Chinese New Year in Shanghai. I have to imagine there is nothing quite like it in the world. It is loud, chaotic, beautiful, violent, smokey, exhilarating, drunken, dangerous and red. It is 2:59 a.m. and I can still hear fireworks in the distance. They started before dark Saturday evening and built to a riotous climax at midnight. We’re talking fireworks — not firecrackers — the big, light-up-the-sky kind. And they are set off in every neighborhood, from almost every street corner, and often right in the middle of the street. Again, again and again. The city glows. It ignites. It howls and cackles. It is warlike in a way. It is a spectacle that begs to be experienced.
But, I understand that is not possible for all of you. So, I’ll try to give you a taste. We watched the madness from a great location, the rooftop of a tall apartment high-rise downtown. I won’t say the exact location, because the way we accessed the roof was a little … um … sketchy. But it was worth it. Here are two video clips, one from the bottom of the building, and one from the top:
I took several photos, too. And some of them were actually almost in focus. Actually, a couple ended up looking pretty cool:
Okay, I need to get some sleep. I’ve sobered up now, and I have a feeling the war is going to resume outside my window in a few hours. Each morning starts with a bang for the better part of week. Gotta love Spring Festival — or else it will drive you crazy.
Happy Year of the Dog, everyone!
Direct link to the photo above right here. No one was hurt during filming.
 But, yes, there are plenty of firecrackers, too.
Well, at least two of them don’t. I’ve always dreamed about being linked to by michaelboltonclub.com, but for some reason I always thought they would like me. No, love me.
They don’t. Well, at least two of them don’t.
A little back story: Back in December I wrote a post on Shanghaiist about Paul McCartney. Sir Paul, rightfully, was outraged by some barbaric treatment of dogs and cats in China. And, because of that, he said he’d never visit China — and that he was planning to boycott all goods made in China. He implied that anyone who deals with China is complicit in the animal abuse that occurs here. While I shared Paul’s outrage, I thought his response was a little … much. (The post, not necessarily because of what I wrote, was followed by a rather entertaining string of comments.)
I finished my write-up with this:
To sum up. Torturing animals = bad. Beatles = good. McCartney’s stance = misguided.
And then, because Michael Bolton was about to appear in Shanghai at the time, I used McCartney’s false logic and added this intentionally, and I think obviously, outrageous statement:
And one important lesson learned: Michael Bolton is obviously in favor of butchering puppies and kittens.
That didn’t go over well in Bolton land. A superfan named angelsnearu fired off a response titled “Terrible Conclusion on Animal Abuse Support,” calling fellow Boltonites to action: “Anyone outraged at the conclusion of this article … should immediately go to this website and post their opinion.” (No one did, by the way.)
angelsnearu wanted to make it clear:
We all know this is B.S. I saw the footage they are referring to in this article and its some of the most horrific footage of animal abuse I’ve ever witnessed on the news and there is NO WAY Michael Bolton supports this country or animal abuse.
Another concerned Bolton fan, Linduhrella, guessed that Michael had no idea there was animal abuse in China. And then added:
One would think some inspirational artists might help, not hinder, the efforts to create a better and more civilized society in any part of the globe.
How true. angelsnearu then returned to suggest I find another line of work:
You know we’ve seen this kind of stuff for years from people who call themselves writers. You know the type…its called, “Climb aboard the stars gravy train” for the writer who seeks attention. I call those writers, “no names.”
Gosh, it just seems so outdated for this kind of material to still be published. They just need to get a new line or a new job…
Woo-hoo! All aboard the Michael Bolton gravy train! Hold on while I count my money!
And then Linduhrella returned with what could only be the final word:
It’s sensationalism and they’re still using, and abusing, it. Any writer worth his/her salt doesn’t have to resort to it to keep their name in print but they do. Some have become quite rich from such tripe. However, they don’t have any staying power like Michael Bolton’s music does. There’s always that element of jealousy from such air-heads that leads one to the conclusion that were it not for the green-eyed monster, they’d have no motivation whatever to write anything. Lacking talent, AND motivation, they wouldn’t be getting paid for polluting the market with garbage. Maybe there would be more room left for quality literature if we weren’t bombarded with such a large quantity of trash.
UPDATE: We have a winner! OZZIE! Final results are pictured.
01.13.2006, 9:05 PM · Diary
Just a quick note to let you know that nominations for the Sixth Annual Weblog Awards (aka The Bloggies) close in about 36 hours. I’m not going to ask you to nominate Shanghai Diaries for Best Asian Weblog — 2005 was a down year for this site — but I am going to encourage you to nominate Shanghaiist in that category (and whatever other categories you think it might deserve). Make sure to read the directions carefully and make your Bloggie nominations now! (Or should that be Bloggy nominations? Anyway, just do it.)
Turns out Shanghai Diaries, and not Shanghaiist, was nominated for Best Asian Blog in the Weblog Awards 2005. I didn’t realize this, however, until after voting closed. At least we didn’t finish last.
01.09.2006, 11:46 PM · Site News
Say hello to the newest, and cutest, member of the Washburn-Khaw Shanghai household! We’re not sure how old he is, he doesn’t have a name yet, and we have no idea what kind of puppy he is … other than 100 percent mutt. (Someone said they think he might have a little St. Bernard in him — we’d like to think they emphasized little when they said that. Our new apartment is only a little more than 80 square meters “big.”)
We adopted our puppy last night from Shauna and Martin, the super kind Australian couple who saved him from the side of the road the morning of December 30. Shauna was heading to work on Pudong Da Dao and saw a man place a cardboard box on the sidewalk and scramble away. Then our puppy hopped out of the box and ran onto the street. (OK, he likely hobbled onto the street. His rear right leg is a little gimpy — perhaps the reason he was abandoned — and he walks with a cute little limp. The vet told Shauna and Martin this was likely due to malnutrition — all he he had was some rice in that cardboard box — and his leg should improve with time and real food.)
Shauna snatched up the puppy and she and Martin welcomed him into their small Pudong apartment. They knew they couldn’t keep him (returning to Australia with a Chinese dog is a real … um … bitch) so they contacted Carol Wolfson at Second Chance Animal Aid, a privately run animal protection association in Shanghai. And then Carol emailed us — we had expressed our interest in adopting a puppy about a month ago — and the moment we saw those puppy photos, we were sold. This is a very nice way to start 2006 (the Year of the Dog, coincidentally).
But we need your help! Help us name our new puppy! (UPDATE: Voting has closed. We have a winner.)
We’ve come up with 11 possible names and would like you to choose your favorite (you can place your vote at the end of this post). Here are the nominees:
- Stanislaw: Author Stanislaw J. Lec once said, “He who limps is still walking.” He is also responsible for many other quotations.
- Coleby: A.E. Coleby wrote and directed the 1923 movie The Man With the Limp. In that film, by the way, H. Agar Lyons played the role of Dr. Fu Manchu.
- Claudius: Claudius I was the fourth Roman emperor. He walked with a limp and stuttered.
- Bowie: Music star David Bowie was born on January 8, 1947. We adopted the puppy on January 8, 2006.
- Mattingly: Former New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly is my favorite baseball player.
- Ewing: Former New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing is my favorite basketball player.
- Duke: The family dog I grew up with was named Duchess. And Duke University was my favorite college basketball team for many years.
- Pogo: Pogo is a cartoon possum who lives in the Okefenokee Swamp, in southeast Georgia. He was created in 1943 by Walt Kelly. I asked Bliss’ dad for his blessing on our engagement at Okefenokee Swamp Park.
- Shelton: Bliss grew up in Shelton, Washington.
- Grover: Grover is a character in Kicking and Screaming, one of my favorite movies.
- Ozzie: In honor of Australia, homeland of Shauna and Martin, the couple who saved our puppy.
So, please vote below. And tell your friends to do the same. We will announce the winner on January 14. Also, if you live in Shanghai and would like to adopt a dog or cat, try to make it to the SCAA’s next adoption day on January 15 at O’Malley’s Irish Pub.
Kind of hard to top that last post, so I won’t even try. I’m writing this from Manhattan’s Upper East Side. My fiancee (she has not changed her mind yet) in napping next to me. The sun is setting and everything is pink and gold outside my window on the 26th floor. We’re staying at my good friend Veronica’s place here in New York. Unfortunately, Veronica is not here — still sunning on one of the Caribbean islands. St. Barts, I think. Hopefully she gets back before Bliss and I fly back to Shanghai on the 6th.
We drove here in a rented Ford Taurus, through the Poconos along Interstate 380, where the roadside woods were either covered with snow or encased in ice. Trees, some leaning in from the weight, sparkled in the sunlight — they looked like they had tiny leaves carved out of crystal. The scene felt rather fragile, like one strong breeze could come in and shatter the entire forest and make it fall onto the soft bed of white waiting below.
During the ride we listened to Chad VanGaalen’s beautifully eery album Infiniheart, and that reminded me — although it appeared on Shanghaiist, I never posted my top albums of 2005 on this site. (And, no, not one reader has emailed to complain.)
For various reasons, I have failed to give this site the attention it deserves for the past half a year or so. I hope to change that soon. But my 2005 music list will have far fewer bells and whistles than my 2004 list. In fact, all you get are some snazzy italics. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here are my top 20 albums of 2005:
- Chad VanGaalen - Infiniheart
- Wolf Parade - Apologies To The Queen Mary
- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
- Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
- John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt
- My Morning Jacket - Z
- Bright Eyes - I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
- Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production Of Eggs
- Spoon - Gimme Fiction
- Rogue Wave - Descended Like Vultures
- Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
- of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins
- Brakes - Give Blood
- Iron & Wine - Woman King EP/In the Reins EP (with Calexico)
- Superwolf - Superwolf
- Stephen Malkmus - Face The Truth
- The Decemberists - Picaresque
- M. Ward - Transistor Radio
- The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree
- The Capitol Years - Let Them Drink
Some images, links and mp3s can be found over at Shanghaiist or at my mid-2005 picks page. I may add albums beyond No. 20 as I think of them. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. If you are really quick, maybe I can be listening to some of your music picks on my long, long flight back to China.
I asked Bliss to marry me last night.
I got down on one knee and everything.
She said yes.
That made me very, very happy.
Yep, that is the engagement ring — and Bliss’ cute little hand — in the photo. More photos from our (ongoing) holiday stay in the U.S. here.