Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wudaokou - the definitive pictures

Taken from the Wudaokou subway platform at rush hour. How do you say clusterfuck in Chinese?

The bikes lined up in the top photo are actually squeezed so tightly together that it's impossible to cross through them. If you get off the bus and don't immediately step over into the bike lane, you can find yourself walking 100 meters ahead (assuming you're going to the subway) because the bikes form an impenetrable barricade.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Picture of the Day: Traffic jam

From the bridge next the southeast gate of Peking University

The above picture was taken at a CCTV City Channel networking event in which the presentations, according to one of my friends, began late but concluded early, thanks to no-shows, resulting in a long wait for the final portion of the event, an interview with Beijing's Vice Mayor and dinner. People were using every excuse in the book to get out of there early. In other words, the event was very Chinese.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lan Daotian (蓝稻田) at Mao Livehouse

In Beijing, you haven't made it until you've played at Mao's Live. The band we introduced you to earlier this month, Lan Daotian (蓝稻田, Blue Rice Paddies), played a gig there Wednesday night:

Drummer Kevin Reitz gets some love from his Ultimate Frisbee teammates:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Redbucks at Ginkgo Bar

Last Saturday the American bluegrass band formerly called too many names to list (but now going by The Redbucks... Facebook page here) played at Ginkgo Bar at Andingmen, close to Houhai. Here are two more pictures from their performance.

This correspondent was a bit disoriented by the night's preceding events and was therefore unable to record a video or, now that he thinks about it, hear any of the music, which was weird considering he was standing right there, but judging by third-party accounts, everyone had a great time and left with the sort of warm, glowing sensations that come to those who mix good people with good spirits and a brew or two. After the bluegrass part of the set concluded at about 1 a.m., the band played Reggae for another hour or so to everyone's delight.

More info about the night on the Beijing Ultimate website.

Sunset over Dongzhimen

From last Wednesday... sort of speaks for itself.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Olympics year-after: Olympic Green, the narrative

"Olympic Green" is a misnomer. On a clear day, you stand on one end and look down the other and find yourself staring into a sea of concrete that has no shore, to say nothing of greenness. There is no trace of green and no hint of all that green conveys, verdure and youth and life and whatnot. Olympic Green, if it had to play the part of metaphor, would symbolize anti-life. It is postmodern, anti-humanist... it takes the vulnerable pulp of humanity and steamrolls it into the ground before paving it over with concrete, layer after gloppy layer of concrete.

Concrete... you are surrounded by concrete on every side, a stretch of concrete as vast and boundless as 18th-century American prairies, a sweeping expanse so gaudy and cool and inaccessible with its concrete-hard exterior that the structures jutting out of its surface into the sky are mere doodads, like imitations of buds grown out of living roots somewhere deep where the blood of the soil still runs warm.

When you're there, the scale of the Olympic Green promenade seems so unmeasurably immense that you instantly begin thinking about the building process, the paving of ground, the ridiculously strenuous bending of earth -- giants hands wielding mallets that break the backs of heretics -- so that we get a dull, uninspired stretch of concrete as parallel to Earth as one gets in our warped universe.

And as your eyes focus on the distant vanishing point -- you're looking south, of course -- the image of the Forbidden City slowly comes into focus, new Beijing meeting old, postmodernity crashing head-on with the immortals, and, a little further south, that other great expanse of concrete, symbolic of so much more than Olympic Green will ever be during our lifetimes: Tiananmen Square.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Olympics year-after: Olympic Forest Park (south side)

Olympic Forest Park is a nice concept, but the result leaves more to be desired.

For one, it's much too massive, especially when you consider the water is foul and the sights are commonplace, even downright boring. There's scant little to do inside -- you can rent a boat, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to -- and the coffee shop has long shuttered its doors. Perhaps this place would be nice for an evening stroll -- especially since speakers along the sidewalk constantly play violin and piano concertos and, I kid you not, the instrumental version of Can You Feel the Love Tonight -- but who would possibly go all the way to Fifth Ring Road just to walk around yet another Chinese park?

My final complaint is that there's no way of getting across the central lake to the south entrance exit if you're anywhere on the northwest part of the park. You have to walk around, and the walk is long and exhausting (the park is 680 hectares, after all) and can get really annoying. Did I mention the elevator music?

Again, it's not a bad park, and the designers certainly had their hearts in the right place. It's just a little -- dare I say? -- unnecessary.