Saturday, April 30, 2005

Thanks to emacs' quick replace-regexp, I've got a quick template for commenting on this month's cellphone pics.

This is the lunch that we can get at the cafeteria in the building that our new offices are in. There are two choices: RMB 6 (75 cents) will get you one meat serving plus veggies, soup and rice; and RMB 8 (a buck) will get you two meat servings, plus a piece of fruit. Cheap, but still cafeteria food. I haven't been there since I took this picture.

That first character was one of my first encounters with Chinese handwriting, where some of the characters become a little more simplified and harder to recognize than their printed version. In that case (many years ago), it was the 本 ("this") in "this restaurant welcomes you" on the disposable chopsticks sleeve. In this case, it's the same character in "this elevator services the odd floors".

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a guy carrying an Alberto's Mexican Food bag on the platform of the Jing'an Temple metro stop. I really should have asked him where the bag was from...

A view off the back-top of the Worker's Cultural Palace where I attend dance class. The front of the building faces People's Square, and the back looks toward the shopping area of Nanjing East Road that leads up to the Bund. Can you see the Oriental Pearl Tower in the distance? On the left-hand side of the photo is an old neighborhood that I'm going to investigate what renting a place would entail.

Dance, dance, dance!

Besides the West Lake, Hangzhou has some very nice parks. I really wish I had prepared my nice camera for that weekend trip.

There's a Hello Pizza 15 minutes from my house, and another 5 minutes from my work. Needless to say, I've been eating too much pizza lately (see the last two pictures in this entry).

A view of one of Shanghai's elevated freeways, outside the window of our office.

This was taken standing about 30 feet from the front door of my apartment. I told you I was close to the light rail station. Jinshajiang Road, in the hiz-ouse! Putuo Qu, w00t!

Here I am reading my new book, Wei Cheng (Fortress) by a pre-1949 Chinese writer, at a cafe on Nanjing West Road. I used to dislike going to teach at Longtan Preschool, but haven't minded so much since I've since discovered that I can take the 206 bus back to the Ritz-Carlton area, walk 10 minutes to a nice little cafe that has an RMB 20 fish and chips business lunch set, sit and read for a while, and then make the 15 minute trek back to work. Boneless fish! In China!

Sandy, Micah and Eva: three Melodies out for dinner.

Melodies happy to be hours away from a weeklong May holiday: Sharon and Luna take the elevator down to lunch, and Elaine, Susan and Amy chat by the front desk.

Today after work, I celebrated the beginning of the holiday by treating Sandy to a pizza lunch at Hello Pizza. Garlic chicken for her, (real) pepperoni for me. We picked up magazines to browse while we were waiting, and mine had an article with a Mian Mian interview, and an article about love by her. Neat.

Mosquitoes are invading the house. Is it time to start using the air conditioning already?

Shanghai weblogger myrick posted photos on Flickr of the recent Shanghai Auto Show. To quote the gwailo:

Unsurprisingly, few photos of actual cars.

He also has a post about it.

Friday, April 29, 2005

I've been having problems with my camera phone because my MMSs were not managing to get through to the server, so I had a big backpile of photos stored on it. Recently, that blockage came undone so I've uploaded a bunch of old photos. I'll do a big review sometime. In th meantime, here's two I took in the last week or so, with some explanation:

Xinshidai Preschool has a really cool piano teacher. She has this great double personality like my mom and me, where she'll be super angry at the kids and then turn and smile at you the very next second. On Thursday, she wasn't in class, then showed up at the very end of the day with a bowl of pineapple slices sprinkled with sugar (it's pineapple season, you can buy them freshly skinned on just about every street corner in Shanghai). I got to have fresh pineapple with the two and three year olds, and when they looked with envy on my piece, I couldn't help but share it with them. It was... heartwarming.

You know it's summer when the bus seats get covered with bamboo mats.

Good morning, mommy.
我好爱你. (I really love you)
Good morning, daddy.
我好爱你. (I really love you)
Good morning, everybody.
高兴在一起. (Happy together)
Good morning, teachers.
我好感谢你. (I'm grateful to you)
I'm happy, I'm happy.
快快乐乐上学去. (Happily we go to school)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I need somebody to hold me so that I know it's OK to cry.

A question that has been in my mind since I was a kid is, would I send my kids to public school in a foreign country? That question has become all the more acute since I started to consider living long-term in China.

Having gone to Spanish public school for so many years has cocktail party utility, but I blame it for my near-absolute lack of creativity and critical thinking. I just wonder if Chinese school wouldn't have the same effect on a kid but magnified a hundred times. And even if you think "American parents will mean that the child will be different from their classmates", well, no matter how much influence you think you have on your kids, the place that you send them for 6 hours of 180 days each year is going to have a strong influence on their mental development.

The other side of the coin is that not sending your kids to Chinese schools will isolate them from their surroundings in a much stronger way than it would in Spain because the written Chinese language is nearly impossible to simply pick up naturally. And I highly value the cultural education I got from attending a public school abroad, so it is important to me that my kids be culturally conversive (if not fluent) in the country where we live.

I've never had a very satisfying conversation on this topic. Last night I was at the Tanghui with John and Brad, and we were approached by another Shanghai weblogger, Pat, who recognized us from our pictures online. We got to talking about his family, because he is married to a Chinese and has a young kid. Then John asked him very earnestly if he was going to send his kid to school. My tired ears perked up, but we didn't get to talk about it because Pat intends to return to the USA by the time his kid is old enough for school (correct me if I'm wrong!).

A few days ago somebody posted a question to the ShanghaiExpat forums asking which international school in Shanghai was best. Since there were some conflicting opinions about whether international schools were worth sending kids to, I asked what the alternatives were. There has been no reply.

I wonder if a combination of taking year-long breaks from Chinese-style schooling, and home schooling instead would help to round out their education. I also wonder what issues other long-term expat parents would have with sending their kids to local schools abroad.

It's something to think about.

Shanghai preschool campuses come in several flavors, which I've distilled into three basic categories: ancient, old, and modern. The ancient ones I estimate are over 40 years old, dark and gloomy, and probably converted from other uses. They usually have creaky wooden floors, and cast-iron railings painted bright colors. Take Xiao Bai Ling, the school I went to today: it's three floors tall, with a large open space in the middle so that when you walk inside the building you can see up to the top floor (this is actually a feature found in some modern schools, like Meizhi'er); or a school that I went to for a demo class with Trina a couple months ago, that had been converted from an old natatorium: the sandbox was a filled in swimming-pool, and the floor of the activity hall was sunk five or six feet into the ground, in a half-filled-in pool. The ancient schools hold a certain charm for me.

Old schools were probably built in the seventies or early eighties, after China came out of the tumultuous Cultural Revolution: the outsides are covered in white or grey tile, many are have been fixed up in recent years, insulation is minimal, and the colorful decorations that are intended to delight the little ones can't hide the utilitarian and unimaginative design of the school buildings, and the bare-bones facilities therein. These schools are generally well-established and have good reputations. Examples of old schools are Meizhi'er, Longtan and Shili.

Modern schools are ones built in the past ten years, during Shanghai's recent economic boom. Typically, they are housed in buildings designed specifically for them by housing developments looking to attract a famous private school to set up a branch in their gated community. A common feature of these schools is that they aren't using all of the classrooms in their preschool because they either haven't recruited enough students from their still-low-occupancy neighborhoods, or because the designers went building schools that went above and beyond the requirements of a simple preschool. These schools also tend to have activity halls, physical education rooms and facilities, art rooms, dance rooms, piano rooms... they are simply too big! Modern schools tend to be located in new suburbs of Shanghai. Examples of modern schools are Xinshidai Huayuan and Hailida.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I lost my dancing shoes.




I put the Chaoyang Music Festival on my calendar because I hear some good bands are playing (including Cold Fairyland, and look for spin-off events in bars around the city like the Nameless Highland), but I probably won't make it up there. Still, I got a related e-mail that I thought would be worth putting up here, sort of as a public service announcement:

An LA punk band called the Urinals is coming out to play the festival. They're playing 5/1 in the evening and on 5/2 and 5/5. Please do stop by if you're up in Beijing for the festival and spread the word if the band looks appealing to you. Say hey too if you can.

Here's the band's website--they're from the first wave of punk, played with Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Minutemen etc.

Also, our trip blog:

They weblog; cool.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

I almost feel like giving away my USD 200 Fuji Finepix and switching full-time to the camera that Laurel donated to me. Yup, the single megapixel, CMOS-based piece of junk that I lost the cord to, and then ended up just buying the same camera on eBay when the cord proved impossible to replace by itself. The new camera cost me USD 15.

See, when I use the Fuji Finepix 340 (4 megapixels), I end up apologizing to everybody for the fuzzy pictures because I mostly use it indoors and hate the washed-out colors that I get when I use flash, so I often go flashless. And it's a good camera, so I should be able to get good pictures, but I don't and then people complain.

But with Laurel's camera I have an excuse. "Sorry! Bad camera, bad pictures!" And other advantages:

  • It doesn't even have an LCD screen, so you just snap and don't worry about whether it came out or not. And nobody can bug you to see "how ugly" they looked.
  • Since it's CMOS-based, the shutter speed is higher than on the Finepix. Better action shots.
  • It still has problem in poor light, but like I said, it's supposed to!
  • It feels more rugged than the Finepix, and it's cheaper to replace, and I have two of them. So I stick it in the pocket of my jeans and carry it around anywhere.
  • I worry less about it getting stolen.
  • It runs forever on two AA batteries.

So it makes taking pictures much more stress-free.

Oops, it's only 0.3 megapixels. As samples, most of the pictures on my old photo weblog (proxy) were taken with Laurel's camera (an RCA CDS1005, to be exact). Also, see the cameras page on my wiki.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

I post on ShanghaiExpat:

Guhuaji was cool, it was their first time playing but both of their songs were catchy and not at all repetitive, a common failing of new bands. Asa would have liked them: their vocalist and drummer were both chicks. Their sound reminded me of Hole, the vocalist being just a bit more growly and angry than Courtney Love.

Megaphone as usual was pure, polished punk. It was good to be reminded that Shanghai does have some top notch (and recognized) bands. They drew the biggest crowd, as this show was advertised as a punk show. And coolness, they gave us, I think, three encores. Much was moshed.

Another Kind of Light: I'm not sure if it was me being really tired, but I didn't really get into them. So I'm not going to say anything more.

At this point I left.

I also want to add that when I heard that the old Gua'er Music Factory location in the scrap metal yard was being abandoned, I was gloomy. But this new bar is actually a cool, homey dive. A bit small, maybe, but dark and unkempt. And my only gripe with the old location was that they didn't sell drinks. Well, that's fixed now.

Bad picts (good camera is out on loan):

I made a total fool of myself and didn't realize that the drummer for Cold Fairyland is the drummer for Another Kind Of Light ("Hi, and who are you hear to listen to? Oh. I see." *blush*). When I went to the Hangzhou music festival, the folks from Cold Fairyland were staying at the same hotel, down the hall, from Sonnet, and invited them to spend the night at a bath-house across the street from the hotel. It seems like the Shanghai bands tend to socialize and cross-fertilize. Chris and I saw Sonnet with their instruments having dinner together at a Zhongshan Park mall on Tuesday night. They said they were about to head out to do a concert on Tongren Lu. I don't know, I'm still getting a feel for this place and how it works.

Every once in a while John quizzes me about the usefulness of the wiki, and I have to admit that there's not much collaboration going on at my own wiki.

But now I'm able to report that in the past week I've had three anonymous contributions to the content of the wiki, and this makes me very happy:

I miss the days in Ann Arbor when some neighbors kept wikis, and others contributed frequently (cf Ann Arbor FiveDollarMeals).

Friday, April 22, 2005

[msittig@petisuis ~]# perl '6:30' /mp3/Everything\ But\ The\ Girl/Amplified\ Heart/ Set to play "Everything But The Girl" today at 6:30 AM. Sleeping 4 hours, 43 minutes...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I'll be posting less over the next couple of weeks because I'm working through some personal issues which require most of my online-time to be spent writing e-mails. Nothing drastic, just a temporary change of focus.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Let's review my plans for this weekend, and see how they turned out, but let's save time by drawing on quotes I left on message boards and weblogs:

Morning: check out the big anti-Japan demonstration...

How did this turn out?

I was gonna go for the same reason, just to see.

And then I went the lemonkono route and... slept in.

I have something of an excuse. Dave called the night before, and I stayed up late on the phone. Late for a Friday night.

Something I forgot to mention here is that, through a friend of a friend, I made an appointment to hang out with some 大专 girls to practice English that afternoon. Then it turns out I had the day wrong, and it was Sunday. Still, Edison (the friend of the friend) came out and helped me get a hold of his student to figure out why they hadn't showed up (oops, my bad), and we chatted for a while. Let's just say... he has a very different attitude towards women than I do. And Jodi says that westerners are 开放, heh.


Afternoon: hit up the new Gua'er Music Bar for an all-Shanghai metal concert.

How about this? It was very cool, the new venue is very dark and small, and the bands that played were decent. Highlights was meeting Max, who was taking pictures for Painkiller Magazine; hearing 宣武门 (Xuan Wu Men) play, a band I haven't heard in a while, and had forgotten how good they are: the nerdy guitarist plays like a madman, the vocalist screams like an alto, progressive rock (卫前摇滚) at its best; and meeting Liu Yi outside during intermission and chatting about Nanjing and Radiohead. It's too bad Mirage had to cancel their Shanghai dates; I was looking forward to hearing Xuan Wu Men play with them again on Sunday.

I had to leave early to make it to:

[At this point, but with a lot more written, I accidentally click Blogger's accursed "Recover Post" button, and instead of recovering my post, it truncates it to the preceding 3k characters. I lose about three quarters of my work. Darn you, Blogger.]

Evening: breakbeats with Chris(?) at the Remix Bar

Does Chris make it? His SMS:

I don't see your fool ass, micah! :o

Chris is there. Michael is there with is girlfriend. Jodi is there (I hate dancing alone). Amnjik drops the experimental beats. B6 plays mainstream (cf Chris "this is getting pretty gay"), The dance floor fills up. Jodi and I leave at 11pm, because we don't want to miss the start of:

Late night: run over to DKD afterwards for Miss Kittin's Shanghai appearance.

From the SmartShanghai message board:

Four hours?! Heh, that means I left about halfway through. (at the girl's request, of course)

I was expecting more electroclash, but otherwise was pretty pleased.

Nice to bump into moneyinabox, it's too bad I don't recognize many other people. Sounds like ya'll had a smashing time.

The breakcore pre-party at the Remix bar got pretty hot.

Other stuff:

stop by the print shop and submit a poster [did this Sunday], send out some e-mails [trouble connecting to the interent], clean the house [Sunday evening], check out options for evening/weekend Chinese study at East China Normal University [didn't get to... back on the ThingsToDo list], send Song Shen a birthday e-mail [sent an SMS], run an errand at the bank [Mr Payroll will be after me still], and eat a bite here and there [didn't eat].

Sunday I slept in. For lunch, I met up with some girls in Xujiahui. We had McDonalds and talked. It was fun, but in a very junior high way. Afterwards, I went home and cleaned the house. I had dinner on Nanjing Road, which is packed now that the weather is turning summery. It's still very pretty, with all the neon lights.

I've been offline for the past two days because my magical Internet dial-up card finally ran out. It was supposed to only have RMB 30 of value on it, but I'm sure I used it for a lot more.

Sometimes my dad packs some books and snacks, and heads up to his parents' cabin for a weekend up in the mountains by Big Bear Lake. He says he goes up there to read, think, and write because it's a chance to get away from all the distractions of daily life "down here". For all we know, he could be sleeping in and playing skeeball all weekend.

But for me, weekends without the internet are like that: refreshing times of thinking problems through without dashing them off in an e-mail, forgetting or even possibly aggravating them.

So it was sorta a blessing when I had a very frustrating time getting back online. Last night I threw on another t-shirt and grabbed a book, intending to light-rail it down to Zhongshan Park for dinner and a new internet dial-up card. When I ran past the little kiosk on the corner that sells gum, drinks, and tea eggs, I noticed that one of their signs advertised 上网卡, "internet cards". I picked one up, and then re-routed to Nanjing Road to buy the Swiss Army knife I've had my eye on.

After dinner at Daniang dumplings, I caught the metro back and tried to hop online. After a frustrating two hours of tweaking wvdial.conf, wading through a mess of authorization failures and pppd error codes (I love Linux. No, really.), I finally got online, only to discover that I could only access sites within China. Pinging foreign sites gave a Packet filtered message, new to me. There were some exceptions: Google, Yahoo Korea, and were all accessible. I spent another futile, teeth-grinding half-hour flipping settings before finally calling it a night, hanging some laundry, and preparing for bed.

As I walked back to my room, I had a hunch. I looked on the back of the card, recalling seeing something like "Chinanet" mentioned there. Sure enough, the card is limited to 中国互联网, and a glance at my older spent card showed that it gives the user access to the 国际互联网.

Hooray for the Chinanet.

So people who were expecting an e-mail, it's coming.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Check out my crazy schedule for tomorrow:

  • Morning: check out the big anti-Japan demonstration as it winds its way from the Bund, down East Nanjing Rd, through People's Square, and on to Hongqiao, where the Japanese Consulate is (I'll probably miss that last part).
  • Afternoon: hit up the new Gua'er Music Bar for an all-Shanghai metal concert.
  • Evening: breakbeats with Chris(?) at the Remix Bar, an encore performance by some guys from the Creek Art Center concert a couple weeks ago.
  • Late night: run over to DKD afterwards for Miss Kittin's Shanghai appearance. I picked up the tickets after work today.

And sometime in there I hope to stop by the print shop and submit a poster, send out some e-mails, clean the house, check out options for evening/weekend Chinese study at East China Normal University, send Song Shen a birthday e-mail, run an errand at the bank, and eat a bite here and there.

According to the notices posted in the window of the real estate right outside my apartment complex, you can buy a two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of my 17 floor apartment for RMB 65万, or RMB 650,000.

In fact, I went back and checked yesterday and you can buy the apartment I'm currently living in (or one exactly like it, although maybe my landlords really are selling it out from under me): 1.5 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, on the 17th floor of 17, for RMB 45.8万, or RMB 458,000.

Mind you, my apartment is at the top of the middle of the heap; sort of a stand-out upscale in an older neighborhod of 6 floor apartment buildings.

(RMB 650,000 = USD 78,536, RMB 458,000 = USD 55,337)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

So web services and cobbling them together is all the rage on the Net these days. Here's my idea.

Input: a search term (specifically, the title of a song).

Output: an HTML file, a CSS file, and a little Javascript.


  1. Scrape a Baidu MP3 Search for the given song title to grab the URL of a recording of the song in MP3 format.
  2. Scrape a Baidu Lyrics Search for the lyrics of the song.
  3. For each line of the lyrics:
    1. Scrape my Chinese Tool to get the pinyin and English for the song lyrics.
    2. Ask Flickr for a picture that relates to the line of lyrics.
  4. Generate an S5 Slide Show: embed an auto-play link to the MP3 file, one line of lyrics with superscript pinyin per slide, each slide with a Flickr image background.

Click as you sing along. Ta-dah, one-stop home karaoke!

Monday, April 11, 2005

I think we should all agree that BreadTalk's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bacon" is the stupidest name for a bread, ever.

But "Fire Floss" (for spicy rou song-covered buns) is pretty cool.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Every few months, I significantly prune the number of weblogs I subscribe to in Bloglines. This weekend I spent some time with John, and some things that came up during our conversations reminded me that I need to spend less time online and more time hitting the books, focusing on future goals. For the record, then, here is the list of weblogs to which I subscribed before the Great Purge of April 2005 (the new list can be found by clicking on the link above):

I just came back from a quick one-day/one-night trip to Hangzhou with John and company. We had late-night chicken hotpot, lunched and played UNO surrounded by the Longjin tea-fields in the mountains to the south-west of the West Lake, dined at the Banana Leaf Thai restaurant, and then drove home.

I'll have some cellphone pics up in a bit.

UPDATE: Here come the photos.

The hills are semi-terraced, the roots of the tea bushes holding the soil in steps, one for each row. You can see the ladies wearing straw hats climbing the mountain. Lots of college students had made the trip up to the mountains today too.

We had a huge lunch, RMB 30 for each person (about USD 4) with main ingredients being cured pork, bamboo shoots, fish, rice, veggies... and of course, green tea. We ate outdoors, and this made the food taste ten times better than it would have tasted indoors.

Summer hiking back down the mountain.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I like it when other people write my weblog posts for me:

last evening, it felt like the summer in Shanghai.

Back in March, I wrote a post about it being warm enough to open my window. Tonight, the windows are thrown wide open because I'm covered in a sticky layer of humidity.

Last night I was launching myself across the mosh pit. Tonight I was stepping daintily around the latin dance floor.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Here's a repost of the review of the concert "DISTURBANCE & 四百击 @ Harley's" that I posted on ShanghaiExpat:

Just got back from the concert! Sooo much energy was expended, it was unbelievable. The Wuhan band was pretty good, although some metal influence showed and it wasn't too pretty. Still, they had a decent mosh pit going. But Disturbance definitely brought down the house. The place was packed by the time they started, and there was much dancing and moshing. All four members of the band sported mohawks, a nice change from the usual Shanghai (China?) jeans and t-shirts, and maybe some bleached hair here and there. The lead singer was angry! and the crowd got angry with him. A couple of very very large mohawked supporters joined the pit and people started flying, it was delicious! Shirts came off, fists went up, and the crowd backed away in awe. By the last song, I had poured out every last ounce of energy onto the floor, and so had many of the punk fans dripping with sweat around me as they kept themselves bouncing for one more song.

The only negative things to note are the size of Harley's (the place keeps getting fuller and fuller with every show), and that the microphone of the main singer kept cutting out in the middle of songs; but maybe that had to do with the fact that he asked the sound man to turn the volume up three or four times during the show.

And so my ears are still ringing. My clothes smell like smoke. I will sleep like a log tonight.

And punk's not dead.

Three things on the topic of race.


I was talking to a new co-worker on Monday, and he was saying that when he looked at it from a certain perspective, he didn't see what was so wrong with American slavery. "I mean," he said, "if the US hadn't taken slaves, they wouldn't have the strong economy that they do today." And it's true. If we could relive history over again, would we give up our dominant position in the world to spare the suffering of the slaves?


I'm reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, and since I just finished Hannah Arhendt's Eichman in Jerusalem I can't help but draw parallels between the German treatment of the Jews and the treatment of Native Americans by the American government in the 1800's. "Forced emmigration" vs "forced removal", and similar attitudes of racial superiority.

Lest this seem like an endorsement of the book, let me say that A People's History has a lot of problems that I won't get into just yet.


In the previous post I mentioned that I went to McDonalds for an ice cream float on Monday night. Well, that was half the reason. The other was to use the bathroom.

At this particular McDonalds, above the urinals they have little posters in frames of Ronald McDonald telling jokes in Chinese for customers to read while "taking care of business." This is a rough paraphrase of one of the jokes above my urinal:

A young black man went to a fried chicken restaurant to eat lunch. He had just gotten his food and sat down when three members of the KKK ("3K党", literally the Three K Party) walked in looking for trouble. They headed over to his table, made menacing gestures pointing at his food and said "hey, you black devil (黑鬼, or something similar), we're going to do to you exactly like you're doing to this chicken!" So the boy looked down at his food, slowly picked up a piece of chicken, turned it over and kissed it on the 屁股, on its little chicken butt.

I don't even know what to think about that.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Food expenses on Monday:

RMB 4 + 4
Lunch out with co-workers at a place near my house. One bowl of mountain veggie soup with extremely tender beef chunks, and a helping of ramen-like noodles with an almost sweet sauce, salty peanuts, and sour preserved veggies.
RMB 5 + 1.8
Snack before teaching class in late afternoon. One cheap but good milk-based apple drink, and one Kinder chocolate bar with hazelnut filling.
RMB 5.5 + 2.5
Dinner in the back alleys just off Shanghai's most famous, but not necessarily best, shopping street: Nanjing East Road. One bowl of curry ramen with beef slices and Chinese cilantro, and a fried egg by request. Also, one box of seven takoyaki (fried octopus batter spheres, in sweet sauce and topped with seaweed).
RMB 5.5
Dessert just before dance class, at McDonalds on Nanjing East Road. One plain ice cream cone, promptly dumped into a small cup of coke: ice cream float.
Saltines and yogurt, back at home.

Overall, RMB 28.3 (about USD 3.5). Not bad for one day, but then again I don't eat much.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

This post is a collection of some things I wrote down in my pocket notebook today.

Let's say that you can see yourself staying in China long term, and that you intend to make Chinese friends and have Chinese co-workers, maybe date Chinese, etc. Would you feel comfortable joining—getting to know people, joining a Bible study, volunteering for Sunday School duty—a church where you were required to bring a passport to prove that you were a foreigner, because Chinese are not allowed inside? Would this be a viable choice for the long-term?

We sang a song about freedom coming from God, and I felt really bad because the church has more of a prison-like feel to it: keep the Chinese out, keep the foreigners and their subversive religion trapped inside. It is not free at all.

Even the contact card for the Bible study group in my area has printed the sentence "Foreign passport holders only". Can I (Micah) go to a church like that?

This week's passage was Luke 24:13-35, the story of Jesus meeting with the two men on the road to 以马忤斯 (only have Chinese Bibles in the pews) after his resurrection. The speaker likened their journey to the Christian life, only I thought it was more of a conversion allegory but since you really can't raise your hand in Big Church I just sat in my balcony seat and read through the rest of Luke.

I will post some quotes from my current read, Dave Egger's You Shall Know Our Velocity! (is nothing safe from the Exclamation Mark?). Regarding gentlemen's clubs:

We travel thousands of miles east, then thousands north, and always these places where girls and boys pretend to be women and men.

Being in church with so many well-adjusted people made me think about that, so when I hit that passage it stuck. Regarding fatherhood:

—Hand you're the one we never were sure about. When something had to be done, it wasn't you we went to. I went to Jack and Jack went to me. I trusted Jack. I trust you, too, but I knew, we knew, that you would not be there—not always. You were usually there but you had to always be present. Most of being a man is being there, Hand.

—You're talking about your father again.

—I am not!

—You are.

—I am. He was not there and that means you must! It means I know a man from a worm. And it means I have no patience for men who are worms. For men who are not there.

Being a man is just being there? That's a little depressing, I was imagining something a little more active. But then, I'm pretty much unwilling to take any cues on manhood from today's pop culture. So, let's move on.

I like how half the dialogue in this book is the main character's—presumably Dave Egger's—internal monologue, conversations with other characters that he makes up in his head. It's closer to my own experience.

I got a haircut tonight. The barbershop was called the Wenzhou Little Bay Haircutting Porch, and is right across the street from my apartment. The barber used a double sided comb, on which a blade was mounted halfway up the teeth of one side; he would comb the hair with the one side, hold it with his fingers, then twist the comb around and chop the hair off. Followed by a little detail work with the scissors, and a close shave in the back with the razor. It was more of a trim than a cut. Still, I'm pretty happy with it. The deal cost... drumroll... five kuai. That's about 65 cents. At that price, I'll go in very week.

After church today, I schlepped down to the Suzhou Creek Art District (different from the Creek Art Center) to check out Wang Jianshuo's current RL project, L'Invitation Au Voyage. On its surface, it would seem to be a simple amateur photography exhibit, but Jianshuo put up a sign as the first thing that visitors will see when they walk in that says in Chinese 这不是一个摄影展, "This Is Not A Photography Exhibit". What does that mean? Luckily, he posted an explanation too:

THIS IS NOT A PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION. It is the behavior exhibition of three bloggers: Jianshuo Wang (, Claire (, and Edward Wang ( Just as blogging inspires normal people to express themselves (although they are not writer or journalist), this personal photography exhibition inspires everyone to do something crazy, something they typically think only those professionals can do. We call it GRASSROOT ART IN SHANGHAI.

Rock on. We could all use doing something crazy sometime. Like Jianshuo explained to me himself, it's not so important that people come to see the exhibit, but that they hear about it and realize that they can do something crazy themselves, that they be inspired to act out of their normal routine and share something beautiful with the world.

There's some sort of a "Meeting the Photographer" event next weekend, but really you should just drop by anytime on the weekend when other people are likely to be there. When I showed up this Sunday evening, both Jianshuo and Claire (Wang Qingsheng Hu Zuxin) were there (and possibly Edward, though I didn't get a chance to talk to him). Take your camera, take some friends, and have a photography party. Leave a comment on the comment poster, and look for mine. Most important of all, be inspired.

(Directions... this is what I did; the place is not real convenient to public transport: light rail to Zhongtan Rd, walk south along Zhongtan Rd itself. Just across the Suzhou River a little road turns off to the left called Moganshan Rd (no sign) past some factories. Walk down to #50, the Creek Art District, and walk straight in towards the back, looking for a sign at the bottom of several signs pointing to the L'Invitation Au Voyage exhibit down a small alley on your left. If you really feel like going next weekend, give me a call. I'm already planning on going back.)

I miss my LPs.