This weekend, the seminal Beijing band Chui Wan will launch their (self-titled) second album after an extensive U.S tour. Their new single, The Sound of Wilderness, debuted on NPR last week - quite possibly a milestone for the Chinese indie scene. The album's highlights include the seven-minute closer "Beijing is Sinking", a swirling, chaotic song about staying afloat in a torrent of change. An apt metaphor, perhaps, for all the musicians in Beijing's fiercely iconoclastic indie underground. Initial reviews for the album are buoyant. It's seen as a coming-of-age moment for the band, for its influential record label Maybe Mars, and perhaps even for the small, vibrant Beijing indie community. So let's turn back the clock to the early 2000s, to post-SARS Beijing, and see how we got here. [more inside]
The Rat Tribe of Beijing. A photo-essay about diverse folks who live in former bomb shelters turned into private apartments underneath the streets of Beijing. By Al-Jazeera America.
"If all the other schools have a dome, then we’ve got to have a dome." Inside Beijing's airpocalypse, a city made 'almost uninhabitable' by pollution
A controversial player follows up a disappointing NBA career with a major success in the Chinese Basketball Association, including two national titles with the Beijing Ducks (yes, they're named after the delicious Peking Duck dish). Now, he's Starring in a musical about himself in Beijing.(NYT)
"...With China’s growing economic weight, disposable income and willingness to engage internationally, its ability to radically transform the fortunes of small countries has seen many governments re-orientate their diplomatic endeavors away from traditional bases in the West.
"But with so few resources available to them, and so little political capital to bank on, these lonely diplomats face a struggle against limited budgets as they scrap for crumbs from the giant’s table."
A Chinese professor, Zhang Lin, has spent years building an actual mountain on top of an apartment building in Beijing, without ever having received a permit for the construction. Ceilings are cracking in the apartments of his downstairs neighbors.
Xiaoou is a Norwegian artist who raps in Mandarin Chinese about income inequality in China, his love for Beijing, and going through a breakup.
"Chinese citizens can file petitions about their grievance with so-called letters and visits offices of various levels of government organs and courts, a mechanism set up in the 1950s. Under the current system, the number of petitions filed during an official's tenure is used as a yardstick for performance evaluation, prompting local governments to use every means possible to stop petitioners and shuffle them home. It has become an open secret that local governments hire "black guards" in the capital to stop petitioners from filing a grievance, thus reducing the number of petitions that are recorded." -- A day in the life of a Beijing "black guard".
James Fallows, in a series of interesting blog posts, questions the typical English pronunciation of China's capital city arguing that "the "jing" in Beijing is pronounced basically like the "jing" in Jingle Bells. It's essentially the normal English j- sound. What it's not like is the Frenchified zh- sound you hear in "azure" or "leisure," or at the end of "sabotage."" One reader suggests, "My working theory about "Beijing/bay-zhing" is that at some deep, unconscious level, English speakers secretly believe that all foreign languages are French and should be pronounced as such in the absence of instructions to the contrary." Another reader argues, "Major cities and countries have historically had different names in different languages, and these names serve a good purpose by being easy to pronounce and identify in the languages where they are used. There is really no more reason to say "Beijing" in English than "München" or "Moskva."" [more inside]
How Fast Can China Go? On June 30, China had the first official run of a $32 billion high-speed train line between Shanghai and Beijing. "Faster (820 miles in 288 minutes) and sleeker than any other, the needle-nosed CRH380A symbolizes China’s accelerating pace, even as it faces questions about safety, and taps into an ancient rivalry with Japan." On page four, the article discusses what happened less than a month afterwards on July 23rd: the country's first accident involving a bullet train that killed 40 people near Wenzhou. As a result, 54 high speed trains were recalled, train speeds were reduced and an overhaul of the high-speed rail system was launched by Chinese authorities. [more inside]
When Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was released from government custody it was with several conditions. Ai was slapped with a travel ban, was not to speak to the media about his detention and was banned from using social media. Since his release he has returned to Twitter, joined Google+, given an interview to a Party-run newspaper and on August 28 he published a piece in Newsweek that calls Beijing "a constant nightmare". [more inside]
China’s capital is restricting car numbers and pumping money into trains. Is it headed for a less congested future – or already a city beyond help?
4 photogenic youngsters travel to beautiful cities, to Paris, Barcelona, Beijing & London. Short, upbeat commercials by Gustav Johansson & Albin Holmqvist for a French language school
A Beijing graphics design house makes with the stylish and creepy in a Neil Gaiman adaptation of his tongue-in-cheek mini-story, "Nicholas Was."
The Daily Beast attempts to identify America's Smartest Cities. Rather more seriously, Nature ponders the Best Cities for Science worldwide, as part of its special on Science and the City. (The podcast segment on cities is a nice overview.)
Winter is here in the northern hemisphere and there is snow in many places, including China. In Beijing, heavy snows can stop the city but can’t stop the fun, as this snowman and snow sculpture collection shows.
Chairman Mao's Underground City is a pictorial travelogue of a small part of the tunnels that Chairman Mao had built under Beijing to serve as a nuclear fallout shelter. The intrepid urban explorers come across some surprising things. The complex, which was built by hand, could house three hundred thousand people for up to four months and had amenities such as restaurants, cinemas and roller rinks. Here's a short Travel Channel feature on the Underground City.
Beijing loves IKEA - but not for shopping. "Every weekend, thousands of looky-loos pour into the massive showroom to use the displays. Some hop into bed, slide under the covers and sneak a nap; others bring cameras and pose with the decor. Families while away the afternoon in the store for no other reason than to enjoy the air conditioning."
Beijing's underground: "Five years ago, none of my students at Tsinghua or Beida had any interest in what we would call countercultural stuff," says Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Beida's -- that is, Peking University's -- Guanghua School of Management who owns D-22 and the Maybe Mars label. Today Mr. Pettis estimates that a quarter of his students have been to rock clubs and maybe 5% to 10% "are really knowledgeable and sophisticated."
We are in the midst of a Ferris wheel craze. In 2009. "This year, Germany will unveil the Great Berlin Wheel. Upon its completion, the wheel will be 606 feet high — as high as two football fields are long, as high as three Niagara Falls. It will be taller than what’s currently the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, the Singapore Flyer, a soon-to-be-disappointing 541 feet high. This year, China also plans to unveil the Beijing Great Wheel. At an awesome 682 feet high, it will be taller than both the Great Berlin Wheel and the Singapore Flyer (which only debuted as the world’s tallest Ferris wheel last year) ... China has, in fact, built wheels in six cities since the start of the new millennium."
At about 9:00PM last night, the nearly completed 40 story Mandarin Oriental Beijing caught fire. By midnight the entire building was engulfed in flames. The hotel was situated next to the CCTV Building, a new Beijing landmark known to locals as "The Big Underpants". Early reports suggest that illegal fireworks launched for the Lantern Festival, the last night of the Chinese New Year holiday, were the cause.
"Conquer English to Make China Stronger!" is the philosophy of Li Yang, founder of the Crazy English school (and style) of language, described by some as "English as a Shouted Language" for its main method of shouting English words in public to overcome shyness. Li Yang has achieved Elvis-like popularity in China, not just through his public lectures but also through the sales of books, media, teaching materials, and a memoir titled "I am Crazy, I Succeed". Li Yang's unorthodox methods - which include encouraging students to "lose face" and cope with embarrassment on the way to success - have earned him fame and fortune, including headlining the 5th Beijing Foreign Language Festival and being the main English teacher for China's Olympic volunteers. Li Yang's secret to success: "... to have them continuously paying—that’s the conclusion I’ve reached."
An open letter to sports columnist Jay Mariotti, who resigned from the Sun-Times and lashed out during a TV interview announcing that newspapers were dead. (via Sports Filter)
Beijing Olympics Stadium, about 30 minutes before the the men's 100m final. A 360-degree view (including overhead) from the stands by Finnish photographer Kari Kuukka.
Some of the female Chinese gymnasts are apparently under-age. It wasn't their skulls, their chins or their eyes that gave them away: it was the internet.
Yang Wei, the 2006 and 2007 mens gymnastics world champion, and number 13 on Time Magazine's 100 Olympic Athletes to Watch in Beijing 2008, is a symbol of absolute power and coordination. He stands 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 121 pounds.
Garry Linnell eats hot cock at a local Beijing penis restaurant [SFW]. Suddenly tripe doesn't sound so gross.
Opening the Olympic Ceremony with a bow to ancient Chinese tradition, 2,008 Drummers on the traditional Fou drums. [more inside]
SexyBeiJin (性感北京) Weddings Gone Wild Beijing Vs. Hong Kong Lost in Translation The Lost in Translation piece (above) introduces Beijing folks and the English names they have chosen for themselves. One "auntie" goes by the name "Smacker" (it sounds nice), and so SexyBeijing develops an entirely new segment called Ask Smacker. Hosted by Anna Sophie Loewenberg, the show has a frequently updated blog and downloadable video and audio podcasts. [more inside]
The Olympic Boom is shaping a new Beijing. These fancy new venues and skyscrapers are being built largely by migrant workers facing a harsh reality. The non-stop construction has also threatened to make these "green games" brown. The city may be smoggy and mistreated migrant workery now, but don't you worry, a series of measures will be taken to curb the pollution for the events.
The new terminal at Beijing airport is big. No, wait, I mean it's REALLY BIG. That is, REALLY FUCKING BIG. And there's plenty of other massive construction projects underway in Beijing, many designed by European architects. Like they say, though, if you wanna make an omelette, you gotta break some eggs. And well, they seem to be doing a better job of that than these guys. [more inside]
As Beijing prepares for the Olympics next year it is trying to clean up some of the shadier sides of the city. Apparently, one way of doing this is going to the popular bar street, Sanlitun, and arresting and beating all the men who appear to be of African decent, even if one happens to be the son of a diplomat.
SimCity 2008, Scenario: Beijing. Prepare your city for the 2008 Olympics. Raze slums, build luxury hotels, and stadiums. Make the nation, and the world, proud!
An interesting collection of contemporary Chinese photography at “Meeting place Foto Fest Beijing 2006”. Among the 34 portfolios: Shackled prisoners, Children’s IDs, an actor awaiting his entrance by Luo Dan, the symmetrical works of Li Nan, images by Xu Yong and Li Yu. Many more inside. Click to enlarge. (Via)
BOCOG announced their official Olympic mascots recently. One of them is based on the Tibetan Antelope. Students for a Free Tibet don't like the idea.
In her autobiography, "Living History," Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton recounts how China's imprisonment of a prominent human rights activist, Harry Wu, caused a sensation in the United States and nearly derailed her plans to attend a United Nations women's conference held in Beijing in 1995. In the officially licensed Chinese edition of Mrs. Clinton's book, though, Mr. Wu makes just a cameo appearance. While named, he is otherwise identified only as a person who was "prosecuted for espionage and detained awaiting trial." But nearly everything Mrs. Clinton had to say about China, including descriptions of her own visits here, former President Bill Clinton's meetings with Chinese leaders and her criticisms of Communist Party social controls and human rights policies, has been shortened or selectively excerpted to remove commentary deemed offensive by Beijing. My question: is anybody other than Hillary really suprised by this?
"Architecture is the only art that moulds the world directly ... Nobody in the 20th century grasped this more firmly than Speer's patron and employer, Adolf Hitler." Albert Speer was the man Hitler picked to mould his future empire, starting with its capital, Berlin, that would have been rechristened Germania. In an ironic twist of fate, Albert Speer's son, also named Albert Speer and also an architect, is currently in the running to radically rebuilt Beijing.
Confucius is making a comeback at the Shengtao Experimental School north of Beijing, where the children of China's elite are once again studying the teachings of Confucius. It will be interesting to see what impact studying the classics has on the next generation of China's leaders.
'XIAMEN: A senior Beijing researcher on Taiwan affairs yesterday called for immediate measures to resist an ongoing bid by the island to promote its cultural independence..'. [More]
Don't look behind that wall, Mr. Olympic inspector. In advance of the ongoing assesment by 17 Olympic inspectors, thousands of unwanted people have been tossed into a detention center in China, without trial. For a month, 500 to 600 people a day have been tossed in. Human Rights in China interviewed former inmates of the detention centre, and they reported
"There were no bathing facilities, food was poured from buckets and fought over by mice, and beatings with leather belts were common."Is this what China does to "put on its game face"?