, and it's confounding that I have to go east instead of west to get to some of my old haunts. It's almost absurdly luxurious. I registered with the local pol

Day One in the Jing

Alleyway Originally uploaded by arewethereyet My first day back in Beijing was blessed with beautiful blue skies. I posted some pictures on Flickr, although there seem to be some censorship problems with the site for me so I'm not sure if I'll keep using it. But then again my blog is also still censored. I was very productive on my first day. I got a new phone number and a bank account. Liu Shaochun (the special effects props guy) called me and said that Ken was talking about coming back for some production in February or March. Xu Ke (my old roommate) invited me to spend the spring festival at his family's in Hunan. By freak chance, I ran into the behind-the-scenes cameraman from the Kite Runner on one of the new subway trains (what are the odds?), and he gave me his card and said he'd be in touch. I met up with a bunch of other translator friends for dinner. It's been a long time since I ate in a smoke-filled restaurant. Quite a different feelin

A Fish Too Few

I spent the last couple of days playing around with my new camera and free video editing software. I uploaded the video to YouTube: