Archive for May, 2007
Thankfully, I haven’t been subjected to much American Idol, but from the times I have mistakenly stumbled upon it, I’ve never seen anyone as talented as this human beatbox from Yanji, a small city in northern China [can't embed the video — I don't know why].
For more on beatboxes from China, check out Virtual China.
China’s continuing economic development, as has been well documented, is remarkable. As the country edges closer to the Olympics, the heightened focus on China has revealed a rapidly changing society that in some cases — internet and mobile phone habits, for instance — has leapfrogged the United States.
But in other cases, parts of Chinese society seem positively medieval.
Consider the humble pangolin, a critically endangered, scaly ant-eater found in Southeast Asian jungles. Sadly, it is also found on the menu of restaurants in southern China. The Chinese value pangolin meat as a delicacy and they believe the scales help reduce swelling and increase milk production for breast-feeding mothers.
Consider the following cooking advice from a Guangdong chef:
We keep them alive in cages until the customer makes an order. Then we hammer them unconscious, cut their throats and drain the blood. It is a slow death. We then boil them to remove the scales. We cut the meat into small pieces and use it to make a number of dishes, including braised meat and soup. Usually the customers take the blood home with them afterwards.
Thirty-one pangolins have been found among 5,000 endangered animals trapped in a boat adrift off China’s southern coast, as the Guardian reports. Also included on the inverse Noah’s Ark were leatherback turtles, monitor lizards, and 21 bear-paws wrapped in newspaper.
I accept that there are intellectual arguments to justify the cat restaurants (pictures may disturb) of Shenzhen — merely a matter of different cultural codes determining which animals are suitable for consumption and which ones are sacred — but when it comes to endangered species smuggled illegally and treated inhumanely (inanimanely?), then I think it’s time to get angry.
Hat tip: Bills Due
Look, I’ve been very busy. I haven’t had time to dedicate to my blog. My friend, Chris House, is tired and eating stale chips. The crunch is still audible.
We’re moving to Lamma Island. My flatmate, Andrew, and I have decided Lamma’s awesomeness is not to be denied. Within two months we shall be living the island life with nothing but the barks of stray dogs to keep us from our slumber.
This weekend — I forget which day exactly — it was Andrew’s birthday. We celebrated with a trolley full of poison. Hong Kong has small trolleys. But it didn’t stop us getting trolleyed.
Hamish, stop writing now. Okay.
On Thursday night, after an arduous day in the office — which entailed non-stop writing, editing, and production from 9am to 9pm — I interviewed a band called the David Bowie Knives for my secret other life as a freelance music writer for the South China Morning Post. I write under a pseudonym, because I’m not sure the big boss at my company would approve. Well, if he reads this, I guess I may be screwed, but what the hell.
The interview started with drinking and finished with more drinking. The band, three young teachers, churned through their beers a lot faster than anyone I’ve met since I left New Zealand. Which is probably why a lot of their songs are about boozing. Suffice to say, they were first-rate chaps, and I was only too glad to accompany them to The Wanch to catch some bands afterwards.
The Wanch, to my surprise, was packed to overflowing. To my even greater surprise, two of my favourite Hong Kong bands happened to be playing — for free. First, the Lovesong (photo above), and then Elf Fatima. (Read my post about my favourite bands in Hong Kong — it needs updating.) The Lovesong were raucous and great, but Elf Fatima were even better. The tiny venue was perfect for their atmospheric rock as it rolled off the walls. It was easy to get lost in the waves of wailing guitar and hypnotic beats.
One thing I love about Elf Fatima, who sound pretty damn close to Mogwai, is that they have two grungy guys — one on lead guitar, the other on drums — who pour everything into their performances, while two pretty girls play their guitars completely nonchalantly, feet super-glued to the ground, as if no-one else were on stage with them. Last night, one of the girls leaned against the wall for most of the set. My other photo of the band is blurry, but in a way, that captures the energy in their sound and their men.
Close to midnight, Elf Fatima played their last heavily distorted chords and the masses filtered out of the bar. The Bowie Knives and I stayed drinking, along with about 10 other sticklers (including the bar staff). Then a band of old codgers — and I use that term affectionately — got up and ripped out a few numbers, from Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ to Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’. It was a complete change from just half an hour before, but still excellent fun.
As the beer continued to flow and I continued to lose control of my faculties, the Knives guys borrowed the codgers’ instruments and banged out a few of their own songs. Guess it would have been useful for my story if I could have remembered them.
Hong Kong must be one of the few places in the world where horse-racing is actually still thriving. And tonight, I had my first taste of a local institution: a night at the races in Happy Valley.
Actually, though, I had a rather fake first encounter with the races. Tonight I enjoyed my horses-running-in-a-loop action from the air-conditioned comfort of a corporate box, in which I feasted of a meal that consisted of a lot of salmon, pumpkin soup, and various salads with fine dressings. There were other tasty comestibles, but all wither to irrelevance in the face of salmon.
Beer and wine was also present, and I partook, but only in moderation because of a hellishly busy next couple of days at work. Sucks how work gets in the way of living some times.
I placed three bets and lost the princely sum of HK$70.
Anyways, I took photos. Here’s one. Can you see the horses?
Computer says no.
Imagethief: Will Moss, a PR guy formerly of Silicon Valley now living and working out of Shanghai. Nimble with words and never short of wisdom on the things that matter: censorship, China, and unforgivable PR stunts.
Ich Bin Ein Beijinger: Kaiser Kuo, one of the founders of China’s first heavy metal band, and now an ad man. Until recently, Kaiser was China bureau chief for business and technology mag Red Herring. An authority on music, tech geekery, and Chinese culture.
Bills Due: Bill Bishop, a games man and founder of Marketwatch.com. Always armed with an opinion and a smart way of expressing it. Read Bill for news and views on tech business in China, as well as other miscellaneous but informed opinions.
The headline of the year was in the South China Morning Post today:
Fertility clinics see doubling of client load
If you haven’t heard of Flight of the Conchords, hurry up and Ripple them. The band formerly known as New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk-parody duo have their own show starting on HBO, June 17. People with taste will like this. Yes, I’m looking at you, Spike and Justin. Here’s a teaser, filmed from their Wellington flat.
And here’s a dyed-in-the-wool Kiwi interview on New Ziland television. Note the giddy excitement at the idea of New Zealanders making it in America.
And to follow up on Faye Wong — here’s another ’90s throwback. Don’t tell me you don’t like it. ‘Every Rose Has its Thorn’, by Posion. You used to wear your hair like that.
Crossing into Shenzhen, a small skip across the border from Hong Kong, you immediately realise you’re in China proper. Spit on the sidewalk, piss on the pavement, and a pungent whiff of Mainland fresh. It is its own sort of beautiful; not quite a breath of fresh air — but more one of coal syrup — from sanitised Hong Kong.
Today, a Sunday, peopled meandered in the pedestrian shopping areas, the pampered shoulders of China’s Noveau riche bumping up against dumpster-divers. This band — with drummer, centre, on electronic skins — staged a free concert in one of the city’s main squares. Their electricity blew mid-way through their first song. The singer smiled sheepishly, said don’t worry, and asked the crowd for encouragement.
Two blocks away, the mark of capitalism in China. The country’s first McDonald’s, installed in 1990. This is the most holy-looking building in the area — though KFC runs a close second.
You have to drive across town and then duck down some side streets to get to the local core of Shenzhen, a city that imagines itself as a tourist destination. It counts one of its highways — an efficient, tree-lined passageway to the suburbs — among its top 30 attractions. In this small lane, however, vendors sell vegetables, meat, and fried dumplings to weekend shoppers as children play on the adjacent basketball court. Off to the side, flies feast on small globs of faeces.
Despite the tourism sales pitch, many of Shenzhen’s delights are hidden. I woke this sleeping pussycat while browsing through a rack of designer jeans in a ‘hip’ clothing store.
For the price of ‘one-bedroom’ closet in Wan Chai, you can buy luxury in Shenzhen. This pool is part of an apartment complex that houses the aforementioned Noveau riche, and approximately two expats, one of whom happens to be my friend. Still, mothers here hold their pantless children while they pee on the pavement. Old habits die hard.
Ingredients for a great day: aimless wandering; one-hour massage; DVD and clothes shopping; and dinner with friends. Four large, tasty, and a tad spicy, dishes at this mid-range restaurant set us back US$13. Beer included.
Today I also had the privilege of visiting a factory where fake Rolex watches are born. I have more to say on this, but it’ll have to wait until the appearance of a certain story in a certain online magazine. Stay tuned.
Okay, so Lamma didn’t happen, but Shek O did.
A brilliant, beautiful Saturday on the beach. Sleeping, swimming, sunning, reading, and a couple of beers with a hotdog to finish it off. Pretty happy with that. (Sadly, the photos don’t look that hot — I think the humidity fogged my lens.)
And now for your for weekend pleasure, here is the delectable Faye Wong looking hella tight in one of my all-time top 5 films, Chunking Express. Watch this and tell me she’s not cool, freak.
It’s Friday night, 7:37pm, and I’m in the office. Even sadder, I’m not alone. Four people in sight, and I’m sure there’re more just around the corner. Seriously, Friday nights are when lives happen. And lives don’t happen in the office. What are you doing, people?
More to the point: what am I doing?
Well, stupid, drunk, me has organised an interview with someone in the US. The editor-in-chief at WSJ.com, to be precise. Perhaps a little retardedly, I went out with some contacts for lunch today and indulged in four too many beers. The lunch lasted until 5pm. I’m starting to recover now, especially after a HK$14 bowl of prawn wonton noodles, so hopefully I’ll be in fine form for the interview — but I’m already starting to feel the hangover coming on.
Hangover aside, my weekend is going to be cooler than your weekend. Why? Party on Lamma, for a start. If I manage to get there. Then, on Sunday, for the first time ever, I’m going to Shenzhen, where I fully intend to get a massage. I am intent on becoming relaxed to the point of sleep. Then, I shall purchase pirated DVDs. Somewhere along the line I also expect to eat lunch. Beat that.
But enough of that guff. Time to save the world. Do it by visiting the wonderful Ripple, which generates money for charity simply by displaying ads that you choose to look at. Or conduct Google searches from Ripple’s homepage, and a portion of the funds Google generates through advertising will go towards fighting poverty.
Within 48 hours of launch, Ripple received enough traffic to:
- Provide two people with access to clean water and sanitation for life
- Provide seven years of education to two children in East Timor
- Maintain more than $334,800 in micro-finance loans for a day. That’s around 800 loans to allow people in the Phillipines and elsewhere to start their own business
- Set up 15 market gardens in Cambodia to provide nutritious food to a village
Hat tip: Loose Wire Blog
I was going to write a relatively useful and constructive post tonight about a local magazine, but that’s going to have to wait for a time when I have a little more energy. Tonight, I’m going to take advantage of an extended deadline to get an early night and perhaps even to read a book (made from paper!).
At the moment, I’m reading Absurdistan, by Eric Campbell — a TV journalist’s adventures through weird and scary places from the mid-’90s to the early noughties (not to be confused with the more Googleable Absurdistan, by Gary Shteyngart). Not only is it a good read, but it has also, so far, provided a useful potted history of Russia, Serbia, Belarus, Afghanistan, Armenia, and other far-flung Soviet out-posts. I feel a little bit smarter from reading it, but only superficially so. Please don’t challenge me on any of the above topics.
- Eight more reasons to distrust Rupert Murdoch, by Jack Shafer, Slate
- The threat to the Wall Street Journal, by John Berthelsen, Asia Sentinel