Saturday, October 30, 2004

I went to this concert last night at Haley's Bar in the Xujiahui area. Four bands played, here is a mini review:

the herb: the second best band I've heard in Shanghai, pulled off another winner last night. Catchy tunes, a varied repertoire of moods, all with a punk/pop edge.

14 行诗: Hard hitting rock from a bunch of surfer dudes, they actually warmed up the crowd significantly. Not as talented as the Herb, but worth a listen.

玄武门: music aside, the wackiest-looking metal group I've ever seen: mini computer nerd with long black hair on the guitar; gangly, evil-clown-smile guy on the bass, happy Mr Kindergarden on the synth, pretty boy L'arc-en-ciel-type on vocals (looks that belied an amazing voice)... I think I have higher expectations artistry-wise from metal groups, and these guys didn't quite measure up. So it was still quite a nice set.

甜蜜的孩子: talented, but didn't put any creativity into their set; I spent all night thinking "what separates them from the Filipino cover bands is that they haven't covered U2"... and guess who they closed covering. Yup.

The Good: great attendance, good music for the most part.
The Bad: a crowd that warmed up slowly, the floor being blocked off by people in chairs for most of the Herb's performance.
The Ugly: the Honey's tardiness, 40-year old men in suits dancing to Rolling Stone covers.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

I like coming home to a counter full of clean, dry dishes to put away. Even if I was the one who washed them last night.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Today I was so busy at work that I bought lunch at 喜年来 (港式叉烧饭), then had to abandon it because I had to rush off to a Halloween function. When I finally got home at 7:30 or so, I realized that all day I had only consumed a glass of yogurt while preparing that morning, and a bread bun after class at 11:45. So after making a little "Happy Halloween" sign to put up on my front door, I grabbed my book (Kafka on the Shore) and trucked it down to the Wuning Road, where I knew there was a KFC. On the way, I discovered a 24-hour Be For Time Tea House, which offers all-you-can-drink milk-tea and other drinks for RMB 18 (about two bucks). I ended up eating a Big Mac combo at McDonalds. Somehow, I feel less guilty about eating it here, because it's considered to be somewhat "upscale". On the Muzak system, they actually had a nice selection going; among the tracks played were:

  • a disco remix of the "Fame" theme song.
  • a remix of Madonna's "Like a Prayer"
  • Jamiroquai's "You Give Me Something"

I almost jumped out of my chair when the "Fame" track started. It's been a while.

I want to write something parallel to Cindy's post about people nagging her to find a Taiwanese boyfriend; my little corner of Shanghai has some similar things going on. It's become more bearable since I found somebody to talk 类似 stuff over with. Some other time.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Photo captions post:

I took a random subway photo somewhere in Shanghai. The only thing notable in this photo is the small LCD screen above the track that shows the time until the next two trains arrive, an plays commercials and news.

I made a trip to the office that handles foreigners in Shanghai to apply for a residence permit. They close for lunch, delaying my own lunch. On the way back, I stopped at a little place that served my 鱼香茄子 (translated as "candied eggplant" on their English menu!) on this great square china plate, with rice and boiled taro root slices. It was RMB 6, if I remember correctly (RMB 8 = USD 1).

On Saturday I went to the Huahai Road Starbucks across from Parksons for the montly Shanghai Expat website meet-up. Asa and I spent a long time chatting with folks at Starbucks and over lunch at this place called the Green Leaf (something like that). It was pleasant, but nothing special. I probably won't go again.

The convenience store below my apartment has some Pokky imitators in innovative flavors like Shrimp, and Cappuccino.

This morning I took a photo of the Hailida students lined up in the yard and singing the national anthem before the start of the schoolday. It looks like I'm really far away; in actuality, the kids are just really small.

On the way into town I change from the light rail to the subway at the Zhongshan Park station, and I always passed a little flower shop called Mantuoluo (曼陀罗) that looked like it offered more than just the standard cacti for sale as houseplants. But on the way home, I could never seem to find it. Well it turns out that there is more than one underground walkway to change from metro to lightrail, and that I had been taking different paths coming and going. Today I finally managed to find the flower shop on my way home, and I picked up a cute little Boston fern to put on the kitchen windowsill. I plan to pick up a few more plants for around the house.

At the recommendation of a Hailida Preschool room mother, I rode the metro all the way to its terminal station this morning, Xinzhuang Station. This also happens to be the first station of the new Line 5. I took some boring pictures of a sign, the ticket booths, and some passengers to post at Wang Jianshuo's weblog. You might be able to tell from the last picture that Xinzhuang Station is actually quite a nice place, with both northern and southern concourses, a la Shanghai Main Train Station.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Reading a book on the metro is hot.

Wearing tennis shoes with nice clothes is hot.

That is all.

Monday, October 18, 2004

I went to Croissants de France (可颂坊, the 江宁店 is my shop) this evening, and they only had a little bun left of their black bread. Instead of just putting on my disappointed face and leaving, I actually stuck around and had a talk with the store employees. I found out two things.

  1. They don't make more European style bread because Chinese don't like bread with a hard crust. This explains perfectly the bread I see in Shanghai bakeries: soft and very moist, like the gooey blueberry loaves that I buy at the place next to my apartment, or the sweet bean-paste buns I buy most mornings after class at 海丽达.
  2. Some lady arrives at the store every day at 6:50 in the morning and buys two big loaves of their European style bread when they open at seven. I, in contrast, get there every day at about 6:30 PM, as soon as I hop off the bus that brings me home from work. It's not fair.

Nevertheless, it's comforting that I can buy good bread somewhere in Shanghai. In particular, I've noted these places:

  • Croissants de France,可颂坊: has a limited selection
  • Carrefour, 家乐福: has about a dozen kinds, great baguettes.
  • BreadTalk, 面包新语: several Shanghai shops, has baguettes.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Photo comments:

On Saturday I went to the section of Wuning Road (武宁路) just west of Carrefour and walked home from there instead of taking the bus directly home. This neighborhood is very popular with high school kids because it has lots of little trinket shops, a movie theater, and a small park with lake, boats, and amusement park rides. I had lunch at a nice place. In fact, at the market this evening I bought ingredients to make two of the dishes. It's been much more fun going out to eat since I started writing down ingredients in order to recreate the dishes later. I bought a couple of books from a mobile book dealer: one Snoopy anthology in Chinese, and a collection of comics by 朱德庸, a Taiwanese artist who does a Sex-in-the-City-type strip called 涩女郎, which John recommended to me. It's my new bathroom book. They guy had the Clinton book in Chinese and English, and offered the English version to me for RMB 40 (Chinese version was RMB 30, cover price was USD 35 = about RMB 290). I should have bought it; I was quoted RMB 60 near my house tonight. Other interesting books for sale: a collection of Bible stories, and Murakami's Kafka by the Shore, of which I actually own a legit copy.

On Saturday afternoon I was distracted from my cleaning by gunfire-like popping and a cloud of smoke below my balcony. It turned out to be a wedding, with limo and lots of firecrackers. I estimate that I hear firecrackers going off in the neighborhood about once every two or three days.

There is a sign in a garden of my apartment complex that says: "Build a Socialist Society with Chinese Characteristics."

I get off of the of light rail every morning at the Caoxi South Road stop, an impressive structure of three or four stories that looks very Bladerunner-ish. As the train pulls into the station, it passes near the Ikea, which I now know has a garden on top of the roof; neat!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

A couple things that I jotted down in my pocket notebook:

  • The Shanghai metro system has several trains with Samsung LCD screens mounted by the doors playing advertisements. This morning, there was a power malfunction and the computer controlling the displays rebooted. The boot sequence showed that it was running Linux.
  • A guy going home on bus 136 the other day had RMB 591 (about USD 70) of value stored on his swipe card. I think these people are just showing off. (The bus costs RMB 1 or 1.5, RMB 2 when it has A/C.)

UPDATE: As I said in the comments to this post, I loaded RMB 300 onto my transportation value-storage card a couple of days later. It ran out on November 10th (down to RMB 2.5, I "reloaded"). This meant that RMB 300 lasted less than a month. That includes metro, bus, and taxi rides.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I haven't posted in a while because I'm still without a computer and an internet connection, and I've been trying to stay out of the internet cafe, which reeks of cigarette smoke and sucks away my time like a black hole would. If you have been visiting my blog, however, you would have noticed that I've been taking quite a few pictures with my cellphone. In this post, I would like to provide some context for a few recent pictures.

First off, I went to the Xujiahui (徐家汇) shopping/business district with John a few days ago to look at computer parts and get some price estimates, and on the way home I took a photo of some machines in the metro station. The Xujiahui Line 1 station is getting a lot of remodelling work done lately, including new signage that shows the northern extension to Line 1, and these cool machines for adding value to 交通卡 without having to wait in line for a human to do it. The 交通卡 (jiaotongka) is a value-storage card that you can use on all sorts of public transportation in Shanghai. It's very useful for me, since in the course of a normal business day I find myself riding on buses, the metro, the light rail line, and taking taxis. I can swipe my 交通卡 to pay for all four of these!

The entrance to my apartment building has a sign with the words "Respect the Elderly Building" written on it. It's appropriate, since there's an old folks home right next door. Every day when I walk to the light rail station, I pass a little plaza within our apartment complex filled with a bunch of excercise equipment that is packed with old people working out. It's really a normal sight here in Shanghai.

The other day when I was leaving my usual morning school, I saw these four cars parked across the street. License plates in China work something like this:

character, followed by
letter, followed by
space, followed by
letter, followed by
five or six numbers.

The character is an abbreviation for the province that the car is registered in. Sometimes it's quite a puzzle to match the character to the province because some of the provincial "nicknames" are nothing like the province's name. The first letter is an indication of where within the province the car was registered, and the rest is simply an incremental counter. Anyhow, the cool thing about the four cars I saw is that they were each from a different province:

沪 (pronounced "hu", from Shanghai)
A 东方之子 ("Son of the East") CHERY 2.4AT
粤 (pronounced "yue", from Guangdong)
A Mitsubishi Eclipse
京 (pronounced "jing", from Beijing)
A VW Passat
苏 (pronounced "su", from Jiangsu)
A Honda Fit, "Saloon" model

I'm not sure what this all means, but it struck my fancy at the time. And the first time I tried to take their pictures, some lady on a bike rode in front of me just as I snapped the shutter.

Yesterday I made a trip to Carrefour to buy mustard and a serrated knife. One neat thing about Carrefour is that they run several free buses around a large part of Shanghai to shuttle people in and out of their store, which is very convenient for a lot of people, including me. As I sat on the bus and waited for eight o'clock—departure time—to roll around, I noticed these guys lounging around on three over-turned shopping carts under the overpass where the buses stop. I thought it was pretty funny that they would use shopping carts as benches not fifty yards from the Carrefour front doors (though not too surprised; public benches are in short supply in the Chinese cities I've visited). All of the sudden, these guys started making a commotion, threw up their hands, and scattered; where were they going? Well, it turns out that these were the bus drivers! They hopped into the driver's seat of each bus, and drove us home. Hah!

A few days ago I went downtown to the Huaihai Road UNIQLO and bought a brownish-green collared shirt and a grey lamb's wool sweater, both for work. I took a picture of myself in the dressing room mirror.

MUGS! John insists that these should be easy to find, but even the bicycle-back peddlers that I've consulted have failed to turn up monochrome, flat-bottomed ceramic mugs. Luckily, Carrefour redeemed itself on my second trip by having two incredibly cheap almost-the-same-shade-of-yellow mugs for sale, which I snapped up on the spot. So now I have respectable mugs to drink out of. Now, for plates and bowls...

That's it. Except for one thing...

If I start a band in China, it will be called 老弱病残孕. (EDIT: Oops, it looks like I was inspired by Brad.)

Friday, October 08, 2004

Both John and Brad posted reviews of the concert at 复兴公园 (Fuxing Park) that we went to on Wednesday night. Three different people, three different opinions it seems, so time to air mine.

As one of the commenters to John's post said, the promotion for this concert was second-rate. Tickets were on sale at a skate shop, but as far as I could tell the only way to find this out was to see the post on the Shanghai Expat forums and call this character named KING, who then shadily directed me to the skate shop, where I waited around for 10 minutes while somebody came with the key to the drawer with the tickets in it. The venue was snazzily made up with posters, lamppost hangings and T-shirts for the staff and VIPs. It made me wish they had spent some of that money on posters around town, bigger ads in local papers, or flyers passed out at Shanghai universities and music shops.

The first band to come out was Shanghai band 超级市场, Supermarket. They had a keyboardist, a drummer, and a guitarist/vocalist, but they leaned heavily on their man-behind-the-Powerbook, and thus had virtually no stage presence. I like the concept of using instruments to complement a mostly digital soundtrack, but the live show was very lacking. Also, they have a ways to go making their music interesting or dance-able: most of their songs were repetitive and unfocused, with musical influences ranging all over from Jamiroquai to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. A large part of the time, I wasn't quite sure which way they were going. Half-way through their set, they brought out a female vocalist who actually bounced around, projected a decent voice, and perked up the crowd's interest. But this only lasted a few songs, by the time which I was ready to move on to...

The headliners, Ladytron. I have to admit, they disappointed a little. Like some people have said, they seemed afraid of the crowd, relying on their music and light/visual show to entertain. Also, the nature of their live performance blended a lot of songs into each other, making them mono-textural and hard to distinguish. The highlight of their show came about halfway through when a crescendoing finale to one of their songs went to a volume so high that it almost burst my eardrums—a good thing—and set a large part of the reticent crowd dancing. But they really didn't take advantage of this break-through to whip the crowd into anything more exciting, and by the time the show ended, I was left wondering where the fun had gone.

At this point, I found myself thinking that I was actually more impressed by the inter-set DJ than any of the bands.

Finally, like John, I had heard Brendan—who has Kaiser's ear—mention 花儿 so I was excited to hear them. A week or so ago, I visited the Wall shop with Asa and we previewed one of Hua'er's CDs. By the sound of it, they were an MXPX-ish punk rock band. Turns out, their show reminded me more of a Korean gayo boy band than any punk band I'd ever seen. True, they had more energy and did a much better job interacting the crowd than the previous bands had done, and their performance was entertaining enough to keep me around past the 11pm metro closing time. But, whether it is the case or not, the fact that their instruments were largely stage props to a pre-recorded soundtrack left me wondering whether they had really penned the music at all, or were just hand-picked for their peppy smiles and spiky purple hair.

Overall, it was nice to say that I've seen Ladytron in concert, but by the end of the concert, I was no longer bemoaning the lack of a merchandise booth. None of the bands really left me asking for more.

The Shanghai Expat website has more reactions.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

I'm considering a trip to Shanghai's outlying islands. It looks like it's a doable two-day trip, except that my passport is occupied receiving a visa extension, making finding accommodation a risky proposal.

Sitting in front of me are two tickets to the Ladytron concert on Wednesday at Fuxing Park.