Chinese time machine #2

The other day, as I was riding in a taxi, it occurred to me that in some ways, Beijing is like Tokyo (modern, bustling, Asian) crossed with Los Angeles (sprawling, wealthy). One thing that sets Tokyo apart from both of the others is the ubiquitous public transportation system. LA has little of that, comparatively speaking, and Beijing is rapidly trying to catch up, constructing new subway/train lines and modernizing the buses. All three are centers of their countries’ entertainment industries. I’m sure the comparison breaks down if you examine it much more than that, since in truth Beijing is just Beijing, just as Tokyo is Tokyo and LA is LA.

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time talking to someone who lives in Shanghai, and she said that in spite of all the English and Russian and whatnot you see written around Beijing, and all the foreigners you see, Beijing is still much more Chinese than Shanghai is. Shanghai, as a seaport and center of trade, has had non-Chinese influences for much longer than Beijing. And Shanghai is in fact famous for a street called The Bund – how Chinese is that?
Since I had such good responses from the Bimbo Bread post a while ago, here is another amusing Chinese bread bag. What do you suppose “USA Style” bread would be like?
It’s a bit like Wonder Bread, only has a slight yellow tinge, allegedly from all the butter. I’m sure cowboys made it that way.
There are Starbucks all around the world, but this one in Beijing has décor you would not see in Seattle.
And now we’re setting the controls for 23 February, during the Spring Festival. Here’s a picture from the Baiyunguan Temple that didn’t make the original post. How’s this for a contrast between tradition and modern life?
Later that same day, I came across this sight in the hallway on the fifth floor of a luxury apartment complex, outside the K/JW door. I’m guessing there’s a spoiled kid living very nearby.
This establishment is not far from where I live. Coffee, tea, pastries, and sandwiches are advertised – I haven’t been in yet, though I can surely imagine a day where I’m desperate enough for coffee to wander in.

Wasn’t that fun? We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Japanese time machine #1

Starting music: The Allies – “Emma Peel”

Here’s an entry catching up on some Japan pictures I didn’t post in the entries about the trip. First, for people curious about cars around the world...
The Nissan March (AKA Micra in most of the rest of the world).
Toyota makes the Fielder (AKA Corolla, apparently).
A cute little delivery van.
This shot is from the Tawaramichi Kitchen District. This ordinary store is painted with a nifty trompe l’oeil design with a dinosaur – how could I not take a picture?
If you refer to my previous posts, you’ll notice that the Shiodome area features a great amount of public art. These odd spotted people-things are a recurring theme. I like their whimsical appearance, but they seem incongruous when positioned next to a lovely naturalistic statue.
There’s art inside as well. These “rocks” are suspended from the ceiling, and below them is a large matching piece on the floor.
And look: Seattle is famous for soup! All these years living there, and I never knew.
I mentioned that people gather to take pictures of Howl’s Moving Clock.
This is me and my friend Black Jack in Kyoto.
In my post about the Studio Ghibli Museum, I mentioned a Russian-titled film they were involved with. We also saw materials about it at the Anime Fair. From the little bits we saw, the entire film is done in this dreamy watercolor style. From the descriptions I’ve read, Petrov actually paints his cels with oils on glass to create his films, but to my eye they resemble watercolor paintings. I’ve edited the previous post to have more information. You can watch the Japanese trailer here. You can see why it keeps winning awards at festivals.

Ending music: T.Rex – “Jeepster”


No, I can't read them

This is just a quick little post about a shopping trip I made yesterday. I walked to Wangfujing Street, which is one of Beijing's major shopping areas. I had a mission: to visit the gigantic bookstore and try to find Chinese editions of books by Robert Silverberg. I have to play the part of the definitive authority (or is that obsessive collector?) and keep the web site as comprehensive as possible. I'll spare you all the details of my search. It's a huge store, but the sections have signs in both Chinese and English, so it wasn't too hard to find FOREIGN SCIENCE FICTION on the fourth floor (or was it fifth?). Then I simply pulled every book off the shelf and looked at it. The section was small enough to make that a practical method. Oh, sorry. I said I would spare you the details, and there I went and typed them anyway.

On to the results, which will be added onto the Quasi-Official site as soon as I figure out how to do them.
This is Thorns, with cover art not resembling anything I remember from the story. The painting actually looks familiar, as if I've seen it on some other book.
And this is Lord Valentine's Castle, divided into two volumes (shang and xia) because they don't seem to like thick books, at least in the SF section.
The inside of LVC features some familiar artwork.
The interior layout is rather nice looking, with graphics on every page. All the other SF titles I saw had similar features.

I took quite a lot of pictures on my walk. It will take me a while to sort through them and make a proper post out of them, but for the Silverberg fans out there, I wanted to get this part taken care of.


I am not a tourist – I live here

On Sunday it was announced that the application process was open to request Olympic tickets. While the date was theoretically not public knowledge, we of course knew about it in our office so we could prepare. This milestone is the real start of our work, and it’s likely to be very busy around here for the Ticketmaster crew. So Saturday was possibly our last chance for a little free time. We have some colleagues visiting from the US, and they wanted to see the Summer Palace, so RR and I tagged along. I hadn’t been there yet, and it seemed like it would be fun to go in a group. RR and I walked over to the Kuntai Royal Hotel, where I stayed when I first arrived, and met up with two of the three guests. The other had got tied up in some issue at work and would try to join us later if possible.

The four of us piled into a taxi and off we went. The Summer Palace is in the far northwest part of the city, and traffic was terrible, so it took an hour or so to get there.
Just inside the main entrance is a statue of a qilin, a mythical scaled creature with a dragon head, lion tail, ox hooves, and deer antlers. For the Dungeons & Dragons players out there, I believe it’s also known by the Japanese name “kirin.” Note the covered scaffolding in the background. There’s restoration work going on, but luckily it’s only a few buildings, this being the only prominent one.
A little further in, we came to the Banxi Lou (Make-up Building – this is the ceiling), where actors would get ready for their performances on the...
Grand Stage. We looked around this area for a while, and spent some time in the gift shop. Yes, they got some of our money. We asked when the next show on the stage would be, and they said “Five minutes,” so we had a little rest and caught a show.
The first portion featured these musicians. Note the racks of tuned bells and the guy playing them from behind. They did a few numbers and then left the stage.
The second act was three dancers with long sleeves which they twirled around. Oddly enough, the taped music they danced to included a drum machine, though it was mostly traditional sounding. Oh, well, the Chinese invented practically everything else – maybe they had drum machines in the Qing Dynasty. The third act consisted of three acrobat/clowns that I didn’t take any pictures of.

By this time, we had heard from the fifth member of our party that his work was wrapped up and he was on the way to join us. We made our way back to the qilin and met him.
There were many trees in bloom all around, including these lilacs, which smelled very nice.
The Summer Palace ground encompass a large lake or three, depending on how you count. It’s either one lake split into three parts by causeways, or three separate lakes divided by causeways. Anyway, you can see that there are paddle boats for rent.
Here’s a little odd thing I noticed. All the windows are different shapes. This theme continues in various places all over the park. It’s probably explained in the audio guide, but none of us got one.
We left the waterfront for a while to climb up Longevity Hill, which was covered with flowers in places.
At a peak of the hill (not the highest one, but one on the side) was a pavilion where music played and people were dancing. This seemed to be a tango.
Further along was a building I called the Pavilion of Excellent Photography. I don’t know its real name, but it afforded a view of the lake and the city of Beijing off in the distance. Did I mention is was a stunningly lovely day?
Near the highest point of Longevity Hill is this building, which (if I’m reading the map correctly) is the Temple of the Sea of Wisdom (Huihai Si).
Inside is a very large Buddha. There were no lights inside, and I didn’t want to use the flash, so I’m pleased this turned out as well as it did. After I took it, I saw the NO PHOTO sign. Oops. I’m at least as sorry as the thousand other people who took pictures of it that day.
From the top of the hill you can see the back side of the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha (Foxiang Ge). We decided it was on our must-see list, but the maps were so confusing we didn’t get to it until much later.
I would be remiss in my duties as a tourist if I didn’t provide a picture of the Marble Boat. It was supposed to symbolize the fact that the Empire was solid as rock and could weather any difficulty.
This is the Long Corridor, which runs nearly the entire length of the lake’s north shore.
From straight on, Foxiang Ge looks like this from below. For some reason we still felt the need to see it closer.
One more shot I can’t resist posting, taken from one of the side courtyards of the approach.
Maybe I should have counted the stairs.
This is an exact reverse shot of the one from below.
Foxiang Ge is amazing up close, but it’s almost impossible to get much of it in the frame.
Inside is this statue, called the Thousand-Hand Guanyin Buddha. I counted, and I’m pretty sure there are only 24 hands, but I suppose a little exaggeration for dramatic purposes is allowed. It dates from 1574. The NO PHOTO sign is posted inside, so I took this from outside the door.
After descending from the heights, we saw this man writing on the paving stones with wet brushes. As I understand it, the people gathered around tell him their wishes or hopes and he writes them with water. As the water evaporates, the wishes go up to the ears of the gods. In any case, it was very beautiful. He’s doing the regular characters with his right hand and mirror images of them with his left.
Not having managed to get enough exercise climbing the steps to the temple, we rented a paddle boat. I took this picture while I was paddling and steering. OK, I actually let go the rudder to snap it, so maybe I wasn’t technically steering at the time. That’s the famous Seventeen Arch Bridge.
After a while I traded places with RR so I could take more pictures. Not because I was tired.
These buildings stand on the causeway across the middle of the lake.
This is a view of the bridge you can’t get from land.
And as our intrepid craft sailed homeward, the sun sank behind the distant hills, leaving behind the satisfied glow of a day well spent. I forget the name of the tower silhouetted on the hill. It’s not part of the Summer Palace, but lies some distance beyond.

You might be able to tell from my descriptions that I enjoyed the excursion a lot. The Forbidden City is large and impressive, but all the buildings look more or less the same, so, beautiful as they are, you get tired of them. There’s a lot more variety of style and function at the Summer Palace. So far, this is my favorite place in China. And there’s plenty we didn’t get to, so I guess I’ll have to go back; if any friends or family ever visit me, I won’t complain at all if they want me to take them there.

After an afternoon marveling at the splendor that can be commanded by an absolute ruler with functionally unlimited resources, it was back to the real world, where the time had come to let people start submitting requests for Olympic tickets. We had been told that the BOCOG Director of Ticketing would be appearing on CCTV a little after 11am to make the announcement. This would be followed by a couple hours of prerecorded programs explaining the procedures and giving background. We even had a camera crew in our office a couple weeks ago shooting background shots.
It may have been Sunday, but we had all hands on deck, some at our office, some at the Bank of China office, some at CNC (the call center), and some at the BOCOG office. We had a conference call going with the operational teams back in the US. My programming work had to be done in advance, preparing for this day, so my presence there was to provide moral support, observe, and fetch tea. In the picture, they’re watching the CCTV broadcast projected on the wall. It was all in Chinese, so some of us had to get periodic translations.
For lunch, we had a big delivery from McDonald’s. I wonder how they managed without a loading dock…

There were no disasters, and the online orders started rolling in, though not in huge numbers. I don’t know how many people watched the Sunday morning broadcast. After lunch, I went back to my cubicle and worked on polishing up a few things. I heard that I appeared in the CCTV documentary footage for quite a while, though I didn’t see it myself.
This afternoon I accompanied a coworker to a meeting at the Bank of China head office, which is in the Central Business District. There are many impressive buildings in the area, and the BOC building is one of the nicest. This offices are in a square around a central atrium, with one corner entirely glass. The atrium has a beautiful stand of bamboo planted in it. If photos are allowed, I hope to get a picture inside someday. It’s amazing. The architect was I.M. Pei, and I’ve found some articles online about it here and here.
The Central Business District is also home to this nice bit of public art.