Friday, October 31, 2008

The Long March

Alright, so maybe it wasn't that long, but it sure felt like it. Our dogs are barkin', and Eliza even had to ice her swollen foot.

Thursday begin with a primo 360-degree view from the vacant 42nd floor of an office tower near the apartment. That's me up there, taking it all in -- this city is huge. Through the smog I spotted a couple giant bowling pins atop some big building, which I'm told is a bowling alley (go figure). Rest assured I'll conduct a thorough investigation before we leave.

Speaking of the smog, it's been pretty nasty so far -- a perpetual gray haze that the sun sort of filters through. Temperatures are in the 40s and 50s. Anyway, we then rode the subway to Tiannamen Square, where we were disappointed to find Mao's Mausoleum closed for the day -- he must've been getting an extreme makeover. Across the street we toured the Forbidden City, the massive imperial palace. Hey, there's Eliza, sitting on the central axis upon which all this was built.

All that touristy stuff was fine, but we most enjoyed strolling through the nearby hutongs -- older, smaller, denser residential alleyways that have mostly been demolished to make way for high-rises and freeways and whatnot. We had lunch in a small cafe and browsed several cool little shops. Later, after a subway ride home, we had dinner in the food court atop a local shopping mall. I washed down my yummy dumplings with Yanjing.

Just one more shopping day 'til Halloween, at least for everybody back in the USA -- here it's already All Hallow's Eve. Like, right now it's about 7 a.m. Friday, and since all of China is thirteen hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time, that means in Seattle it's now, what, 11:38 p.m. next Tuesday?

Today we're driving out to the Great Wall -- no, not the Great Wall of Kent, but the Great Wall of China!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 Banned in China!

Just kidding man don't get pissed.

Our China adventure began atop the Sears Tower, with its commanding nighttime views of downtown Chicago, Lake Michigan, and an orange, sodium-vapor sea stretching to the horizon... Then, after that unexpected Windy City layover, we finally did make it to Beijing. Our 14-hour flight took us up over the Arctic Circle before dropping down into Asia, while I watched Get Smart and Speed Racer over and over.

Our arrival brought my countries-I’ve-been-to total to 24, and continents-I've-been-to total to three. We were immediately impressed, having deplaned in the massive new Terminal 3 at the Beijing airport. It's sleek, modern, and breathtaking -- perhaps the most awesome building I've ever seen. I'm looking forward to exploring it more while waiting for our flight home.

We're staying with my dad and his girlfriend Cheryl in their modern seventh-floor apartment in the Chaoyang District. Last night we walked around the neighborhood and had Chinese food for dinner -- what, no fortune cookies?

Then today we explored the fantastic 798 Art Zone (where I snapped these top three pictures), featuring a killer photo exhibit by Edward Burtynsky, the guy from in the documentary Manufactured Landscapes. Lots of other cool stuff there too, reminding us of the Biennale we saw last year in Venice. The Lama Temple we visited next was pretty cool, though we wanna go back to the 798 again while we're here... And Eliza can't seem to get enough tea:

General observations: Internet-wise, despite the Great Firewall, I've been able to dial up all the same old stuff I read at home... Enjoying Tsingtao Beer... Unless you count the Beach Boys at the Puyallup Fair, my first-ever rock concert was the B-52s in 1983. Opening were the Red Rockers -- they had the minor new-wave hit "China," a song that's been running through my head since we got here. Here's the video:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Beijing in the the Fall

Eliza and I are off to China early tomorrow morning. Though we're gonna miss Halloween, the Sonics reunion show (with Girl Trouble opening!), the rest of the World Series, and falling back to Pacific Standard Time, we'll be home by election day. It should be cool, since neither of us have been farther west (or east?) than Hawaii. I'll try to do some blogging while we're there, so stay tuned...

Zài Jiàn!

(Did I type that right?)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Worst-Ever Year in Seattle Sports?

Perhaps. It's gotten to the point where Calvin feels the need to urinate on a Seahawk. Check it out:

Hawks: Off to a 1-5 start, last place in the NFC West.

Huskies: Off to an 0-6 start, tied with Washington State for last place in the Pac-10.

Mariners: Finished with a 61-101 record, last place in the AL West. Worst season in 25 years.

Thunderbirds: Moved to Kent.

Sonics: Moved to Oklahoma.

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Now I've Seen Everything #7: Monkey on a Segway

Via Japan Probe.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy 2nd, Bananas!

Captain Bananas hits the big oh-two today!

More specifically, it was two years ago today that I brought him home (along with Matt Hasselbeck (RIP))... CB is actually somewhat older than two years, though I don't know by how much (he was but a wee thang when I bought him at the pet store, for like $1.49)... Incidental-like, that same day I saw the Rolling Stones and Detroit Cobras, and Evel Knievel turned 68. He dead.

Captain Bananas (aka Mr. Bonkers, as my pal Jen calls him) loves Halloween, hence the scary bat. Also on his tank is a scary witch.

Aieee! We love Bananas!

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Happy 46th, Mike!

Mike Judge, comedy genius behind Beavis & Butt-Head, King of the Hill, and Office Space, hits the big four-six today.

Also, if Evel Knievel were still alive, he'd hit the big seven-oh today. He dead.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sign o' the Times: Batman & Bartman

October 1993, Portland: This giant ad for the local Fox affiliate was painted on the side of a downtown building, promoting The Simpsons (duh) and Batman: The Animated Series.

I love it when cool pop-culture worlds collide.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bubblegum Card of the Week: Homer Simpson

Last Sunday was the 20th season premiere of The Simpsons... Please, make 'em stop!

As much as I love the show, the airing of a new episode hasn't really felt like a must-see, go-out-of-my-way-to-watch "event" in a good ten years, if not more. These days, as more uninspired, half-assed episodes are produced, the percentage of kickass episodes in the overall series run diminishes. At least I used to be able to count on reruns of older episodes as being worthwhile, but now those lame latter-period episodes are creeping into syndication, too.

Topps produced an 88-card Simpsons set back in 1990, when the then-new show was a sensation. They were the first non-sports cards I collected since Return of the Jedi in 1983. Oddly enough, these Simpsons cards depict scenes from the Simpsons shorts that aired on The Tracey Ullman Show, prior to spinning off as its own series.

George Lucas still gets loads of shit for, among other things, tarnishing his original Star Wars trilogy with those three lame prequels. Likewise, if Matt Groening continues to beat his own dead horse, the same thing could happen to him.