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Oct. 6th, 2008 @ 03:13 pm In NZ, looking back and forward (for the trucks to roll by)
Current Space: Georgie Pie
Colour of my Mood Ring: cheerfulgaseous
Current Sounds: Zombie Apocalypse
Japan was simply fantastic - a real blowout - and it was no small thanks to my three amazingly accomplished tour guides: Jono Maxwell 巨根, Akane Oshima 大島茜 and Kouji Kanaoka 金岡晃司. Here's a pic of my three benevolent hosts:

Having local knowledge made all the difference because while the trains ran like clockwork, they wouldn't wait for foreigners to figure out which turbo express local line to be on. Yeah it was a mission on my first day when I was poking around Tokyo by myself and an immense pleasure the following days to merely follow the Jap in front of me when we came to a rail/subway station. 強龍難壓地頭蛇

This is a basic photo-post summarising the trip. We ate and shopped like kings and queens (Kouji ranking under the latter) and made it down to the port city of Yokohama which had a rip-off Chinatown and low-key feel. I also got a tour of the recent GTA-style rundown-and-stabby-stabby massacre that happened at the Akihabara electronics city. Here's Kouji with a panda made out of cardboard boxes near the massacre site. Beats any sandwich board I ever saw!

Naturally they had badass video games old and new there, and I think new precedents have been set for travelling as we played Street Fighter 4 or Tekken 6 at least every day. Here we are at Retro Nintendo System World 1-3

Kouji seemed to have a thing about molesting pandas.

Near that last arcade was Muscle Park, a game park like American Gladiators that was sponsored by the Japanese pro league (what, you're surprised Japan has an American Gladiators pro-league?). This photo was me crash-landing on the finish line. Don't pretend this doesn't turn you on incredibly:

Below are some of the freaks to be found in Yoyoge Park on a Sunday afternoon. It's just a whole lot of love really: pet-lovers, Grease Lightning-lovers, Cosplay-lovers, and wtf-lovers. We got lost for about half an hour and almost made the mistake of taking the park on it's face value - a Shinto shrine honouring the Meiji. Here's Akane, my metabol and I outside the front gate

Luckily we managed to find the freaks. Here's the cutest dog in the park:

There was the Grease Lightning gang and the similarly-themed (but different and unique and awesome) Harajuku City Gang of the Tokyo Rockabilly Club, battling off against each other with each 100-hit combo dance manouvre more wickedly insane than the next. I got some photos of these guys dancing too but I thought this shot captured the love, affection and planning that went into such outrageous hair:

My favourite CosPlay freak. I don't know if it was the character, costume or how it was being worn. Seriously, every weekend these kids do this and you're still wrapping yourself in toilet paper once a year for Halloween?


Sep. 24th, 2008 @ 04:37 pm Flight of DOOM
wicker man
Current Space: in transit, Shanghai Pudong airport
Colour of my Mood Ring: anxiousanxious
Current Sounds: QOTSA

Now I know why my flight from Beijing to Tokyo was so cheap.

I thought it was strange departing at 1:30pm and arriving (in Tokyo?) at 8:30pm (that long?) but I put it down to the time difference.  I should have guessed – but how the hell could I – that the flight had a stopover.  In Shanghai.  That’s right, we flew down to Shanghai, got off the plane, went through customs, then hopped back on the plane and flew on to Tokyo.  It’s on the way there though, right?  Consult a map…

I usually wouldn’t write about something so remedial as a flight but this was possibly the scariest one I’ve ever taken.  Even scarier then when I was sitting next to the guy with SARS and had to sit in the little spare seat for the flight attendant.  I should have known: the check-in counter opened 45 minutes late. 

Taking in the luscious 1970s soviet-bloc décor, I fastened my seatbelt tightly and wasn't to take it off the whole flight.  You know it’s a bad sign when the safety precaution tape flickers so badly that you can’t actually make out how to save your life in the event of a crisis.  There were no ridiculously-joyous flight attendants demonstrating where the emergency exits where either.  If this plane went down we were all dying, so don’t even try to save yourself.

I hadn’t even met my company for the flight yet.  She didn’t look strange but was sitting in my seat when I got there, and when I asked what seat number she had - why, she had the same seat number as me!  I spied her ticket out of the corner of my eye and she’d folded over the corner displaying the seat number so I couldn’t see where she was meant to be sitting.  OK, she was probably lying to save face because she’s too scared to sit next to the window, whatever.  The thought crept into my mind but I immediately dismissed it - could she be batsh!t crazy?

"Where are you going?"
"Got a visa?"
*explain NZ visa-exemption from Japan*
"So you transfer direct to Tokyo?"
*pause* "...Can you take me to Japan with you?"

That could have been cute.  But coming after the Tourette’s it was menacing. I couldn't make out what she screamed the first time, but every half an hour she went on to scream "The plane is frozen!" and "I hate xxx TO DEATH!".  After an outburst she'd just casually continue her conversation with me or look at things with craziness.

But the freakiest thing was that noone around me gave a sh!t.  All the other passengers and cabin crew just went about with their daily travel business and nobody even looked twice to see if I was still alive.

Weirdest flight ever.

Sep. 24th, 2008 @ 10:41 am Final take
my groin
Colour of my Mood Ring: nostalgicRegretful
Current Sounds: Strangers

I'm staying in a 7 Days el cheapo franchise hotel belting this out before jumping on a plane to Tokyo to see two men without parallel Max and Mr. Kouji.  That's where I'll be updating you from for the next week, before arriving home in Aotearoa.

Here's my final take on Beijing:

What we saw this year from July to September wasn't even Beijing - it was the clean, congestion-free bubble of interracial homo love that surrounds any Olympics.  Now that it's all finished and collapsing around me, the real Beijing emerges again and it's not that pretty.  Despite the Summer Palace, Peking Duck, Houhai lake area and a plethora of absolutely amazing things here, there's still a lot of construction, traffic traffic traffic, and just strange ideas - I had trouble getting this room because some hotels still aren't open to foreign guests ... ?

However a city is more than a bunch of buildings with roads in between them.  What's really made my stay here worthwhile - nay, priceless - is the PEOPLE.  They know who they are - the friends, party-goers, workmates and athletes who put on this monstrous party for the whole world, stayed up all night dancing and drank like fishes.  The people here rule, so much cooler than Shanghai or some other places I've been.  You can find anyone from anywhere and have the most anything conversation with them.  They're out there: amongst the busloads of foreign tourists from overseas or other farmtown provinces walking around with their mouths wide open and thinking that they're getting amazing prices on everything they haggle.

Beijing has just been Beijing, P.R.C.  It'll just be one of those moments in time when something went down, and I was lucky enough to be there.  I even got the pics too.
Sep. 22nd, 2008 @ 12:00 pm Three days
my groin
Colour of my Mood Ring: sickSlightly queasy
Current Sounds: Led Zeppelin – Black Dog

I just went to a wedding this weekend and won a 8.1 megapixel digital camera (o_0) That is, unless you get it in your Xmas stocking this year, in which case don't mention it – you're worth every penny. 
In other news, the weather returned to shit the very next day after 单双号 car restrictions were eliminated on the 20th. I'm not kidding, I thought it was going to rain all day and then I slowly recalled the old grey skies of yesteryear that used hang over Beijing like clouds only there would never be any rain. As it turned out it did rain later that night and the skies were clearer today because of the rain, but there was this sneaky acrid stench lingering in the air like the ghost of a fart. Not to mention - horrific traffic jams have returned. I ain't leaving this town soon enough.
I would like to make the remainder of this post a tribute to Sophie Pascoe. The 15-year old from Christchurch - the youngest in the team - won three gold medals and a silver in the pool at the Beijing Paralympics, and took home a Mitsubishi 4WD as the NZ team MVP. The NZ medal tally in Beijing looked a lot better thanks to her, ensuring SPARC set aside more funding for future NZ Paralympic bids. She lost a leg in a lawnmower accident aged 2, and now she rolls to high school with 3 gold/jade medals hanging on the windshield mirror of her Mitsubishi 4WD. And she's beautiful too. You rule.
Sep. 17th, 2008 @ 12:00 pm Parathletics
Colour of my Mood Ring: exhaustedFinished
Current Sounds: 信乐团
Ready, set, GO!  Yesterday was the last day of athletics events at the Paralympics, and a great way to spend my birthday.  The Bird’s Nest was so hazy that you could barely see the other side of the stadium, but once an hour of torrents poured down the humidity halved and it was exceptionally clear for the rest of the evening.  I was a little concerned though at the ethics of allowing races to continue when it’s p!ssing down buckets.  Sure, it also rained when I went to some Olympics events in the Bird’s Nest but they called off running races then – but they didn’t call off the Olympic javelin throw during the same rainy session.  It was really unfair because those poor javelin ba$tards were face-planting after they’d thrust their lengthy spear, and they’d put a hand over the line trying to save their teeth from contacting the ground and the throw would be disqualified.  For the track events at the Paralympics, rain was also no obstacle.  It makes you wonder what the prerequisites are for canning a race – money?  Broadcasting?  Countries?  Events?  Maybe they left the track events because the wheelchairs gripped the track better, and because they thought they could trick the blind class of athletes.  It’d be like stealing candy from a baby – “It’s perfectly safe to run … that’s not rain, we’re just hosing you down so you stay cool.  You look like you’re dehydrating, I’m not turning off this tap.  Why that’s just the thunderous applause!”.
The main reason I bought tickets for last night was to see this:
I filmed the whole race but didn’t get to really sit back and appreciate it because I had one eye on the camera screen and one on the track.  I’d upload the whole video and blog it here but it would take about half an hour to upload it, only for NBC to pay someone way too much money to scour the internet and serve injunctions on the website because don’t you know they purchased all rights to my eyeballs, my camera and my SD card long ago without me knowing it.  I’ll show you it sometime if I have my laptop handy.  The guy is a machine, no pun intended!
It would’ve been difficult for me to “sit back and appreciate” the race anyway because the Paralympics has been quite different from the Olympics – it’s Chinese again.  Since the Olympics has finished and noone got any tickets, sales for the Paralympics have been crazy, particularly for the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest which have become tourist icons in their own right.  Seats are somehow unallocated and the problem of the embarrassing empty seats seen during the Olympics has been solved by giving out heaps of tickets to students, to the effect that there were more people in the 91,000 seat stadium than there were seats.  So when I say it’s Chinese again, there were just throngs and throngs of people watching the events.  But the *quality* of the people was … more representative of the China I know and love.  Whereas only the connected, lucky or upper-middle class by and large managed to secure tickets for Olympic events, the patient were instead rewarded with Paralympics tickets.  I saw heaps of out-of-towners, old clueless comb-over guys with a handful of black teeth between them and … just farmers really, who had camped outside the ticket office days in advance for a chance to touch the Olinpeek.  Security weren’t even trying to get these guys to sit down (we can’t see *through* you), be quiet (they’re blind and kinda need their ears), or keep the stairwells and emergency exits clear.  After all, the Olympics were over and the world sadly doesn’t care as much about the Paralympics – which means we don’t have to bother with any of these silly rules and rights that we just pretended to adhere to while everyone was paying attention to us during the Olympics.  Yup, it was very much back to business for China at the Bird’s Nest yesterday.  Hey, we don’t have to QUEUE UP ANYMORE!!!  Even though I wasn’t harassed by security or volunteers this time around like I was everywhere I fkn went during the Olympics it was still a pain, a b!tch and a little intimidating.  Thank God no Japs beat Chinese athletes in any events, otherwise there would’ve been a massacre.  Weighing up the lesser of two evils, I think I preferred the organisation around the Fascist Games more than the Chinese Games.
I thought I was the sh!t for taking this photo last night, but it looks a little blurred full-size:
In other news: it’s my last day of work!  Damn, that went fast, was insanely busy and stressful and the funnest job I’ll ever have.  I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Moving on to other stories: today’s T-Shirt of the Day was captured using a cellphone, so apologies for the poor quality.  While it’s a little blurry I think I’m correct in reading off “Binjeig 200(8)”:
Sep. 10th, 2008 @ 12:00 pm Go the Paras!
Keep Music Evil
Colour of my Mood Ring: excitedAntici --- PAYtion
Current Sounds: Flight of the Conk Hordes
The Paralympics have already started, we’re in the medals and it’s just like the Olympics only with half as many cops.  And limbs.  I’ve really enjoyed watching the ping-pong and also the athletics last night, when it pissed down something solid and Kate Horan won silver for NZ in the 200m.  Oscar Pistorius took out the 100m after being dead last 60m into the race – he’s so slow out of the blocks but boy he smokes it once he gets up some pace.  Cannot wait to see him race the 400m next Tuesday.
So now that it’s all done and dusted here they are: the Top 5 Lies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics:
10) All Beijing taxi drivers speak fluent English now and have spit-bags mounted to their cab wing mirrors!
9) Who cares about the Olympics?  Not me!  Americans don't give a cr4p about the Olympics!  Who cares?
8) Visas are still as easy to get as always at your friendly Border Control Bureau!
7) Check out these cool “footprint” fireworks for the Opening Ceremony!
6) She’s 16 years old guys, for realsies!
5) We eminent leaders of teh West will boycott your Opening Ceremony unless you chat with the Deli Llama!
4) No world records will fall in Beijing because of the terrible pollution! (dugg approximately 1000x sometime in late July)
3) Why even Christchurch has worse smog than Beijing!
2) We will offer complete unrestricted access to the internet during the Olympics!
And the number one lie about the Beijing Olympics:
1) Sure, you can apply for permits to protest in our specially-designated protest parks!
In case you haven’t heard about that last one, all 77 applications for legal protests were declined, with around 74 of the cases “being resolved through consultation with the relevant authorities”.  The remaining were detained for disturbing the peace…
I see so many strange, hilarious and provocative T-shirts around here that I’ve been thinking about including a regular T-shirt of the Day feature.  Let’s see how long this lasts… first up is:
I’m not quite sure I want a toll, not even if you fock me first baby.  
New season of Dexter has been leaked a couple of weeks early.  I didn’t tell you to download it.
Sep. 3rd, 2008 @ 12:00 pm 下沪、江南之游第二届
Colour of my Mood Ring: nostalgicCounting down
Current Sounds: 犯罪想法 (criminal intentions?)
This is a photo of a huge poster in the Shanghai metro that I took last weekend - just days after the closing of the Olympic Games.  It’s a Sports Illustrated China cover, but it’s from December 2007.  The caption says “Sportsman of the Year” and Yao must’ve been paying homage to his bro Liu Xiang in the original context – both are from Shanghai and Liu probably would’ve been Sportsman of the Year the previous year.  In this post-Olympics context though it’s just laughing at the guy, a huge giant Yao Ming laugh that echoes throughout the universe.  I still don’t understand why you’d show a 9-month old Sports Illustrated poster in the subway ad slots … unless someone who hates Liu Xiang bankrolled it in a campaign of hate against him.  Seriously, that’s the only way I can read this: a vendetta of pure hatred.  That’s pretty strong! 
Visiting Nanjing was a good chance to catch up with my old classmate and roommate James from Aussie, and in the photo below I would like to use this opportunity to also draw your attention to my awesome red T-shirt.  Some Canadian designer printed a run of 88 of them, and when I saw one I just had to wear it and see if I’d get arrested when I wore it to the Bird’s Nest.  In the end I didn’t, but it’s not from lack of trying – the picture shows one of the 5 Beijing 2008 mascots (the so-called “Fu wa”) standing on the podium during the Black Power podium protest at the Mexico Olympics with the 68 Mexico logo changed to “Beijing 2008”.  No Chinese who I’ve spoken to about it have any idea at all what the picture means. 
Meanwhile – thanks to the improved relations between China and Taiwan – the Taiwanese chap in the middle, Jason, can now save a couple of hours flying between Nanjing and Taiwan on the new direct flights.  Previously all planes had to stopover in Hong Kong – now with the direct flights the plane only has to fly down really low over the runway in Hong Kong, then do a U-turn and fly onto Taiwan or the mainland destination.  Go get a map and see how close Nanjing and Taiwan are.  See how far out of the way Hong Kong is.  The flight should take an hour but for some reason the plane still has to fly through Hong Kong airspace, weird huh?   
In other news, I’ve scored some tickets to the Paralympics and am looking forward to watching the semi-finals of Murderball and also seeing Oscar Pistorius run in the 400m.  There are still no damn Water Cube tickets available though.  Murderball is the dysphemism for Wheelchair Rugby, and there was a documentary of the same name doing the festival rounds a few years back.  I hear the US team does well thanks to all the new paraplegic vets they have, which in my opinion is sufficient justification for invading Iraq.  The Wheel Blacks, NZ’s team, should make the semis, so I’ll get a chance to stick all those Silver Fern tattoos and wave all those Silver Fern flags I accrued after the Olympic team went home.
Meanwhile, don’t forget that the 2010 World Expo will be held in Shanghai!  Shanghai is heaps better than Beijing, Beijing sucks and so do the Olympics!  Everyone knows that people only really care about the World Expo.  We even recruited Gumby as our mascot:
Sep. 1st, 2008 @ 05:13 pm 下沪、江南之游
my groin
Colour of my Mood Ring: nostalgicSentimental
Current Sounds: Box of Birds
My friend finally figured out how to work her Blackberry, so here’s that photo of me with Valerie Vili (workmate Crystal is in the background)
After the fluzz and buster of the Beijing 2008 Games, I badly needed to take what the Chinese jokingly call a “condom holiday” (the pun is 避运套– a holiday to dodge the Olympics).  Some friends were leaving China this weekend, and I used the occasion to take a couple of days off and visit the old haunts of my student days, the eastern metropolises of Shanghai and Nanjing.  While I wasn’t technically dodging the Olympics, the same suffocating security, government and transport apparatus is in place for another month until the end of the Paralympics (or maybe even longer … ?)
Both Shanghai and Nanjing have changed with the remarkable velocity that never ceases to amaze me, although I’m not sure if the pace matches the “blink and it’s gone” demolition-reconstruction at the turn of the century.  The Bund in Shanghai is currently being dug up and a tunnel is being installed under the road there, such that the grandiose riverside stretch will be bypassed of all traffic.  I’m sure the planned pedestrian boulevard will be a huge coup for the city and not unlike Venice etc. international waterways once everything is all finished.  Across the river - squaring off against the olde Bund with all the dramatic juxtaposition of a hagged Jimmy Page feebly cranking the Bird’s Nest during the Closing Ceremony - lies Pudong, with at least another ten or so 50-story glass-ivory towers erected since I was there last year.  Shanghai today is what Beijing was like 2 years ago – a huge construction site frenetically upgrading for a colossal international event.  They’re doing the 2010 Expo there and you better believe it’ll be bigger than the fkn Olympics, because we’re Shanghai and we’re better than you.  I didn’t get to see the Expo site but the taxi driver told me it’d take forever to drive around.  I’ve read some mind-blowing stats about it and suggest you keep an eye on it for more freaky 21st Century Chinese development.
Nanjing was just good old Nanjing, same same but different.  I don’t have any photos handy but I was there to see the people, not the place.  It was one of those holidays where I was running around all day, getting wet and never seeming to rest; when the overnighter pulled into Beijing railway station at 6:30 this morning I managed to reflect that it hadn’t been a very restful holiday at all.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way though.  I’m finishing up in Bay Jing later this month and I plan to take a good break back in GodZone… see you there? 
Muy bueno hombre senor Diego: hasta la vista, cabron!
Aug. 26th, 2008 @ 03:02 pm Worst Yao Ming Photoshops
Alex Kidd
Colour of my Mood Ring: relaxedrelaxed
Current Sounds: Little Bushmen
Ladies and Gentlemen, here we have them: the top 5 Worst Yao Ming Photoshops of the Olympics.  
There have been a few emails going around of movie posters done up with Olympic stars, and most of them have that ginormous loser Yao Ming, who - despite having never made it thru to an NBA playoff (right?) nor getting an Olympic medal - still manages to command more money and feline than Alec Baldwin.  Seriously, why is he famous?  He’s only the fourth or fifth best centre in the NBA, and that guy Yi Jianlian (never heard of him?  Wiki him) will be famouser than Yao Ming in a couple of years for even less of a reason.
Any, on to the lousy Photshops.  Which is your favourite?
WE WILL DEFEAT THE USA … ?  Wtf, this is the stupidest caption I’ve ever seen.  What was the score between the Dream Team and China, a thirty point deficit?  

^^^^  I thought this one was a pretty good job except it doesn’t look like Yao at all.  Maybe it’s not?  *-_-*

^^^ WIN!
Aug. 25th, 2008 @ 12:00 pm Now what?
wicker man
Colour of my Mood Ring: curiouscurious
Current Sounds: Flaming Lips
 25 August 2008 – the day after the closing ceremony.  The 2008 Beijing Olympics is over, and like other expats resident in Beijing one large question mark dangles over everyone’s heads: ummmmm, now what?  What happens to all the slogans painted everywhere urging Olympic civility?  What happens to the millions of volunteers and BOCOG staff – are they all looking for jobs, and how is it possible for them all to find work?  Can I get dog soup again in Beijing restaurants?  Will they keep some of the pollution / traffic restrictions so that we can see the sky and the stars every now and again?  Will my bike still get towed if I park it outside my apartment (never used to, before the Olympics)?  Will all those crazy “Y’know … because of the Olympics!” excuses fade into distant memories?  Will businessmen get their visas issued in China again?  What will the Chinese people DREAM and DO now that their Beijing Olympics is over?  
What a sweet success though.  So many primo photos, world records, and epic stories … best Olympics ever, and the movement was getting stale and boring for a while.   Thank God all those smelly protesting hippies got deported.  What a buzz kill!  I also read some places giving the Beijing Games a “B” grade – get farked!  “But what about freedom of speech, the internet … “  BOO HOO – you try making a citizen’s arrest of the suspected terrorist Condoleezza Rice in Auckland city, Washington D.C. or Geneva and then get back to me.
Who else watched the closing ceremony?  Who else saw that the English have invented real life TRANS fkn FORMERS that are even more badass than Megatron?  Get this: a mild-mannered ordinary double-decker bus like you’d see anywhere in London – or is it (*transformers sound*) Jimmy fkn Page playing Kashmir and Beckham and some chick singing!?!   Unfortunately that was the only cool bit about the London 2012 segment, what a load of futuro-retro bollocks.
Back to the Opening Ceremony – I mean, “The Grand Fake Show that Happened to Double as the Opening Ceremony for the XXIXth Olympiad, Plus Gymnasts Cheat and the Air Was Bad” – and we have some cracker lines from the director of the show, famous Chinese film director Zhang Yimou:
"North Korea is No. 1 in the world when it comes to uniformity. They are uniform beyond belief! These kind of traditional synchronized movements result in a sense of beauty. We Chinese are able to achieve this as well. Though hard training and strict discipline," Zhang Yimou said. Pyongyang's annual mass games feature 100,000 people moving in lockstep. 
Performers in the West by contrast need frequent breaks and cannot withstand criticism, Zhang said, citing his experience working on an opera performance abroad.  "In one week, we could only work four and a half days, we had to have coffee breaks twice a day, couldn't go into overtime and just a little discomfort was not allowed because of human rights," he said of the unidentified opera production.  "You could not criticize them either. They all belong to some organizations ... they have all kind of institutions, unions. We do not have that. We can work very hard, can withstand lots of bitterness. We can achieve in one week what they can achieve in one month."
Haha!  The same article also revealed that the kung foo-sters underneath the 40-pound blocks of movable type (the highlight of the show for me) that moved up & down spelling out Chinese characters were actually wearing adult diapers so they could stay inside their shells for six hours.  See, a Western production wouldn’t even have given them adult diapers – a grievous infringement of their right to shite wherever they like.