Editor’s note: Empires of the Deep, with a budget exceeding $100 million, was supposed to be China's Avatar. But as our correspondent, Dale Irons, found out on set, this extravagant 3-D epic was plagued from the beginning by incompetence and misfortune -- to say nothing of dangerous working conditions, a rampaging horse, and the tide. Five years after production began, there's little reason to believe this film will ever see a big-screen release.
This is Part 2 of Dale's two-part diary from the set of what might be China's most expensive -- and worst -- movie ever. --RFH
Editor’s note: Empires of the Deep is a much-delayed 3-D epic film that seems destined to disappear forever. Neither the film -- known rather generously as "China’s Avatar," starring Bond girl Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) -- nor the full story may ever be officially released. It’s now been five years -- an appropriate anniversary -- so, tired of waiting, we here publish the “production diaries” of a young Australian-British man, Dale Irons, who found himself back in 2009, for various reasons, on the set of allegedly the most expensive Chinese film ever made -- and possibly the worst. Big words? Read for yourself. --RFH
Growing up, Driver Wang’s father thought him a momma’s boy. “Send him to play outside more,” he complained. “The kid needs to get into some scrapes.” Little did Wang Hu know, his son had been through six lifetimes of scrapes. He’d been castrated by a sorceress, strangled by a lover, beaten by roving pirates, and tortured by Red Guards. Yet in his current life as a Beijing taxi driver, Driver Wang is unaware of this -- until a mysterious letter falls from his taxi’s visor one day.
So, before I begin, I guess I should get one thing out of the way: I write that show that all expats seem to hate but Chinese people seem to like – see the sketch I wrote about potatoes.
Yes, of course you could no doubt do it better; and yes, I agree, why do they even bother employing us? We’re not even funny. Now that I’ve saved you the hassle of leaving those sentiments in the comments section, I’ll get to the nitty gritty.
Because it's politically expedient to do so -- proven by Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, etc., to work -- Beijing conducted a drug investigation that recently culminated in a bust of street-level slingers in Sanlitun. This news doesn't affect the vast majority of Beijingers, foreign or local, which is to say, there's little reason any of us should cheer. If anything, we should cringe, knowing these "crackdowns" almost always disproportionately affect those on society's fringes who are most powerless to defend themselves.
More than 30 foreigners, most of “black complexion,” have been arrested on drug charges, and more than 790 grams of methamphetamine, ecstasy, and marijuana have been seized, according to an article on Tuesday in Legal China. Expect a few less head nods and “You good?”s around Taikoo Li. Also, you might need to find a new drug dealer.
Attention, writers of Beijing: we're holding a flash fiction reading on Sunday, July 13 at Great Leap Brewing's Original No. 6 location (Doujiao Hutong No. 6). Space is limited, so we're asking those interested to register by emailing us -- spots will be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. The cost is 50 RMB, which includes a select GLB beer, with all proceeds going to the charity Educating Girls of Rural China. Also, importantly: we're seeking readers!
It really doesn't take much to impress local Chinese if you're white, does it? Spotted in Qingdao and posted to the Sina Weibo account of @天璇妈妈, here's a foreigner picking up trash. "The Weibo post heated up discussions among netizens, racking up hundreds of likes on Weibo," reports Sina. "Some bloggers said we should learn from the foreign man, even foreigners are help protecting our environment."
On April 16, Alec Ash of the Anthill gathered eight writers (technically nine) to read stories at Cu Ju, a rum bar in the hutongs owned by the somewhat legendary Badr Benjelloun, who paired each writer with a rum. The result was glorious. Alec graciously allowed us to record the entirety of that event, which we now present to you as an episode of The Creamcast.
Sometimes, when life throws you an obstacle, simply call on a dozen people to move said obstacle out of the way. In Tianjin on Sunday morning, a van parked in front of a building blocked a coach bus from leaving the enclosed lot via the only road out. That bus happened to be carrying more than two dozen Beijing Ultimate Frisbee players who were in town for a tournament. They had an idea.
On a crisp September 1st morning in Beijing, I stood before a locked iron door. On the other side was a hutong that led to the streets and eventually my university dorm. On my side was a scruffy courtyard home, a room with no couch and only one big bed – on which slept my Chinese boyfriend. It was dawn, and the hutong roofs were limned by a light morning mist, releasing the heat of the night into a new day. Inside, I was trapped, faced with an undesirable decision: to take a hammer to the door, or to return to the bed and have sex with a person I no longer respected.
DC rappers Pacman and Peso, who made waves in January after releasing a music video filmed in Pyongyang, North Korea (a trip that their friend and colleague, Ramsey Aburdene, documented for this site), are back with another video, this one set in Beijing. There's a lot to love about this, including:
First published in November 2008 on the old Danwei under the headline "RMB 3 million foreign douche bag in Shanghai" -- aged mp3 link newly restored! -- this tape is a genuine recording from Sherpa’s from a freewheeling customer who really likes comped hamburgers and isn’t afraid to show it. At one point the brutal laowai -- use of the term here meant as pejoratively as possible -- tells the Sherpa's operator, who gives her name as Sunny, that she doesn't have a "sunny disposition" and chastises her on lacking a "sunny attitude."
You've probably heard the rumors of 4corners's demise, but are they premature? "Forced renovations" is how owners Tavey Lin and Jun Trinh describe their popular bar/restaurant/livehouse's impending (temporary?) closure. What this means for the rest of us is two huge parties, today and tomorrow. To get a preview, I sat down with Tavey and Jun on Wednesday. In addition to looking ahead, they couldn't help reminiscing a bit about everything, from parties to concerts to bathroom sex.
Spring switches us from latent to active, and spring being the season of festivals in Beijing, it's one more reason to get up and busy (and stop marathoning shows on Sohu). Beginning next Tuesday, April 8, the six-day Beijing Improv Festival returns with shows and workshops featuring greater China's finest improv crews. Knowing almost nothing about the art, I spent time with the local bilingual group Plus One during one of their weekly Sunday rehearsals to get the scoop.
Blogging China was a March 18 Bookworm Literary Festival panel discussion moderated by Anthony Tao and featuring Jeremy Goldkorn (Danwei), Alec Ash (the Anthill), Mia Li (Sinosphere), and Tao Stein (WeChat: 石涛讲故事 / shitaojianggushi). In front of a full house, we talked about the characteristics of bloggers (journalists without credentials? writers without agents? mavens without business plans?), the purpose of blogs, particularly in relation with traditional media, censorship, curation / aggregation, Sina Weibo, and whether WeChat is the future of blogging -- among many other topics.
Some breaking news here (in that it happened three days ago and we’ve only just learned about it): a foreign man has been hospitalized and another injured following a stabbing around Sanlitun Bar Street in the early morning of Tuesday, February 25. Information is scant.
The news was first posted at 4:32 am by a man claiming to be an employee of the Village edition of Starbucks, and he sounded pretty shaken up about it.
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.