Sunday in the park with JD

Aside from all the mang jile around here, I have had a few experiences worth noting (worth it to me at least – you decide for yourself as always). First off, quite unintentionally, I have now seen the new Transformers movie twice. On Sunday the week before last, I got an email from RR saying he was walking to a nearby theater to see it, and I was welcome to come along. I said, “What the heck,” and went along. For a movie about giant robots, the raison d’etre of which is principally as an excuse for blowing things up, I thought it was surprisingly good. Sure some of the dialog was corny, but I didn’t think all the characters were pure stereotypes, and there was plenty of humor to remind you it’s not supposed to be serious. Plus the robots were pretty cool and lots of things blew up real good. Then it turned out that Friday was a coworker’s birthday, so after she shared her cake with me, I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday, and she said, “Let’s go to a movie!” And after I managed to figure out what she was saying, I agreed.

We left work and took the subway to a part of town way up northwest, where I’ve never been. It’s a college district full of foreign students, and all the buildings have signs in Chinese, English and Korean. The theater there didn’t have any showings at convenient times, so we got in a taxi and went to another theater. We looked at the listings and I said, “Whatever you want to see.” She picked Transformers.
Some observations about going out to movies in Beijing:

1. They are comparatively expensive, roughly the same price per ticket as in an American city. Considering that you could buy seven or eight DVDs for the same price here, it’s surprising anyone goes at all.
2. Both of the theaters I’ve been to sold reserved seats, and had ushers to show you to them. I’ve never seen that in an American movie theater.
3. Transformers is a very popular movie here. Both showings I attended were packed.
4. You are allowed to bring your own snacks and beverages into the theater, and many people do. Theater fare is overpriced compared to the same items outside, but not nearly to the degree I’ve seen in the US.
5. The first time I saw the movie, I noticed that certain bits of dialog had been electronically garbled. This has something to do with the notice that starts out each showing: This feature has been approved by the Ministry of Culture (or something to that effect). Upon a second viewing, I’m pretty sure (from the context) that at least two of the censored bits were mentions of China, though neither one of them could be construed as critical or offensive.
6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix does not open here until August 10.
7. I’ve heard of some American movies (such as Spiderman 3) showing here with Chinese dubs, but Transformers was not. It had subtitles. I’m hoping Harry Potter will be the same.
In the lobbies of both theaters I saw this poster:
Yes, that’s the Disney logo. And yes, the movie is in Chinese. Looking to expand their reach beyond the English speaking world, Disney has produced this movie based on a famous Chinese children’s book. I’m sure it will eventually have an English version, but for now it’s slated for distribution only in Asia. The title is 宝葫芦的秘密 (Bao hulu de mimi - The Secret of the Magic Gourd).

That takes us up to Friday night. Saturday was a very eventful day, but I’m not currently at liberty to discus it, so that blog topic will have to wait.

On Sunday, RR and I took the subway across town to find a CD shop I had heard of (I wrote about their booth at the Midi Festival). We emerged from the station a bit disoriented (normally I would use the position of the sun to determine compass directions, but it was a typical Beijing day and the sun couldn’t be located through the haze). There was a map (YOU ARE HERE), but it only took me a moment’s head-scratching to realize it couldn’t possibly be accurate. Anyway, I saw a street sign that had a dong (east) arrow, so we knew which way to go. The store was small, but had a whole bunch of Chinese rock music. The prices were double or more what you pay for pop CDs in the neighborhood stores, but I don’t mind supporting actual artists. And even still, they’re cheaper than in any other country I’ve bought CDs in.

From there, we walked along a major east-west avenue and before long saw crowds of foreigners with guide books. “Must be something touristy around,” I said. And sure enough, there was the entrance to Beihai Park. It’s quite lovely, and I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.
OK, this last one will get a little explanation. The lady with the microphone is singing. The lady sitting next to her is clapping in time to the music. And the woman to the right is dancing. They didn’t have a hat out for small change – they were just enjoying the park in their own way.

I probably better explain something else. In the second Beihai picture, the one with the little kids looking down at the giant koi, you see a man with his shirt up to expose his belly. This is so common in hot weather here that you almost stop noticing it. Very seldom will a man take his shirt off, but they often just pull it up to cool off. I wonder if this fashion will catch on in the US...

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