Lately I’ve been thinking about a particular aspect of Beijing history that doesn’t get written about much: bootlegging. VHS never caught on in China as it did in the West. It was only when CDs, VCDs, and DVDs landed that things shifted dramatically from state-sponsored TV and film to virtually anything that could be dubbed to disc. Suddenly the French New Wave, Chuck Norris, and Buster Keaton -- even whole historical collections from foreign national archives -- were available to anyone who had a few kuai to rub together.
The 9th annual Bookworm Literary Festival kicks off on Friday, March 13, and this year's lineup looks to be one of the most interesting ever. The guests on this week's Creamcast certainly think so -- they're festival coordinators, after all -- but don't let their bias stop you from checking it out yourself.
Tickets to the Bookworm Literary Festival went on sale on Saturday. This year's program is impressive for both its diversity of content — two journalism panels, stand-up comedy, art, environment, tech, trivia – and the strength of the visiting authors -- Chang-rae Lee, Yasmina Khadra, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Willis Barnstone, Victoria Hislop, Michael Meyer. Many events will probably go overlooked. They shouldn't be.
Welcome to the reboot of The Creamcast! From the studio of Popup Chinese, RFH and I welcomed Andray Abrahamian, Executive Director at Choson Exchange, and Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours, to talk about all things North Korea -- spying, journalism, coffee, reunification, and whether animals cry (this was really a predominant theme).
Hello, poets of Beijing. The Bookworm Literary Festival -- one of the largest bilingual cultural events in China -- has renewed our community poetry event for this year's program, which means it's time to get writing, reading, and workshopping. Last year's event, Poetry Night in Beijing, attracted a standing-room only crowd, and we can only hope to again get that kind of support. Consider this an open call. If you're interested, read on.
Here's another view of the fireworks on Chinese New Year’s Eve last Wednesday night, taken by someone on a plane landing over Beijing. In my previous post I wrote, "During no other time, living on the ground here, do I feel like zooming out to become an all-seeing observer." I guess it'd look something like this.
For the first time ever, New York City set off fireworks to commemorate Chinese New Year. It happened over the Hudson and was synchronized and jubilant. At one moment it looked like skyscrapers were melting out of the night. Colorful. Impressive. Yet it was still mere facsimile for the real thing. You see, for my money, the most noteworthy -- if not outright best -- New Year’s celebration happens in Beijing.
A trio of Chinese men armed with baseball bats and metal pipes has been detained, following a violent assault on students at one of Beijing’s best-known universities. The case bears strong similarities to a series of racially tinged assaults alleged to have recently occurred in several foreign-centric districts, including Sanlitun, Houhai and Wudaokou, in which... Read more »
Happy Halloween, everybody. For those of you wondering, the some-years-strong Beijing tradition of dressing up and riding Subway Line 2 on the weekend before Halloween will come to a close this year. Authorities are worried about the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, so they don't want their public transportation clogged with beer-guzzling foreigners doing weird shit and attracting crowds.
If you haven’t made any plans for your Halloween night, consider a trip to one of Beijing’s haunted houses.
Not to be confused with the spooky amusement destinations that pop up throughout the US and Canada at this time of the year, these haunted houses are the sites of ancient murders and suicides.
Tales of wandering spirits, unusual sounds and paranormal activity have persisted for more than a decade at some of these locations...
I knelt at the top of the hospital escalator, partly from exhaustion, mostly out of surrender. My moans and cries recalled childhood Halloween nights spent puking up entire plastic jack-o-lanterns of candy. My tears blurred reality. Loud, distracted, exotic shapes and figures brushed past me, unimpressed by my misery, misery unlike any I'd felt before.
This wasn't how I imagined my first week in China would go.
Congratulations to Ethiopians Girmay Birhanu Gebru and Fatuma Sado Dergo, the men's and women's winners of the 34th Beijing International Marathon that was run today in "very unhealthy" to "hazardous" air. It was so bad that Xinhua even called it "smog" in an article that begins with this incredible factoid:
I work for a sub-branch of CCTV geared toward international video news, and we have several TV screens in the office that run 24-hour feeds of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Al Jazeera and others – ostensibly to keep up with the competition. But I returned from our canteen this past Sunday evening to find six or seven of my Chinese colleagues glued to a screen showing a live-feed from CNN.
We were hit by the sudden cold and absolute blackness. The only light came from our torches. Not a drop of sunlight penetrated the silt and algae above us. It was like entering another world, with all our senses altered -- until we spotted the Wall.
It's a decent day. Outdoors, I mean. We shouldn't be doing this. We shouldn't be checking our WeChat groups as friends report what portals are working and which are not -- "Sweden 2 is okay" ... "...and, not any more!" -- we shouldn't be obsessively clicking refresh on our gmail tab as if the government has decided just in the previous five seconds to unblock the service, and we shouldn't be cooped up in cubicles or monstrosities of home-office complexes twiddling our thumbs like simian slaves of a machine that won't even let us work. We should all go to the park and play Frisbee.
WHAT was missed: The 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF)
WHEN things went down: August 23rd (scheduled to run through August 31)
WHERE films were to be shown: Beijing’s Songzhuang artists’ district, at the Li Xianting Film Fund
HOW MANY films were denied an audience: 76. 76!!
New details have emerged about last weekend’s drug raid in Beijing, which allegedly saw five foreigners deported and a similar number of Chinese detained – sending local Twitter users into collective shock. A comprehensive report on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website by correspondent Stephen McDonell explains how he’d headed down to dirty dawg bar Dos... Read more »
Good day, mortals. Enjoy the weekend? Unless you were at the inaugural Expats in Chinese Film and TV Awards, not as much as these players.
Described by one excited attendee as “the stupidest, most Z-list thing ever… a fake award ceremony with fake red carpet,” the “expat Oscars” (as no one is calling it) was hosted by this nubile pair:
It's Friday night just past midnight. You're standing on a curb in Sanlitun after a pint/dinner/book talk/whatever looking for a cab. You see a green and yellow car driving your way, the little red light in the windshield beckoning. Already thinking of that book on your bedside, you raise your hand high and step forward in anticipation.