Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A picture is worth blah blah blah

And this one pretty much sums up living in a Chinese city:

Don't. Walk.

Here's some other fun bits around Dalian (whence I returned last weekend, laden down with DVDs of dubious origin, including, THIS ONE).

This, I was always told, was exactly what a gentleman does NOT do:

Take the love, go home.
Yes, its an advertisement for Coca-Cola, in a place called Victory Square. Capitalism, Commmunism, Irony, LOL, etc.

And this store, I'm sorry to point out, did not in fact sell the hides of giant bears (nor was it a gay man's fetish-wear store).

Huge Bear!

Did I mention that in China you can buy a grapefruit the size of your head? Well you can.


Cool huh?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Anshan. Man.

Well the Chinese in their infinite whatsit have seen fit to block Blogger again for the moment. So if you're in China, you're not reading this. And if you are - YOU'RE BREAKING THE LAW. Naughty.

Anyways, here's some stuff from when I went to Anshan last week (this'll be another photoriffic post).

Anshan, as indicated earlier, is the next town down the line, just south of Liaoyang. Half an hour on the number 17 bus (I think) and then another 20 on a mini-bus and, chance encounters with other vehicles at high velocity notwithstanding, you're there.

First impression: Another grubby Chinese city really. Bigger than Liaoyang, lots more tall buildings, smog, all that good stuff.

These happy characters were my guides for the day, Raphael (left) and Frank (not left)

Da Boyz

So we did a bit of shopping in downtown Anshan, I bought my winter coat, for which many ducks gave their lives (as I understand the down collection process anyway. Unless they're shorn and released, but I've never seen a naked duck. Have you?) Their sacrifice will be appreciated come winter I'm sure.

Then it was off to the park, to see such wonders as the bendy trees:

Bendy trees

Where Raphael channeled his namesake

Crouching Raphael

There was also a derelict factory that I thought was pretty cool

Forest factory

And a temple. I think most Chinese are pretty jaded on the temple thing so we didn't go inside (admission was pretty pricey too) but I peeked in the gates:

Temple courtyard and monks

I wasn't aware that Buddhism involved cape wearing. Disturbingly, I was also told that day that Buddhists don't eat chilli or garlic either, as these 'arouse the senses'. Weirdos.

I also managed to uncover details of a shadowy and frightening plot to overthrow the prevailing world order with a race of cloned dinosaurs. Like in that movie - 'Cocoon'.


I suspect the Pepsi corporation is somehow involved (aren't they always?) due to the presence of a Pepsi-cola-chapel on site.

Church of Pepsi-cola

Crappy gags aside, upon returning to the city proper, I happened to spy this guy. Apparently these types are increasingly common as the weather gets colder, coming into town to sell their wares on the street. I don't know what animals these skins came off, but yellow spotted hide being sold by dodgy guy on the street says 'endangered' to me.

Street fur peddler

So that was Anshan. Me and Frank give it one thumbs up each.


Monday, October 23, 2006

You can't spell Harmonia axyridis without 'Harm'

Music: Defiance, Ohio - I Don't Want Solidarity if it Means Holding Hands With You

Well, I figured I've got enough random images floating around at the moment to justify a post. So here goes:

In continuing my coverage of the ongoing ladybug menace, it appears that they have found a way into my home, no-doubt by chewing through the concrete walls.

ladybug infestation

Observe the damage the they inflicted upon a nearby incinerator (one of the ladybug's natural enemies), tearing a hole in the brick wall to get at their metallic foe within:

Furnace Removal

Okay. Enough of that.

Here's some monks shopping:

Shopping Monks

Here's something that's funny if you're nine, or me:


And this, my Chinese Room (apologies to John Searle):

Apologies to Searle

For anyone that actually knows Chinese, you'll notice that what's up there is a mish-mash of pinyin and "Ben's way of spelling Chinese words kind of phonetically"

Here's some guys looking at spring onions in the local apartment complex:


and, to round out this most magnificent of blog entries, a chicken, taunting some other chickens with its freedom:

Chicken escapee

Off to Anshan tomorrow. Should be something interesting to tell of/look at there.

53 years ago today, if Wikipedia is to be believed, the smurfs had their debut in Belgium. Happy Birthday guys!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Life is a highway...

If anybody thought I was exaggerating about how absolutely insane the traffic conditions are here in China, I encourage you to take a look at this site. It captures the essence of the local extreme sport (the Chinese call it 'driving') pretty well.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

So it turns out...

This is a true story.

This morning I was in the park, practising Tai Chi and enjoying the last of the sunshine before I'm plunged into the bitter winter that I'm told Liaoyang has in store for me.

So anyway, there I was, doing my best imitation of a spastic monkey attempting Tai Chi, listening to a woman playing a traditional flute in a nearby pagoda and watching autumn leaves swirling around a square full of retirees playing chess and arguing. It was a beautiful, serene moment.

Then suddenly, it struck me:

Holy Shit.
I'm in China.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bits and Pieces

Music: Louis Jordan - (I'll be Glad When You're Dead) You Rascal You
Desperate Optimism: Unwavering

Note that this post contains a photograph of a dead animal. (Not one that I ate.) Also, if you are colour-blind, you may not get the joke at the end, but don't worry, it's not particularly funny anyway.

Ni Hao

Nothing in particular to talk about tonight, but a few ramblings just to keep me in the blogging mood.

First off, my pal Lucas (a Kansian/Kansasite/Kansasian?)went to the bustling metropolis of Shenyang on Sunday, and returned with this little block of gold for me:


He didn't even realise that it was New Zealand Cheese. Though he did point out that a brand called 'Mainland' doesn't really call to mind a small island nation.

The air in Liaoyang at the moment is absolutely teeming with that most endearing of flying six legged things - the ladybug. Now you might think that sounds wonderful, Ladybugs everywhere?!? What a beautiful sight! Sure beats those foot long dragon flies we had last month!

But you would be wrong. It turns out that any insect, from blowfly to locust to the humble ladybug is kind of annoying when you're pulling them out of your hair, clothes and teeth every thirty seconds. Also, despite their cute and notoriously effiminate appearance, those little buggers are merciless in swarms, as illustrated by this absolutely unaltered image:

dead cow

Scary Stuff.

Last of all in this wonderfully enlightening post - the single craziest thing about China that I have discovered so far. I can deal with the skateboarding secret agent chimp, their complete lack of road rules no longer surprises me, and I'm even coming to terms with the fact that apparently there will be no Spring next year. But this is going to far. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a ripe (and rather tasty) ORANGE.


Through the freaking looking glass.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Good News and Significantly Worse News in the PRC

Music: Lifetime - Irony is for Suckers
Blood Cheese levels: Satisfactory (I had pizza for dinner)

After spending hours reading a whole-buttload of stuff about Proxys and Tor networks and other really really uninteresting internet clap-trap, the Chinese government went ahead and unblocked access to wikipedia. I feel like a part of my brain has been restored to me. Sure its massively inaccurate and prone to crippling attacks, (wikipedia, not my brain. Really.) but I'm stoked to have finally regained the ability to find out what happened on March 1st 1974 at a moments notice.

So, good on ya Wikipedia for not caving to Chinese demands to censor the content (about that pesky thing that didn't happen in that square that one time, and that charming little country in the south-west that totally joined and remains part of the people's republic completely of its own accord and in total harmony.)

And good on ya China for unclenching the sphincter of one-party bureaucracy for long enough to let loose a small toot of freedom.

Of course, nothing says "Don't think we're going soft and becoming freedom of expression loving pansies" better than some good old fashioned repression. And there's nobody they like oppressing more than Tibet.

Way to go China.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Administrative Stuff


I've decided that, since this blog is available openly on the dirty ol' internet, and apparently is being read from as far afield as Venezuela (hola!) I'm going to change the access to my flickr stuff somewhat.

All of the China stuff is still available to one an all, but the stuff including family, friends and other innocent/guilty parties, will now only be accessible to those marked as 'friends' on my flickr account.

So if you're not on my friends list, and you want to see the photos (remember that one time you got all drunk and passed out on the couch and drooled all over yourself?) then you'll need to sign up to flickr (free and easy)and then send me a friend request. If it comes with a promise of free snacks or a witty limerick, I will accept. Shouldn't be too much hassle.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

My Big Fat Chinese Wedding

This time of year in China is known as 'golden month'. It's a fortuitous time to get married, have a baby, register your car etc. Combined with the fact that, according to the lunar calender, there will be NO SPRING THIS YEAR (???!???), lot's of people are getting married in Liaoyang at the moment (this partially explains the twice daily barrage of fireworks). Anyway, a friend of my boss got married yesterday, and my boss (Betty) asked her if it'd be okay if I came along, to see what a Chinese wedding was like. I wasn't exactly stoked about having to get up at 7am on a Saturday morning (who gets married before noon?) but if your boss has promised a foreigner for a wedding, I guess you better provide the foreigner.

So there I am, 9.30 in the freakin morning, beer coming at me left and right, with the cast of The Little Mermaid sitting on a plate in front of me (crab, prawns, oysters, scallops, whole fish, the works). To make matters worse, in a moment of bleary semi-clarity, I realised we are at least three hours from the sea here, and I've yet to see a single truck with anything that looked like refridgeration. I'm not by nature a big breakfaster (unless I have a hangover to service), and despite my love of the stuff, I don't tend to drink beer before the clock strikes noon.

Well, you're in China now.

The amount of food (as with any Chinese gathering) was staggering, and I was expected to try everything. Also, as the sole whitey in the room, I was the prime target for toasts with a bunch of people I've never met, including (but by no means limited to): the bride, the groom, the bride's father, the president of the college, the MC/Celebrant guy, and a whole host of others.

The ceremony itself was pretty informal, in western terms they pretty much just cut to the reception. Everyone was seated at tables, the bride and groom came in, a celebrant guy who was wearing a vegas-style red shirt and white suit, said a bunch of stuff, made some jokes (or so I gather) and led the assembly in a rousing chorus of 'If you're happy and you know it' (I'm not kidding). Then that was it, bingo, they're married. Without a peep out of either of them. You couldn't hear what was going on anyway most of the time, due to the accompanying explosions on the street outside.

So I ate a whole lot of food (I declined on the chicken heads, another thing I won't touch till after 12 o'clock/beers), drank a fair bit, shook a lot of hands, then because there was 3 more weddings in the same restaurant that day, they kicked us all out, maybe 90 minutes after we arrived.

So we all went and played Ping-Pong.

True story.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Mid-Autum Mooncake Madness

Music: Against Me! - You look like I need a drink
Drinking: 2002 Great Wall Cabernet. From the bottle: The Great Wall Golden Packing high-grade dry red wine is made from the international famous Cabernat which cultivated by the famous producing Huaizhuo basin in China,adopting the modem machines, expuisite technology of oak brewing. It's a kind of fresh wine. The product shows purple,red clear body, harmonize and cheerful fruit and oak fragrance, has a sens of soft. Typical.

Yesterday was mid-autumn day, its basically a holiday where everyone gets together with family etc, eats mooncake, and girds their loins for the oncoming winter I suppose. This is mooncake by the way, they retail for anywhere from 1 yuan each, to about 500 RMB for a box of six (half a months wages for most people). I got these cheap cause it was the last day. They had a kind of nutty filling, others have fruit, jelly, whatever.


Perky (one of the Chinese English teachers) invited me to take a boat ride down the moat/canal thing, to the White tower and surrounds. I envisioned a sedate plod down river in a traditional chinese barge thing. Oh ho ho ho no. That's for chumps, like these guys we almost capsized in our wake:

More Traditional River boat, that we almost capsized.

We did the journey in a roar of engines, a blast of gasoline smoke, and a spray of dubious canal water (dear god don't get it in your mouth)

Liaoyang Canal, by speed boat

I mentioned this white tower earlier, mostly in reference to the tacky tourist temple built next to it. In fact, I was wrong, the temple was pretty cool. Sure its brand new, but its a replacement for the original one that burned down a century or so ago, and its a functional buddhist hang-out as well as a tourist trap.

Here's the main hall (sky palace or somesuch):

Main Temple

Inside of which, is this jovial fella, the largest wooden buddha in the world (for the time being, they're building a bigger one somewhere else in China). There's a monk down the bottom for reference, but he's about 17m tall (not including the base). The swastika is the buddhist symbol for fortune I think, I don't recall any western buddhists (or the dalai lhama for that matter) sporting them though.

Giant Buddha

Anyway, the place had more buddha's, saints, kings, temples and statues than you could shake an incense stick at (providing you were prepared to fork out 10 yuan per stick).

Here's some highlights:

Dude's totally throwin up the goats:

Not sure what the deal with these guys is

"88 two fat buddha's"

I have the golden pea thing! It's mine!

Wacky diorama thing


Here be Devils!

Buddhist devil things

As per usual, there's plenty more here

So, after being suitably impressed with how non-commercial and actually quite stunning the temple complex was, we went over to the White tower itself, I was looking forward to seeing this most, being over 700 years old an all, the only bit of the China I've seen so far wasn't built in the last 50 years. And here it is:

Pagoda from the base

Very impressive. Should you feel the urge to turn yourself 180 degrees though, you will see:

Digimon is apparently relevant to buddhism

DIGIMON. Obviously the buddhistist thing ever in the whole world. Just to drive the point home, in the background of this photo, is a twelfth century wonder of architecture and devotion, in the foreground, well:


And of course:

Castle and Temple

I didn't take any pictures of the dusty, run down amusement park that was behind the temple, but suffice to say, there was a stand where you could have your toddler photographed holding a replica pistol.

The mantra around these parts is definitely 'out with the old, in with the new', even if the new happens to be a bunch of poorly made Disney knock-offs and the old happens to be a world heritage site. It's kind of sad really, but I suppose the kitschy glittery stuff gets the Chinese punters in, and that provides the funds to keep the old stuff from falling down.

Anyway, definitely worth a look if you ever find yourself up Liaoyang ways.

Heading home, the moon was huge, red and perfectly full. It was almost as though they'd decided that boring old white crater face wasn't up to the task of celebrating mid-autumn day, so they had him replaced with a newer, better model.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dalian Dalliance

Music: Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys - Danube Wave Waltz (if Japanese surf-guitar bands covering the classics is your kind of thing, you should check this out)
Air Quality in Liaoning today: Dusty, with an alluring hint of gasoline.

So, at the moment it is National Day Holiday in China. National Day holiday, naturally, lasts a week, and incorporates the mid-autumn festival, which is all about mooncakes and whatnot.

I spent last weekend in Dalian, its the big touristy part of Liaoning Province, about 4 hours by bus. There's a LOT of money in Dalian, (amongst the usual grinding poverty) as illustrated by the million dollar seaside apartments, the flashy western stores, and the brand new full size Bavarian Castle:

The first night in town was okay, after some great Indian food (Dalian's draw is pretty international) we went to an Irish pub, drank expensive guinness (45 RMB a pint, about what you're average Chinese person makes in a day) and talked to a few of the resident drunken old Irish guys (I think they import them with the Guinness and those barrels and flags that all Irish pubs have) but they were more interested in the Chinese ladies of negotiable affection so I retreated early.

Determined not to leave town without meeting some amiable english speakers who shared my favoured vices of booze and music, I tried again on Saturday, heading to a bar called 'noahs'. Not a bad place, if Tom and Jerry cartoons and live accordian are your thing. What the bar did have however, was that most reliable of good times, CANADIANS. Many Gan Bai's of Japanese beer later, I staggered down to a place called JDs (the bar that most westerners will tell you to steer clear of) with a Canadian guy called Rob, and a mad Swedish Giant who's name I don't recall. JD's is your classic dingy nightclub, full of smoke, sweat, sticky floors, overpriced watery drinks and, in this case anyways, Russians, Chinese, Koreans and a handful of other foreigners. The music was okay, the Borboun and Sprites (blame the Canadian)were going down fine, and I woke up in the morning in the correct bed, in the correct hotel, with all of my belongings and organs, as well as a bunch of contacts for next time I head to the city. So all in all, mission accomplished.

The rest of the time was spent wandering the town, eating things on sticks, looking at various monumenty things and going to the beach. So here's a bunch of photos. If you simply can't get enough, there's a whole lot more here.

Dalian has been occupied by both the Russians and the Japanese in the past, so some of the architecture deviates from the patented Chinese drabness. Anyway, nothing says 'clash of old and new, socialism and capitalism' than this:

Old building, new tenants

I preferred to stick to eating the street food, which was tasty and cheap, even if a little gigeresque:

Squid on a stick

So this is a typical Dalian skyline:

Onward and Upward

Friendship Park, Dalian

This is typical Dalian traffic:

Traffic, China Style

This is one of the bits you're not supposed to look at:

The bits you're not supposed to look at.

This is something that leads me to believe I may have been missing something about the whole toilet experience:

The greatest toilet ad ever

And, continuing on that theme, using a urinal in China is apparently comparable to the discovery of writing, the wheel, and placing a man on the moon:

One giant leap for civilisation

By the way, in China, as in most of the world, taking out your camera in a crowded public restroom is going to win you a few odd looks.

Here I am chillaxing in Zhongshan Square (I think)


And here's me hanging with Adam and Eve, who are according to the Chinese, 9 foot tall overweight Martians, with goofy grins and, in Adams case, a golden wang.

Adam, Eve, and Me.

This is getting really long now, so I'll leave you with one of Dalian's Icons, the big sphere of something or ratherness.

Dalian sphere thing

I'd like to think that if you committed some particularly dastardly crime in China (like promoting democracy) you'd be imprisoned in here for a 1000 years.

Of course, in reality, they just execute you and sell your organs.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Donkey Dumplings

Music: Dillinger Four - The Father, the Son, and the Homosexual Single Parent.
Belly: Full of dumplings and beer

Okay, no Dalian update yet, but I needed to report an important milestone.

Tonight, I ate this happy fella (in dumpling form):


He was actually pretty damn tasty too.

What this means is that I'm only five animals away from completing my 100 acre wood scorecard!


I think I get a free sub or something when I'm done.