Or footie, as the cool kids call it these days. Sunday evening, Cecil, Gavin, Marina and I headed over to Hongkou Stadium to watch some China Super League action. Shanghai Shenhua vs. Inter Shanghai, to be specific. This is called a derby. But it’s pronounced darby, I think. Now would be a good time to admit something: Living in Shanghai, I believe I have learned more British English than I have Chinese.
When I was around six years old, my mom bought me some new pajamas. The shirt had a picture of two guys playing soccer on it. And, since some 6-year-olds are stupid, it also had the word “SOCCER” printed in big bold letters. I threw a fit. Screaming. Crying. Why? Because I’m an American, Godammit! We hate soccer.
And then my family moved to England. The West Midlands. Sutton Coldfield. I attended the Penns Combined School — uniform required. Everything changed. I wore Adidas Sambas. I played Subuteo. I collected soccer sticker albums. I pulled for Aston Villa. I played soccer, excuse me, football — with a tennis ball, on blacktop — during recess. (I also played marbles, something called conkers … and got sent to the headmaster’s office because I somehow convinced a fellow second-grader to, inside our Ally McBeal-style co-ed bathroom, pull her knickers down. I still feel bad about that. Kind of.)
Well, Japan has apologized to China … again. But Japanese officials also visited the highly controversial Yasukuni Shrine … again. (Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hasn’t made his annual pilgrimage to the shrine — yet. He was busy meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Indonesia. A recent poll by Japan’s liberal Asahi Shimbun newspaper, by the way, shows that nearly half of Japanese voters wish Koizumi would halt his visits to the shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead — including 14 convicted World War II Class A war criminals.) And so, China responded to the apology by saying Japan needs to match its words with actions … again. And now, the feud turns to school textbooks … again. This time, Japan is calling China’s history books “extreme.” Not exactly breaking news.
The China-Japan issue is not going away any time soon. If you have read the comments to my previous post, that is abundantly clear. (And if you haven’t read the comments yet, don’t try to do it in one sitting.) Most Chinese feel one way. Most outsiders feel the opposite. The Chinese don’t understand the outsiders. The outsiders don’t understand the Chinese. This is not the first time in history this has happened.
Click here for photos of today’s anti-Japan march in Shanghai.
So, I ended up going to Shanghai’s anti-Japan march this morning anyway. Going against the advice of a Chinese friend who told me the protest would be “very dangerous.” Going against the advice of the American government which warned U.S. citizens that China’s blanket hatred of all things Japanese could mutate into acts of violence toward all things foreign. I picked up the protest near People’s Square at around 9:30 a.m. expecting to see lines of Shanghai police, worrying slightly that my camera could get confiscated, not necessarily because it is a Japanese-made Canon — although that thought did cross my mind — but because I figured Shanghai authorities, desperately worried about the image of China’s most international city, would be doing everything in their power to limit the event’s exposure to the outside world.
Well, nothing of the sort happened. There were no lines of police. There were some, of course. But the majority of police that I saw today were smiling and laughing and marching along with the protesters. No one said a thing about my camera — not one of the police officers atop their Yamaha motorcycles, definitely not the Chinese student who wanted me to answer a question into his Sony video camera.
The following is a translation of an email making the rounds in Shanghai regarding the fun-filled weekend the city has in store. The instructions include some tips that I think we can all apply to our everyday lives, like “If you are spotted throwing stuff at the consulate, smile at the policeman” and “Be careful when burning the Japanese flag and the Prime Minister’s portrait! Don’t end up burning yourself!” That’s just common sense.
Not sure if you were planning on checking out the protests in person or not — a little too early in the day for me — but the organizers promise it will be “quite a view.”
Here, comrades, is everything you need to know:
That is, of course, if you want it to be
Look to your right. No, not that far. On your computer screen. On your web browser. On this web page. In that gray area over there. Below SPONSORS. Above SEARCH. Welcome to your very own Shanghai events calendar. I say “your very own” because that’s exactly what it is. You — the people of Shanghai — control the content of this calendar. And the 15 most current events will always appear under EVENTS on this website.
We are pulling events for our calendar from the Shanghai metro listing of a great site called Upcoming.org. Anyone can browse the listings at Upcoming, and registered users (it’s free) can add events, tag them, comment on events and “mingle” with people who have similar interests. Upcoming also allows you to create private events — ones that won’t appear on the main calendar — and you can use the site to organize the event and send out invites. Not bad.
Right now, thanks to me and Micah, Upcoming’s Shanghai metro has 60 events listed. That ties us with the San Francisco Bay Area for eighth most in the world. New York City is No. 1 with 267 events listed.
Currently, all of the Shanghai listings are either sports or music. I added the Shanghai schedules for the China Super League and the China Baseball League. And Micah added a bunch of listings from Shanghai’s underground music scene, which does indeed exist and is only getting better.
But for an events calendar like this to work, we need many more people to add listings — listings that cover a wide range of interests. So if you know of something that needs/deserves publicity, go add it to the list. And tell your friends to do the same. (Note: Right now all the Shanghai listings have address information in English and Chinese. It would be cool, and very helpful, if that trend would continue.) I know if I was in charge of publicity for a band, a bar, an art gallery — any event, really — I’d be all over Upcoming. It’s free. It’s easy. And it has the potential to be seen by many, many people.
I’ve always wanted a tool like this on the web — a listing of Shanghai events that I’d actually be interested in. I have one now. And you can too. Check it out.
Mediocre things come to those who have no choice but to wait. I am talking about my most recent batch of photos from Xishuangbanna. Not that the month-and-a-half-old photos (all 117 of them) are bad — actually, I think some of them turned out pretty well — but the image quality of the versions I added to the photo gallery is a little subpar, in my opinion. The reason? I started to use this iPhoto plugin called iPhotoToGallery. It really does make the uploading process a lot easier, but the tradeoff is that your photos look like crap. Until they clean up the crap, I won’t be using it again. But I won’t be re-uploading anything, either — just don’t have time. Still, the photos should give you a good feel for ‘Banna, which, after two visits, is one of my favorite spots in China — because the place, not far from Burma and Laos, is like a vacation from China. A slice of Southeast Asia without having to go through an airport security check.
I don’t have time to the write the long, vivid travelog that a trip to Xishuangbanna warrants (my time is currently occupied by a longer, hopefully vivider travelog), but I would like to leave you with a few brief Yunnan travel tips:
Tip one: Go to Yunnan. You will love it.
One of the reasons I like my part of Shanghai is because it feels old and lived in. It’s got character. One of the reasons I don’t like my part of Shanghai is because it’s being knocked down, one beautiful brick building at a time. It makes me sad — and I’m not even one of the thousands of longtime residents being displaced in the name of “progress.” Every day — well, every day I actually make it out of my apartment/office — I walk past an old man in a stocking cap who sits alone on a ratty chair next to one of the narrow walkways that lead into one of these labyrinthian longtang neighborhoods. His days consist of little more than resting on his cane and watching the world go by, a popular avocation for the elderly on Madang Lu. Yesterday, I saw him fiddling with his dentures. I always try to say hello to the man. And he always looks a little startled, giggles and then says hello back. I wonder when his house will be demolished. I wonder when he’ll get shuttled out to the suburbs to live out his years. I wonder if someone will say hello to him out there. I hope so.
My friend Henry grew up in in the apartment I now call home. During a visit last year, he looked out the window of his former bedroom — it’s on the 13th floor — and remarked how dramatically the view had changed. He used to see nothing but tile roofs. The tile roofs are still there — some of them, at least — but they sit in the shadows of tall apartment buildings. No doubt more of these uniformly ugly creations are on their way. Every morning I wake up to two sounds: construction and destruction. Odd how they often sound the same. Henry has lived abroad for nearly a decade and now makes his home in Atlanta. He appeared visibly frustrated by the fact that those who seemed most interested in preserving Old Shanghai were foreigners. Henry said 10 or 20 years from now — maybe sooner — Shanghainese are going to look upon a homogeneous mass of high-rises and wonder: “What have we done to our city?”
If I had a lot of money — and plenty of governmental guanxi — I’d buy an entire city block of these old neighborhoods and fix them up, preserve them. I don’t have a lot of money. I don’t even have a little money. So my preservation of Old Shanghai must start on a slightly smaller scale — a $3.75 wooden chair.
Hmmmm. Can you tell which one is me? (Click on the photo for a closer look.)
And no, this is not an April Fools joke. [UPDATE: And now I have proof — the television version of the ad (1.54MB QuickTime movie file). Can’t Photoshop that.]
Special thanks to Even at Workhouse Film for hooking me up with a copy of the ad. [UPDATE: And special thanks to Hung at Washabi for providing the video.]
[UPDATE II: I totally forgot to direct you to the photos from the shoot for this ad. They start at the bottom of the page … after the photos of me with amazingly big, bad hair.]