Monday, November 30, 2009

Introducing: China Hush

It's not every day that I come across a truly excellent blog, so when I do, it makes me positively giddy.

With that as an intro, I present... China Hush, active since mid-September but somehow only now making it on my blogroll -- and making its debut on the "best of" list, no less. I'm sure I've encountered this site before, but now I've subscribed to its RSS feed and will be making the most of it.

With pictures like the ones above and stories like this and this, I just might get addicted. Not necessarily a bad thing...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sanlitun North and China's bustling luxury goods market

Story in City Weekend.

As I was working on the story, I kept thinking the money quote, which I didn't have room to include, was from Richard of Peking Duck, who wrote about The Place: "As we crash, The Place and many other useless mega-malls like it will serve only as reminders of the excesses of good times that we fooled ourselves into believing would last forever."

The Place, for those who haven't been, is a gaudy, over-the-top (no pun intended, as there's a ginormous LCD screen hanging over the top of a concrete walkway) shopping complex near Ritan Park, which makes me gasp every time I pass it (usually in a cab -- god forbid I find myself on foot near that monstrosity). It must, methinks, one day become a symbol of human depravity and greed in the eyes of our alien overlords.

Sanlitun North, whenever it finally opens, will probably be a success. It's warmer, friendlier, less audacious in design than many of the shopping centers in Beijing and, by extension, the rest of China. It resides in the heart of an incredibly robust entertainment and shopping district in a city with swelling demand (600,000 people moved into Beijing last year), in a country that has 364,000 dollar-millionaires, fourth most in the world, and one that just overtook the U.S. in luxury spending ($8.6 billion last year, behind only Japan). And in case you've forgotten, this is a place where material wealth begets status, leading Caijing to call the Chinese “the people that wear Prada” -- in other words, perfect for luxury retailers.

I suppose that's what's most unsettling: not the prospect of this luxury mall turning into, say, Dongguan Mall in Guangdong Province (the biggest shopping mall in the world and also the emptiest -- read about its massive failure here, here and here), but the prospect of the Chinese people burrowing deeper into a materialistic sinkhole that leaves this society soulless for at least a generation.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Read of the day: Howard French on China-Obama

French's interview on Columbia Journalism Review, via CN Reviews's Kai Pan, who I quote here:

I say this because too often — not always — these efforts are premised upon amplifying the complaints instead of considering feasible solutions to very real challenges. Too often, these efforts seem more about assuaging selfish consciences (and moralities) or sending messages to audiences back home instead of really communicating with the Chinese that actually hold any real power in driving change. It’s more about “look at me, this is what I stand for”. It’s about “we need more outrage and more outside pressure on China”. It’s about “we need to get them to change for us now!”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winter is here, part deux

On September 6, in a post titled Winter is here, I wrote, "Summer is gone, winter is encroaching. Sadness is upon us. If I were in a better mood I'd quote a poem, but alas, I haven't the energy."

Leave it to someone else to quote that poem for me. From Brendan O'Kane's Nov. 8 post, with winter truly upon us:

Winter is Icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm.
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damm you; Sing: Goddamm.

Ezra Pound, noted Sinologist

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back from Boracay

You'll have to excuse me if I have nothing to say for now about Obama's visit (he's in Beijing is about all I know at the moment), but I just returned from paradise and am still warming up to the real world. Boracay is, in my mind, a magical, mythical -- imaginary? -- place where rainbows shoot out of sunsets and dreams blend into reality. I'm looking over my pictures now and absolutely cannot believe I was just there. I mean, does any of this look real to you?

Here's where I, in trying to describe Boracay, make sounds that somewhat resemble speech, like gagagagagagagagaga. God, what a ridiculous island.

More pictures here and here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Postcard from Boracay

Wishing you were here.

I'll be back next week.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Race of Champions begins today

Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. today on CCTV5.

What is Race of Champions? This month's issue of the Beijinger tells all (sorta).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Picture of the day: Beijing's first snowfall

It began on Halloween night and was still going strong this morning. A nice thick accumulation resulted, perfect for making snowballs...

...and of course it completely ruined Halloween night, and now I find out it was probably caused by cloud seeding.

I'm anxiously awaiting the day the other shoe falls and we learn silver iodide causes ozone tears and cancer.