Hooray for our side!

Last night was one of those occasional times in Beijing where a foreign band plays. In this case it was the British band Go! Team at the Star Club, the same place where I went for The Soundtrack of Our Lives. I’ve got the band’s first album, and while it’s a bit samey (all the songs very similar), it’s fun, cheerful music, and seemed like a reasonable way to spend a hot Beijing evening.
The opening act was The Verse, a local funk outfit featuring a horn section and four backing singers — a total of 13 musicians. Aside from a few problems with vocal intonation (I think maybe the singers couldn’t hear themselves very well), they were tight, funky and enjoyable. Their inexperience showed a bit in their unassuming stage presence. This kind of music cries out for at least a little bit of choreography from the BV’s and maybe even horns. They varied their style and tempo just enough to keep things interesting, with touches of ska, punk, and reggae tossed in with the funky beats. One of their songs featured a slow interlude in the middle where one of the guitarists sang a bit of a famous (so I’m told) song by Teresa Teng.
The Go! Team seem to take their inspiration in roughly equal parts from action movie theme songs and revved-up cheerleader chanting backed by an electric pep band. The lead singer was even dressed a little like a cheerleader. Most of the songs feature shouted interjections like, “Go!” and “Oh, yeah!” and not much in the way of lyrical or melodic content. The driving beats are energetic, but feature very little variation between or within songs. I did enjoy watching the players switch instruments. At times there were two drummers, and the woman who played guitar also switched off to melodica, keyboard, xylophone, and percussion. I think the second drummer played guitar for a while.
And the main drummer came out and sang a cute little song backed only by a pre-recorded piano.
The evening was sponsored by Bacardi, part of a series bringing acts from around the world to China. I’m sure it’s virtually impossible for any artist to play here without losing money, given how expensive it would be to come so far and the low ticket prices that the market will bear. The entry ticket stub was good for one free drink at the bar, and they had a staff of drink makers (somehow “bartenders” does not seem like the right word) mixing a set selection of rum drinks furiously all night. At ¥20 a drink (about $3) there was a mob at the bar all night, and it took a half hour or so to work to the front. Unfortunately the rudeness quotient was through the roof, and I’m sad to admit that the foreigners were the rudest. I saw one guy order four mojitos, and when the poor girl had them ready, he grabbed them and made a dash without handing over the drink tickets. She ran after him without success, which of course slowed down the line for the rest of us. It was definitely Survival of the Rudest. The whole thing was handled very badly from a logistical standpoint. If you’re going to present that kind of opportunity for mass consumption, you should come up with a way to make drinks more efficiently. The guy in front of me ordered seven mojitos and they were made one at a time, which is very silly considering how easy it is to make them in bulk. Oh, well.
In any case, it was a fun, hot, sweaty, loud evening. RR and I were there with our Chinese colleague CZ, and we bumped into a friend of hers who is a reporter with a fancy professional camera. She promised to send CZ the picture she took of us, so if I get it, I’ll post a copy.


It really is a water park

It really is strange how things work out sometimes. After not posting anything here for several (maybe more than several) days, this morning I wrote about how I had discovered Nan Guan Park, and how I thought it would look cool if they ever turned the fountains on. This morning I went to the gym for a workout, so I was a little later than usual walking to the office. When I came to Nan Guan, lo and behold, there was water.
This struck me as such coincidental timing that I had to get out my camera and preserve the scene.
Fun for young and old alike.
And just for another example of Strange English... ponder this one for a bit. It’s a panel in the electrical closet next to my apartment. I went in there to add more money to my meter, and noticed this writing. I’m perfectly willing to believe that the Chinese writing makes sense, but the English is another story.

What’s that session code?

Music to start blogs by: Wolfstone — The Half Tail

Last Friday in our weekly staff meeting someone mentioned table tennis, and someone said, “We should get a ping pong table for the office.” CL told the administrative head that the purchase would be approved and to go ahead and start the process of getting one. After the meeting, the admin guy asked one of the other Americans if CL was serious. Yes. Yes, he was. So the table arrived this week, and now we have a way to blow off a little steam during these trying times.

Since the table is in an area near several people’s workspaces (including my own), we’ve devised some rules about acceptable hours of play.
As with badminton, I haven’t played in ages, but I’m determined to learn to hold the paddle the way all the Chinese do. It works for them, and I haven’t played enough to built up any habits around the old-fashioned way of holding it.
Here, CL gets in on the action with one of our visitors from the US, in town for meetings.

The heat has continued, occasionally interrupted by rain, but I’ve tried to maintain a habit of walking to the office as often as possible. Many times I passed by a fenced area that had some sort of strange sculpture inside, but never really knew what it was. Finally I went in, and it’s a lovely little park called Nan Guan (which means South (of) Embassy, I think – it’s just south of the big Russian Embassy). It’s called a “water park” but I’ve yet to see the fountains going. I’m sure they look pretty interesting when they do.
But even aside from that, it’s a nice little haven in the midst of the city, and I usually arrange my walks to pass through it. Unfortunately the “haze” you see here has been pervasive the last few weeks.
And one last little bit…
They’ve been washing the exterior windows at Seasons Park.
And a shot looking up at the tower next to mine. I just thought this picture looked interesting.

Music to end blogs by: Horslips — The Táin


...And boy, are my arms tired!

No, I haven’t been doing any more flying. I went to my first badminton night last night. A few weeks ago, some of the people at the office decided to organize a weekly evening of badminton. The first week was when I was in Seattle, and the second week, when I was back, my sinuses were bothering me so I didn’t go. But this week there were no ready excuses to hand, so I went. It’s been something like 20 years since I last attempted the sport, so “rusty” doesn’t begin to describe the state of my skills. Decomposed into component elements and turned into something resembling crude oil, maybe. I remember back in some foggy distant decade when I got what then passed for a high-tech badminton racquet – made of aluminum, not wood. My new one makes that seem positively stone-age, with its nanotechnology (that’s what it said on the label). I think it’s carbon fiber or something. Anyway, it’s so light you hardly know you’re holding it.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s been kind of warm in Beijing lately, and yesterday was no exception. It was above 90°F outside, and almost exactly the same temperature in the Chaoyang Community College Gymnasium.
There were only seven of us this week. I heard there were 16 last week. We had rented three of the four courts in the gym, so that meant all but one of us could play at once, or all of us if you play two-on-one, which we did a little.
But it was so hot that it was prudent to take frequent breaks to rehydrate and get a little fresh air outside. As you can see, we are a very cheerful bunch.

After a couple hours of that, I was pretty wiped out, and my right forearm is pretty sore today.

I was so amused by my colleague’s T-shirt that I just had to take a picture of it.
It’s a picture of a cartoon dog, and this is what it says, in case you can’t make it out:
Shiro Petto
YOU reimv httle angei
Oussi naving you close alis mewith loveaiid nupc
Nothing is mpossible with yo bv my side
Love yourse

The really funny part is that her job at the office is as an English-Chinese translator. I think she finds the shirt amusing too.

And now for the Random Picture of the Day.
I came across a whole bunch of flowers walking home from work the other day. Lilies and roses – might have something to do with my nose being all stuffed up. But they are pretty. Or as I’ve just learned, piaoliang.


It’s Too Darn Hot!

Location: Beijing
Status: Hot

Just for fun, click over to ask.com and type in Beijing weather. Here’s what I just got for a result:

7-Day Forecast

Extremely hot
41 ºC/105 ºF
22 ºC/72 ºF

Extremely hot
43 ºC/110 ºF
21 ºC/70 ºF

Extremely hot
38 ºC/100 ºF
20 ºC/68 ºF

Extremely hot
39 ºC/102 ºF
19 ºC/66 ºF

Extremely hot
41 ºC/106 ºF
22 ºC/71 ºF

Extremely hot
40 ºC/103 ºF
25 ºC/77 ºF

Extremely hot
37 ºC/99 ºF
22 ºC/72 ºF

I put in the ºF for those not yet used to the ºC, which I’m starting to get the feel for. I don’t try to convert, I just try to remember what 22ºC feels like, or 41ºC. I’ll give you a hint: 41ºC is darn toasty.

I got the air conditioning going in my apartment on Sunday, just in the nick of time. When I got off the plane on Friday afternoon, it was actually kind of chilly, cooler than it was in Seattle last week. That did not last. I’m just glad the building maintenance people work on weekends, or I’d be melted into a puddle of American goo on the floor.

For further amusement, here’s a little news item related to both music and the Olympics: Kids' band contributes song for Olympics. These kids have been in the news a lot lately over here, and I managed to find a place where I could download their song. It’s very cute and it rocks. China’s youngest rock stars, indeed. If you feel the need to listen to it and can’t find it on your own, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction.

It’s much too busy at work for me to think much about anything, so I’ll leave it at that for today. It’s after 10 and I just got home from the office, and I’m tired.