March 4, 2010

1. The National Art Gallery (of China) was free today because only the fifth floor was open. They seem to be putting up a huge retrospective or something on the four floors below. But this was okay. On the fifth floor was an inkwash show meant to display how traditional inkwash and the modern can coexist or at least be put on the same walls. It sadly reminded me of a Nanjing inkwash exhibition from 2003 for which I wrote one of the catalogue essays. The Nanjing show was much more inclusive and exploratory, as far as the medium went. The Beijing show had representatives from the different schools. The more Modernist contingent seemed bad Cubist rip-offs, but the stand outs among the traditionalists were truly something to look at in appreciation.

2. My short story class has lead me to Kafka's The Great Wall of China. Yes. Surprisingly, middle class, middle-aged Chinese folk dig the JD Salinger. We did "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" last time and they really got into it. I might have to start keeping a diary about these short story classes, because there really seems to be no telling. What gets asked and their concerns are interesting and valid, but they really read differently than I do. It's a really interesting Venn diagram sort of experience.

3. The advent of Beta, VHS, DVD, and now a shit-ton of pirate sites must really affect the way that things work for the Oscars. I could've downloaded a 2D version of Avatar a day after it hit Russian cinemas. I remember pre-cable days, when a movie took at least 2 years before it was on network TV. A movie made all the rounds of secondary discount cinemas before it was modified to fit your TV screen.

4. March is grow a mustache month at my work. We're calling it Marstache since 1/2 of us (not me, man) wimped out in Movember. Apparently facial hair, in the average Chinese girl's mindset, is equated with hooliganism, gangsterism, just downright nogoodniks and the like. Even though, the best Chinese writer of the last century, Lu Xun, rocked out an awesome, superthick, unapologetic stache that rivaled Stalin's.


March 2, 2010

Having yet more problems with proxies getting blocked, but am perservering.

1. CA Conrad's The Book of Frank (Chax, 2009) is as good as everyone has been saying. There are too many favorite bits to list, but I especially liked when Frank goes mano a mano with Berryman's Henry:

"come any closer" Frank
warns Huffy Henry
"I'll pull you in
my sleeve!"

anyone wants to know

the lump is just a
meal I'm digesting"

There's enough in these 7 lines for a graduate student to write a term paper, and every page is equally loaded with meaning, emotion and pulse. This book's heart beats like a man about to get into a fight, which it does. Frank fights with his past, the canon, himself, existence . . . It's a beautiful piece of work.

2. Had to buy a new computer, since the other gave up the ghost much too soon but just out of warranty. I got a MacBook.

3. There's been a much heavier police/military presence around Tiananmen the last couple of days. This happens every now and again, but it always makes me very nervous.

4. Recently watched this:

5. This morning I am drinking Da Bai Hao (大白毫) Tea. It's a jasmine tea from Anhui province. It has a very mild jasmine flavor. Very light taste perfect for early mornings.