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The best 70-year-old map of Shanghai

BEST OF SHANGHAI: ‘One man’s opinion’

I’ll keep this short, because I know that, like me, you are all probably rushing around doing your last-minute Chinese New Year shopping. Wait a minute — this thing I’m writing about would actually be a perfect gift. I mean, what is better to hand out on the most important of Chinese holidays than a historic Shanghai map from a time when most of the city’s streets had French names? Better yet, what if that map was created by an American who helped establish the Nationalist government?

I know what you’re thinking: Dan, this actually sounds like a much better gift for Valentine’s Day. And — you know what? — you’re right. What says I love you better than an old map? “Baby, I was lost until I found you …” — the card really writes itself! This map would never fit in one of those Spring Festival red envelopes anyway.

Failed attempts at humor aside, this 70-year-old map — brought back to life in limited edition form by longtime Shanghai resident and author Paul French — would be a great gift, during any time of year, for a Shanghai history buff or any resident of Shanghai. It also may dispel some longstanding urban myths about that “former swamp” we know as Pudong.

“The Municipal Council’s map, issued for visitors to Shanghai in 1935, shows a city that had grown up in the previous 20 years — by 1935 the Bund was formed pretty much as we know it today and the International Concession reached out past the race course, now People’s Square,” French said. “One interesting thing to note is that when supposed old hands in Shanghai tell you Pudong was nothing but fields and farms when they came here you’ll know they are bullshitting — the map shows how Pudong was a thriving factory area then around what is now Lujiazui.”

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01.30.2005, 6:00 PM · Best of Shanghai · Comments (9)

IBM’s moronic new ad about China

If you live in a America and you have watched any television in the last couple weeks, you have likely seen some of IBM’s “help desk” commercials, the company’s attempt to, as Reuters phrases it, “put a human face on the services it offers.” In IBM’s whitewashed parallel cyber-universe, friendly, soft-spoken people sit behind desks waiting to help real people solve their real-people problems. “We wanted to show that we’re not just talking about technology for technology’s sake … but things that affect not only business but the world and society at large,” said Deirdre Bigley, IBM’s vice president of worldwide advertising.

Unfortunately, one of the ads — produced by Ogilvy & Mather — shows IBM to have a rather myopic view of the world at large, especially China. This is a common problem in corporate America, blinded by the supposed gold in them thar Chinese hills. The 30-second spot does not bode well for IBM’s future in the “world’s fastest-growing economy.” Nope, the “Big Blue” just doesn’t get China at all, it seems. Interesting for a company whose computer business was just taken over by Lenovo — a Chinese company.

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01.24.2005, 2:35 PM · Business, Television, Video · Comments (18)

The coldest looking sport in the world

Also: I am a bad Pennsylvanian

As some of you may know, I’m in Honolulu now. The forecast for Sunday is 80 degrees and sunny. Perfect beach weather, right? Nope. Not today. Today, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. I will be seated in front of a television set. And I will be loving every minute of it.

This is a great time to visit America for NFL fans who happen to live in China. The division championships. Atlanta vs. Philadelphia. New England vs. Pittsburgh. Winners advance to the Super Bowl. And I get to watch both games live. I know it sounds ridiculous, but other than meeting my nephew and visiting with family, the prospect of watching NFL games live was the thing that excited me most about coming to Hawaii. Well, OK — the weather’s a draw, too. It’s nice to go “home” without freezing your ass off.

Speaking of home — and freezing your ass off — thanks to FOX and CBS, I’ll get to spend six hours in Pennsylvania tomorrow … and the only thing cold will be the beer in my right hand. They are expecting a foot of snow before kickoff in Philly. The high temperature Sunday in Pittsburgh is expected to be 17 — with wind gusts of 30 miles per hour. And I, if I get sick of the commercials, can walk barefoot out onto my brother’s porch and see the Pacific Ocean.

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01.23.2005, 7:03 PM · Sports · Comments (6)

Tonight and Tomorrow: Country music … all the way from Japan

From Gary of the Shanghai Cowboys:

Stopped in Tokyo for a few days and played last evening with some of my old band members from the Tokyo Cowboys. Great fun. The quality of playing by young country musicians here in Tokyo has really improved over the past few years! Tomorrow, Thursday Jan 20, I return to Shanghai. Also tomorrow a Japanese band from Kyushu will arrive in Shanghai to play at Ark on Saturday Friday evening! My good friend, a great young pedal steel player Hiroshi Ozaki, who is the son of my old pedal steel man Takashi Ozaki, will be coming with them. Hiroshi is one of the musicians I played with last night and he really swings! The lead singer and band leader is Charlie Nagatani, who Shawn Waters worked together with in Fukuoka a few years back. So it will be a great weekend. See you all at Ark Saturday tonight!

UPDATE from Gary:

Correction! Tonight at 8:30 the band plays at Ark. Tomorrow at Oldies in Hongqiao. Hope this reaches you all in time.

Sorry, still no word on the band’s name, what time the show starts on Saturday, the admission price or whether any other bands are playing. I tried to see if the info was on the new That’s Shanghai website, but that thing is soooo bad. The Ark Live House site looks better, but it is also of no use whatsoever. I’ve never been able to find listings on it, not on the English version at least. I’d call Ark myself, but I’m in Hawaii. I’ll let you do it:

Ark Live House
Taicang Rd, Lane 181
Xintiandi (North section) #15
Phone: (021) 3308-5000

This might be the venue for Saturday night (I’d call if I were you):

Oldies But Goodies 温故知新
1440 Hongqiao Lu (by Yan’An Xi Lu)
Phone: (021) 6219 3364

Related: Shanghai Twang: Country music in the big city

01.21.2005, 3:30 PM · Music · Comments (1)

Head-shaking drugs and birds of prey

Greetings from the Tokyo airport. It’s hour five of my seven-hour layover en route to the Hainan Island of the United States — Hawaii. I’m on my way (thanks to a free frequent flyer ticket) to meet this little guy (photo on right), my nephew Sam. This is my first time being an uncle. I hope I don’t drop him.

Interestingly, even with my long layover, thanks to an 18-hour time difference, I still arrive in Honolulu nearly two hours before I left Shanghai. I left Shanghai at 9:15 this morning, and will touch down in Hawaii at 7:20 … this morning. Right now, Honolulu’s low temperature is more than 20 degrees higher than Shanghai’s high temperature. Sounds good to me. I think I’ll stay for a month.

I’m going to be busy these next several weeks — doing the beach thing, babysitting and, yes, writing — so I was wondering: Can you guys help me answer some of the emails piling up in my inbox? The following are two of my more, um, interesting ones — covering everything from the notorious “shaking head pills” to Tommy Hilfiger to hunting with hawks. (Please leave your replies in the form of comments to this post.)

This one is from a former student, a college junior:

how are you going? winter holiday is drawing near and i’m very excited. i have been always thinking about going to the bar ‘cause the atmosphere there deeply attracts me. perhaps you think it very strange. going to bars is an easy deal, why do i always think? i’ve been told several times that it’s very terrible there. young people violently and continuously dance and shake their heads, and i guess that’s due to the drugs. so do you have any suggestions for me? in addition, dan, do you know about brands? i mean those american native brands such as tom hilfiger. have a nice day.

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01.13.2005, 5:27 PM · Diary, Humor · Comments (21)

The Top 25 Albums Of 2004

2004music.jpg THE YEAR’S BEST MUSIC

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01.03.2005, 11:01 PM · Audio, Music · Comments (22)

This bug’s for you

Some say the new Shanghai Oriental Arts Center looks like a butterfly. I say it should have spent some more time in its cocoon.

From PlaybillArts:

Designed by French architect Paul Andrea — who also designed the opera house currently under construction in Beijing — the hall is variously described as resembling a butterfly and an orchid, with five segments containing the main entrance, the concert hall, a 1,020-seat opera house, a 333-seat auditorium, and an exhibition space. At night, lights on the roof will change color in coordination with the music inside.

I attended a show inside the butterfly last night, just two days after the $120 million dollar Shanghai Oriental Arts Center opened its very expensive doors. The concert — performed by the Berlin RIAS Broadcasting Philharmonic Orchestra — was billed “The Night of Dynamic Crystal.” And that billing makes absolutely no sense unless you know that the evening was sponsorerd by a real estate development firm that, for some reason, named itself Dynamic Crystal. I was given two free tickets to the concert because of some relatively shady “work” I did for Dynamic Crystal a couple weeks ago.

So please, follow me as I take you on a walking tour though the latest impersonal monstrosity to go up east of the Huangpu. The photo essay begins here.

01.03.2005, 9:50 PM · Music, Observations · Comments (5)

‘From travel bug to travel blog’

That’s the title of ShanghaiTalk’s January 2005 cover story — and you may recognize the “cover boy.” Oh, wait. You probably won’t. My face is covered in the photo, which likely explains why it made the cover. The magazine’s managing editor Shamus Sillar did a nice little story about The Trip and the two-page spread also features a slew of my photos and an excerpt from one of my trip stories. I’m pretty pleased with the way it all turned out.

Unfortunately, ShanghaiTalk does not have a real website — it is only 2005, after all — so if you want to read the story, you’ll have to pick up an issue in Shanghai. This may prove to be difficult if you happen to live in, say, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, or anywhere else in the world. The photo is also the cover of this month’s BeijingTalk, but I’m not sure if the story ran in that magazine, as well [UPDATE: The story did run in Beijing … and Guangzhou, as well]. Maybe Shamus can hook me up with a PDF file of the story that I could post here or something [UPDATE: See below … Thanks, Shamus!]. I’ll let you know.

For now, you can check out these not-so-great pics of the story high-quality images Shamus gave me. Just click on the icons, keeping in mind that some of the images are rather large:

But, really, if I were you I’d check out this great video of The Arcade Fire playing live instead (thanks for the link, Daily Refill). And stay tuned for the Shanghai Diaries Top 25 Albums Of 2004 list, which will appear right here very soon — maybe even tomorrow. I have a feeling The Arcade Fire might make it. Yeah, I’m pretty sure about that.

01.02.2005, 2:15 AM · Music, Site News · Comments (5)