Several more months of terrible air, bad publicity and one inspired brainstorm session with my friend Kyle convinced me that this was a movie that needed be made. Beijing right now is one of the most fascinating clusters of humanity in the world and yet it’s almost perpetually shrouded in a layer of physical and public relations pollution. I get that. I’ve read the history, I breathe the air, I eat the gutter oil, and yeah, that all sucks. But at the end of the day this place just has an energy that I’m in love with.
Last month we made an open call for poets to participate in a curated community event at the Bookworm Literary Festival, and the response was exceptional. Please consider this our official thank you to all who answered. The curators of Poetry Night in Beijing -- Canaan Morse, Helen Wing and Eleanor Goodman -- read nearly 200 poems before finally (painstakingly) choosing five writers whose works resonated with them in style and substance.
Memetjan Abla, a painter, teacher, husband and father, known for his subtle use of color in his elegant portraits of Uyghur urban life, was lost on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. He was 35.
Nick Bedard of Basketball Buddha is courtside on press row at MasterCard Center, aka Wukesong, for tonight's Game 4 clash between the Beijing Ducks (23-11 regular season, No. 4 in standings) and Guangdong Southern Tigers (30-4, No. 1). Thanks to an epic performance from Stephen Marbury on Saturday in an overtime win, Beijing currently has a 2 games to 1 lead in this best three-out-of-five series. We now join our regularly scheduled Bedard in progress.
"Festival Fever," declares the cover of relentlessly upbeat Time Out Beijing. Coming at the end of what might just be China’s worst week in recent history – starting with a massacre in Kunming and ending with 230 people, including 140 Chinese, seemingly disappearing into the Twilight Zone – it’s hard to share their enthusiasm.
...Sure, Hunan-based Better Life probably hung the portrait simply out of respect for their native son. But I would also believe it if someone told me that Better Life’s CEO is a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist who always believed Mao’s communist fantasies were folly and, now swollen with riches from selling jewelry and clothes to China’s ovine masses, has decided to take a victory lap by hanging a portrait where Mao’s weary, unblinking stare will forever be greeted by the former proletariat scrambling for earthly pleasures on the ruins of his communes.
We're rapidly approaching the March 1 submission deadline for those interested in reading at Poetry Night in Beijing, a curated community event on March 16 that's part of the Bookworm Literary Festival. If you're wondering whether you should submit, please heed the advice of Eleanor Goodman, one of our curators: "Submit! There’s nothing lonelier than a poem sitting unread on a laptop or in a notebook."
For those worried about peace and stability in East Asia, there is plenty to keep you up at night: an international pariah armed with nuclear weapons under the apparently tenuous control of a young adult of questionable maturity; messy historical relations between regional powers; and territorial disputes that tie up political capital, inflame public opinion, and increase the chance of hostilities. If it's Tuesday, there must be a flare-up in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.
The temptation, when evaluating a poet gunned down by his government, is to start there, with the politics that led to his murder. But Wen Yiduo (1899-1946) was much too complex and heterodox to comfortably wear the martyr's robe, his works too nuanced and unsettled to be a paragon of any revolution. His poems explore religion and rickshaws, contain the chrysanthemums of Chinese folklore and the mud of contemporary times, and dare readers to challenge prevailing conceptions, even to render their own cynicism as hope.
The end of one year and the start of another lends itself to reflections and predictions. This year, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, brings a special sense of foreboding. It’s been popular for more than a few years now to compare the 14 years preceding World War I -- a time of prosperity, globalization, and, at least in Europe, the seeming triumph of civilization over wickedness -- to the first 14 years of the 21st century. At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drew a direct comparison between 1914 and 2014. The explicit question in this analogy is a terrifying one: is the world careening toward another bloody and futile war?
The ubiquitous red envelope may seem innocent enough, but accommodating a billion or so hongbao exchanges puts great pressure on the Chinese banking system. After experiencing several cash crunches in 2013, the People’s Bank of China very publicly injected 255 billion RMB (42 billion USD) into the system leading up to the holiday. You care, because the inflation this caused means your holiday (cash) bonus was just a touch undervalued.
A jet-black Audi A6 with government plates rolls down the streets of Beijing and stops at a school, mall or restaurant. Out steps a teenage girl, backpack in tow, who surely can't be a government official -- but just might be the daughter of one. Secretly, every pedestrian scoffs and/or hisses.
If last November’s Communist Party announcement about the procurement and use of government cars actually pans out -- eliminating all but a select number (取消一般公车) -- familiar scenes like these may no longer dominate urban landscapes.
In college, I came across the original diaries of two Fuzhou missionaries that had been gathering dust in our library for more than 100 years. I’ve now lived in China for four years, which seems like long enough to revisit the stories of Mary Allen and Carlos Martin.
The most recent episode of the CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother was panned by some fans as tasteless and racist when it depicted three of the shows protagonists what critics characterized as "Yellowface."
People on twitter had words to say:
Xinhua host and moonlighter for the Daily Mail’s venerable China Bureau Nikki Aaron has been blissfully peddling the British tabloid yarns of her “China adventures” for the last few months. All well and good.
Here’s her latest, on dating, a subject she has visited before. The extremely confessional tone of the Mail piece begs the question: who is Nikki Aaron?
In his book The Gift the Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov describes the mountains of Northwest China as a “transparent and changeable setting” where “the dryness of the air produced an amazing contrast between light and shadow: in the light there were such flashes, such a wealth of brilliance, that at times it became impossible to look at a rock, at a stream; and in the shadow a darkness that absorbed all detail.”
I test drove the Volkswagen XL1 on Friday at the Chaoyang Sports Center. What’s the XL1, you ask? Only the most efficient car in the world — efficient in every way, from weight to energy usage to fuel consumption (it can go 100 kilomters on one liter, thus the 1 in XL1). ”Are there any areas in which you think you can do more optimization?” I asked Dr. Volker Kease, technical project manager.