August 25, 2009

In the *Crack Up* by F. Scott, which at one point Mr. Lusk gave me a first edition, Mr. Fitzgerald writes of the agony of spending a night without sleep because of a single mosquito. For me, this is most summer nights. I get bit, then I turn on the lights and wage war against a single insect. This plays out twice sometimes thrice a night. All the while, I am waiting for the demon mosquito that will give me Hep or worse. Ah, the blood borne diseases we no longer speak about, but are still rampant in China.


In Oakland I never really looked at the stars, but now that I'm in Beijing, I really wish I had. Beijing has that wonderful light pollution that Detroit had when I was growing up that makes the night sky orange and no stars. The planets Mars and Venus sometimes make an appearance, but no constellations.


Bond is in Turkey to pick Tatiana up. He has his doubts.


Next week, I will be in a Dongbei village drinking homemade rice liquor (baijiu). I plan to be on my feet for the entirety of the visit, as I'm visiting a friend's hometown and baijiu is best drunk by the thimblefull if at all. By custum, I am told, they will aim for the opposite.


Peter's been listening to Screaming Trees in the office. From dead office to rock office, hard to argue.



August 17, 2009

1. At the after work watering hole, one of the customers got all baijiu drunk and started acting all unfriendly to the staff. The staff did their best to simmer him down, but when things escalated, they awoke the male owner who was looking like three miles of hard road himself. When the drunk customer touched the female owner, male owner jutted up and landed one of the cleanest hooks to the guy's jaw that I've seen in real life. It was movie perfect and had much the same effect.

2. You would think that would be that, but then drunk guy started asking for compensation for his cell phone, to which the owner basically ran him out of Dodge, and threatened to kick his ass to Korea if he ever saw him again.

3. Listened to my i-pod on the way home. I don't ever do that, as I usually try to get free Chinese lessons out of cab drivers via small talk. Tonight though, I couldn't be asked. However, there was something disconcerting about listening to Black Flag's "Slip It In" while passing Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City.

4. Les Paul played a mean guitar.

5. 6 months straight of teaching 6 ESL classes a day, 5 days a week means I am super looking forward to getting out of town in September and again in October.

6. Pixies, surprisingly good to run to.


August 13, 2009

Deoo Oakland is proud to present Jorge Boehringer's "No Notion/ Known Ocean" at http://www.deepoakland.org/image?type=video&id=114

It's a large file so allow time for downloading.

August 13, 2009

1. I've always followed baseball, but taking part in a fantasy league this year I've learned a pitcher's WHIP is Walks plus Hits divided by Innings Pitched. And that this stat actually matters. I can't wait for Moneyball to finally be a movie. Oh, the A's. Revolutionizing baseball and yet a perrenial MLB farm team.

2. If Joni Mitchell says she can drink a case of you and still be on her feet, is that good or bad?

3. Goodbye Jiambi. I'm happier that Piazza ended his career in Oakland.

4. Joy Division.

5. After a week of cab rides, I know that SMERSH is after Bond.

6. In college, I used a Tale of Two Cities as a substitute for valium. I've never been able to read into the second paragraph. I studied French Lit, so it's only half as bad as it sounds.


August 10, 2009

1. On Saturdays, Sanjay and I get baozi (steamed buns with meat in them) from a nearby shop and sit outside our building to eat lunch and watch people desperately try to park. They are bad at it. For some reason most Chinese drivers insist on backing into parking spots, but they only ever use their side mirrors rather than look out the back window. There are assistants in almost every Beijing parking lot to semifore you into position. But even with that support 7 times out of 10 end up with someone parking somehow sideways or well outside the parking space. It's physical comedy with machines. Parallel parking is a donkey of a funnier color to watch, as you would think it damnear impossible by watching.

2. Sometimes ESL is a drag, but more often it makes me think. "How to spell?" is 100% Chinglish, yet "how do you spell it?" seems the clunkier and less direct of the two expressions. As most English speakers around the world are now non-native, I wonder what makes for "standard English" anyhow.

3. I still put the l in both and pronounce it bolth, like the rest of my working class friends from Detroit. Call it a shibboleth. That and the fact that the street named "Gratiot" is pronounced "Grashit." Ephraimites beware.

4. VOA (Voice of America), the US propaganda radio and web station, put out a list of the 2000 words you needed to know to listen to their "Special English" broadcasts. I used to be able to get the radio broadcasts in Nanjing on clear days, but Beijing either jams them too hard or they're aren't clear enough days, or both. The list is here: http://www.manythings.org/voa/words.htm. I am going to limit myself to only these words for my next project. It's more sophisticated than big blockbuster movie English -- which is dumbed down and meant to be translated quickly and easily -- but is a good representative of the vocab you need to know to understand most topics.

5. Reading Ian Fleming's "From Russia with Love". It doesn't seem as engaging as Casino Royale, but it's what I got to read on the ride to work. The bookstores in Beijing are filled with Great Books and the most recent supermarket pap. I've already read most of the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th century lit I want to read, and I'm not so hot on bestsellers. This leaves books (like Big Sur) that somehow make the bookstores' racks and seem like they will kill the 20-50 minute (depending on traffic) ride to work. Bond will kill the ride at least.

6. Christian Bale is an actor who destroys movies.

7. Recently rewatched "Singing in the Rain" and have to say that Gene Kelly did a bang-up job with the directing and choreography. I prefer other musicals to this one, but Kelly was making a stand for his artform with this picture, and it deserves to be recognized a little more than it is for being art, which it is.


August 4, 2009

Jack Kerouac, Big Sur (1963; repr. Harper Perennial, 2006), 137.

"I realize I'm just a silly stranger goofing with other silly strangers for no reason far away from anything that ever mattered to me whatever that was -- Always an ephemeral 'visitor' to the Coast never really involved with anyone's lives there because I'm always ready to fly back across the country but not to any life of my own on the other end either . . . ."

This hits home too much for me to write about now, but it breaks my heart sideways.