Me and Chairman Mao
  Flotsam and jetsam.
An assortment of random things from the last week ...

Another Token Protest
Some of you have asked how the protests in Beijing this week have affected us. (For those of you who haven't asked or have no idea what I'm talking about, a bunch of people are protesting the fact that Japan isn't sorry enough for killing, looting, and raping their way across Asia during WWII. And yes, that's the short version.) Anyway, it has actually affected us. How? Well, we were trying--emphasis on trying--to get to this party on Saturday night, one with a full bar and bartender no less, and the road we wanted to go down was blocked off by the police thanks to the protesters, so we had to go completely out of the way to get where we were trying to go, thereby wasting not only like half an hour, but the better part of two dollars as well. Imagine.

On a side note, does anyone besides me find it curious that all these protests just happened to start taking place around the same time a slightly more famous Chinese protest (think tanks and squares) took place sixteen years ago? (Yes, it's been that long.) A good distraction from that particular anniversary, don't you think?

The Home Front
When we were in Shanghai last week, we got to see what will be our new home. The complex--everything here is a complex it seems, which you'd think would give the people living in non-complex apartment buildings a complex, but that's another story--is called the "Century Metropolis" in English. However, for some unfathomable reason, the Chinese name for the same complex is the "Oriental Manhattan." Insert your own joke here, please.

That's Entertainment
CD stores here are always amusing, mostly due to the completely random assortment of CDs they always seem to have in stock. I stopped into a place in Shanghai near the Oriental Manhattan and between the standard copies of Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Linkin Park, and Guns n Roses (which is strange in its own right), I found Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures," which I immediately bought for about two bucks.

When I got it home, I opened it and discovered that besides the CD it also came with a poster, which I thought was slightly odd. In addition, before I unfolded it the only part of the poster I could see had a pair of jeans with a Diesel Industries tag on the front pocket, which I found even odder, since I don't normally associate expensive Italian jeans with early 80s new wave bands from Manchester. As I slowly opened the poster, I realized that the oddest thing of all was that it didn't actually have anything to do with Joy Division at all. No, it was in fact a poster of the one, the only ... Jon Bon Jovi. Seriously. I mean, there's a big cross-over between Joy Division and Bon Jovi fans, so it makes complete sense. Really, it does.

(For those more, um, "wise"--that is, old--readers for whom this makes no sense, it would be like buying an Elvis CD and finding a poster of Britney Spears inside. Except worse.)

The West is the Best
One thing that always amuses me here is the fact that, while there are tons of Western brands, the locals don't seem to have started to differentiate between them in terms of price and/or quality. For example ...

Yes, if you are staying at the Shanghai Ritz-Portman, you can walk out the front door, do some shopping at Marc Jacobs and Gucci (it's right next to Marc Jacobs), and then--once you've worked up a nice hearty appetite from trying on a wide variety of overpriced scraps of fabric--you can pop upstairs for a nice dinner at Tony Roma's. They are famous for ribs, after all.

Pointless, Part 1
When we landed at the Beijing airport on Friday night, it was not only raining, it was pouring, which was quite an event. (For the record, no old-man snoring was seen.) It wasn't an event just because it hasn't rained hard since we've been here, but also because things don't really seem to be built to handle that much rain. Things like the airport runway, for example. As we were sitting in the plane waiting for the buses to show up and take us to the terminal, I looked out my window and saw something interesting.

Despite the fact that the tarmac was so completely flooded that it resembled a (very shallow) lake more than anything else, with the only land being small islands of uneven black concrete that occasionally appeared in scattered clusters of terra firma like some long-lost archipelago, there was still a miserable-looking lady in a blue plastic poncho sweeping the runway. Really. She had a broom---a real one, not a twig one--and a fancy dustbin that had a long handle and a bin connected at a pivot point so that the bin would swung upwards when it wasn't pressed against the ground and no garbage would fall out. After trying for several minutes to unsuccessfully sweep floating bits of garbage out of puddles, she gave up and wandered over to our plane so she could take shelter under the wing. Then she just stood there staring off into the distance for the rest of the time we were there. Probably she was going to her happy place. At least, I hope she was.

Pointless, Part 2
We were coming back from the Great Wall on Saturday (the Mutianyu section, so I got to take the slide again!) and drove by a car accident that was blocking two lanes of the expressway we were on. It had almost been cleaned up by the time we got there, but there were still three things to be seen: an empty black Volkswagen Santana that had skidded to a stop at a forty-five degree angle to the road; a still-intact broom resting on the ground about ten feet in front of the car; and, next to the driver's side door, a battered, gun-metal gray dustbin that had snapped into two pieces. There was garbage all over the road.
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