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Sealbarf, Hong Kong, etc [22 Apr 2011|08:38pm]
[ mood | hungry ]

I hate my roommate, what else is newCollapse )

Anyway, YEAH, back from Hong Kong! It was HOT--86 degrees and 99% humidity (I posted that on fbook, and Sealbarf commented 'You still use Fahrenheit?' YES, shithead, sorry I'm not an obnoxious poser expat like you/sorry I haven't alienated everyone I ever knew back in my Fahrenheit-using home country. Deleted his comment, just like he deleted my sympathy comment the last time he posted that he'd been declined for a job.) I am a cold-weather creature, none of that tropical weather for me. Not to be TMI, but I was so overheated and sweaty the whole time that my trip was marred by having to smell myself and seeerious chafing/blister issues. Boo. LET IT SNOW.

The city was cool, and it was fun to get away (oh God, bubble baths at the hotel <3), but I was a little underwhelmed by the city. Hong Kong made me miss and appreciate Beijing. It was expensive and cramped and lacking in charm. It occupied a very strange zone between East and West, so obviously Chinese in some ways, yet with many more Westerners and Western companies. They also spoke a ton of English, which was more disorienting than convenient. As strange as this sounds, I was out of practice for doing basic things like asking directions and ordering food in English, and I kept accidentally using Mandarin.

Not a fan of Cantonese, oy. Mandarin sounds so much purer and more beautiful to my ear, which is funny, considering Cantonese is actually older and much closer to what ancient "Chinese" actually was. Also, how any society in the 21st century can function using traditional characters is beyond me, but props to them.

Hong Kong felt weirdly small, considering it's a huge city of seven million. It's an island city like New York, so everything is cramped and oriented vertically, and there's no spare square of space to sit down anywhere, but even moreso than Manhattan. Hong Kong Island was like Midtown placed on cliffside, with windy-er, narrower roads. It was overwhelming and weirdly claustrophobic. In contrast, Beijing, which sprawls and has more than twice as many people in it, feels much more manageable and welcoming. As an inland city, it can afford eight-lane roads and wide sidewalks; there are millions of places to sit and watch the world go by. Beijing is known for being much more laid-back and slower paced and Hong Kong a bustling hive, yet the molasses-slow way people in Hong Kong walked nearly drove me to violence. Did I just get stuck behind every rural mainland tourist in the city, or what?

I have no idea if there's any basis to this other than my Northern bias, but I thought that on average, people in Hong Kong were WAY less attractive than average Beijingers, including both Chinese and foreigners.

It was wonderful to be by the water again and to smell the ocean. I rode the ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island four or five times, and sat at the water's edge watching the nighttime HK Island skyline for a long time. It was great to see greenery and mountains. It was hazy at times, but Hong Kong's pollution is downright quaint compared to Beijing's.

Chungking Mansions was a blast. It was super sketchy, and I was almost positive someone was going to try to pick my pockets/steal my kidney, but the carts of cheap samosas were AMAZING. I think I'd rather sleep in a subway station than in one of the Chungking hostels, though.

I also managed to get matzah ball soup and a corned beef sandwich on Hong Kong island FUCK YEAH! I had a lot of fun going through the 7-11's and supermarkets, which had a lot more Japanese and Western food than the ones in Beijing do, and I brought back several bags of Ritz cheese crackers. You have no idea what an utter delight those crackers and fake cheezfood are until you can't find them anywhere.

My guidebooks turned out to be largely useless, except for their maps. I wasn't shocked; the way China is changing, guidebooks (which usually suck to begin with) are outdated the day after they're published. Many of the places I looked for had moved, closed up, or were nothing to write home about. I did, however, manage to find the goldfish market in Mong Kok and had a blast buying presents for my fishies.

I was wary about leaving my fish for a few days, since I was still monitoring their acclamation to their new tank. Sure enough, when I got back, I realized they'd developed Ichs, a very common goldfish disease brought on by stress. Luckily, this can be treated with table salt and careful water monitoring, and they're responding well so far. Silly little buggers.

I also came home to find that my favorite Uighur restaurant was boarded up. The lightning pace with which shops in Beijing go out of business, close up, and are replaced, is dizzying. The Back Bay Borders has sent me about 50 e-mails in three months about their going-out-of-business sales; In the month I've been in Andingmen, at least five shops in my close vicinity have gone out of business and been replaced overnight. I'm reeeeally hoping they're just remodeling or taking a break for a Muslim holiday or something. They had the best kaonang and chaomian noodles I've had so far, and I was quite taken with the cute Uighur waiter boy.

My sister is starting to visit colleges. Holy jeebus. She's also considering culinary school, since she thinks she might want to be a pastry chef. I'm a little uneasy with the thought of her doing just a year and a half culinary program and living with her stunted SPM education forever, BUT it's not my choice, and I may have to accept that my attempts to nudge my Valley Girl sister towards the left, feminism, and reading may be futile. It's not like I look down on anyone who doesn't go the typical higher education route (heh, as we all know, plenty of people do the four years and spend the $100k+ and are just as stupid or more than when they started) BUT I feel like she has intellectual potential that she rarely taps, and she doesn't have much of a drive to educate herself on her own. Also, I don't want to be the only member of the family who has any intellectual curiosity whatsoever, although that may be a lost cause.

Meh, but maybe people who have little intellectual curiosity are better off in the end. Less awareness of how fucked up everything is.

One last thing in this long, rambling pracrastination post: While in HK, I finished Paolo Bagulciajfldplakshfd's The Windup Girl, about a dystopian Thailand long after the oil has run out and the world's been ravaged by genetically-engineered crops and crop diseases. It's been hugely hyped in sci-fi circles, and I think it deserved all of it. The setting, futuristic, hypercapitalist, post-post-post-Globalization, dystopian Bangkok, was one of the most fascinating I've ever read (plus, as an expat in Asia, I LOVED the Thai version of the laowai and the Chinese characters). I believe this is Bagulcialfpafopso's first novel, and he definitely relied on a lot of common tropes, but the setting was so rich and novel that it more than made up for any minor plot issues. The cast was full of anti-heros and grey-zone protagonists, which are always my favorite kind, and I was impressed with how likeable and relatable Bagulciapklsfkjdasko made traitors, cutthroat businessmen, and servile, insecure androids. I adored Hock Seng, an old, bitter, calculating Chinese refugee and ultimate survivor, but in a less-skilled writer's hands, his character (and much of the book) would have come off as ferociously anti-Chinese.

Now: Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, a 180-degree shift in tone, writing style, and setting, but already engrossing. I loooove deductive reasoning (related: holy shit, the British Sherlock mini-series is SO DAMN GOOD), so I'm down with the clever Franciscan detective.


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[14 Apr 2011|08:15pm]
So it turns out goldfish aren't as low maintenance as we're led to believe! Especially "fancy" goldfish, which are the norm in China. (It turns out my four are Fantails.) The first night I had them, just like I did with my birdies, pretty much every time they moved I went to google and asked ARE MY FISH DYING OMG HALP. I had done research before I bought them, but either I read the dumbest sites on the internet or I am a complete moron, because it now quickly became apparent that I was doing everything wrong.

Apparently it's considered so cruel to put fish in bowls that bowls are actually outlawed in some countries. Goldfish shit a ton, and since bowls aren't filtered, they run out of oxygen, get sick from the ammonia, and pretty much suffocate and die surrounded by their own shit. Anyway, I realized having four goldfish in one bowl was pretty much a violation of the Geneva Convention, so I immediately moved Kathy Griffin and Pedroia into a big tub I had. They barely moved for two days, just huddled under their plastic plant, and I was really afraid Kathy in particular was not long for this world.

You know how goldfish and koi do that cute gasping-at-the-surface thing? IT'S BECAUSE THEY'RE SUFFOCATING. My fishies were doing that, so I vigilantly changed their water every few hours and did a bunch more frantic research. It turns out there's a huge, passionate goldfish appreciation community online dedicated to correcting all the mistaken ideas we have about them. You know how goldfish are notorious for dying within a month? That's because people have no idea how to take care of them; they're supposed to live for ten years or more!

Anyway, being in China made all of this much more complicated. I can't just run out to Petco and discuss nitrate levels with some staff member. However, I did buy a much bigger, filtered tank today and another aquatic plant to help with the oxygen/chemical levels. It was way more money than I wanted to spend, especially with Hong Kong this weekend, but there was just no way I could let some poor critters suffer and die because of my stupidity and stinginess. The tank's not as big as it probably should be, but my fish are already looking better.

With what I now know about goldfish, though, it breaks my heart to see all the mistreated fishies in tiny bowls as store and restaurant decoration throughout Beijing. Oh, China. They're still working on the 'human rights' thing, so as you can imagine, the condition of their animals can be pretty shocking sometimes.

On the plus side, it was 88 degrees today!! And yet...there were still many Beijingers walking around my neighborhood in puffy coats. I just...what? Are your bodies magical? Are you all carrying sawed-off shotguns under your coats? HOW. WHY. I DON'T EVEN.
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[12 Apr 2011|02:51am]
[ mood | chipper ]

I have fishies!! I've been wanting goldfish forever since, especially since the Asian fancy goldfish are so neat. I get really lonely working at home, but with my semi-nomadic lifestyle, owning anything more high-maintenance than a fish is impossible. I am delighted with my new little buddies, so I'm really hoping they take to their new bowl well and don't go belly-up on me. I named them Eugene Fishherbert, Noam Chomsky, Kathy Griffin, and Dustin Pedroia.

Right now I am watching Pedroia eat a pile of poop, spit it out when he realizes what it is, and then eat it again. Pets <3

In other exciting news, this kid is headed to Hong Kong this weekend! I need to make a visa run. It's hard to believe I've been back in China for 90 days already, but there you have it. Since it sort-of coincides with my birthday, my parents chipped in some money so I could go to HK and not do Mongolia again. I was supposed to take a 24 hour train down today, actually, but for some reason there ended up being NO hotels available in the city for less than US$300. Even the shitty hostels were full-up. I ended up ditching my train ticket and buying a flight+hotel package for the weekend that was a fantastic deal and will save me a ton of hassle. I actually would have preferred to take the train down than fly, but I wasn't able to buy a round-trip ticket in Beijing and wasn't too keen on getting all the way down there and *hoping* there'd be space available on a train heading back north in the next week.

To get in the Hong Kong mood, I watched Infernal Affairs last night, the Tony Leung/Andy Lau movie The Departed was based on. And by based on, I mean Scorsese lifted entire scenes word-for-translated-word. The imdb boards will cut a bitch for declaring their loyalty to one film or the other, but mostly I was fascinated by how easily Hong Kong translated to Boston. I thought The Departed was better, to be honest, but I know that's largely because I'm an irrational Masshole who froths at the mouth for Gritty Boston Movies (tm) and because I'm an American trained in American tastes (compared to Asian pop culture, North Americans are way more cynical and have a lot less tolerance for saccharine and cheese). It's hard to say which film is better when they were made for very different audiences and for different purposes. Someone on imdb said that Infernal Affairs was a thriller, while The Departed was a character drama, which I think is a really good assessment.

It's been in the 70's lately! I went out to get my fishies today without a jacket!

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[24 Mar 2011|12:59am]
[ mood | cold ]

Okay, so this is going to be one of the FAILingest things I've ever said, but bear with me: several months ago I went to a Facebook group and added people specifically to play Farmville with, since none of my friends play except Lorien and that stupid game is a good way to kill 5 or 10 minutes when I'm working. Anyway, I added a few boys, and although I restricted what they could see on my profile, they didn't block me. Ever since, I've been fascinated watching their lives through Facebook. I added one Filipino, and two other accounts with very similar names and ID pics added me, and I'm not entirely convinced they're not the same person who just really, REALLY likes Farmville. Another boy is a cute, sweet, effeminate Sri Lankan high schooler. Another is an obese, mohawked, gay emo highschooler from Ohio. The American boy updates constantly in great detail about his drug use, his many major mental health issues, his drama with friends and boyfriends, and endless emuuuuu. I guess it's really creepy of me to read his statuses, but from a sociological standpoint, I'm fascinated. O Brave New World, etc.

Moved into the new place! After another round of dramz and stupid from Sealbarf, I ended up with the bigger room in the apartment, and it's awesome. The previous tenant left a bunch of comforters and pillows, so my bed is so comfy that getting out of it before 3 pm has become a serious challenge (also, it's been cold as snowman balls since the government turned the heat off for "spring.")

My new hood, Andingmen, is proving delightful. One night when I went in search of something to eat, I turned a corner into an alley that was nigh opaque with smoke from chuanr stoves, the red neon lights of chuanr signs blinking through the haze--a whole street of cheap restaurants, including not one, but THREE Uighur restaurants.

Adding my little sister on twitter may have been a poor choice. It turns out, I really don't want to know what goes on in her little head + holy no capitalization or punctuation batman!

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[13 Feb 2011|05:30pm]
[ mood | bumming ]


I am lonely and I feel like I have no friends in Beijing. I have people I know, but since Roommate and I are...not on the outs, per se, but we only communicate through gchat, even when we're in the same house, I no longer even have anyone to text if I have a funny thought or want to go out and get dinner. I e-mail Lorien and Lauren, I post on people's Facebook walls, I occasionally gchat with Kyle and Matt, I maintain one-sided conversations with intarweb people who I fear actually can't stand me, and all week I count the days until it's socially acceptable for me to Skype with my mom again. Friendly Toothless Man down the street and I share our same hello-are-you-cold exchange every day, and the waiters at my favorite Uighur restaurant yell HELLO at me and I tell them I want gaifan. This is the extent of my social interaction. I relish solitude, but even for me, this is lonely.

Tomorrow's Valentine's Day? I don't get all emo anymore about it anymore, but even so, at 22, this whole 'never-had-a-serious-boyfriend' thing is wearing out its welcome. I need some lovin' and some sexin' and a friend. I'm such a loner and so awkward in one-on-one situations that the thought of being in a ~relationship~ is both thrilling and nervewracking.

But honestly, I think trying to meet people and make friends is actually harder than trying to meet people to bone them. The rules and the 'game' or whathaveyou are less defined.

I really want a kitty.

On a positive note: this guy's painting oeuvre seems to be 70% flying whales, and I appreciate that.

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[26 Jan 2011|11:18pm]
[ mood | angry ]

I hope my roommate gets hit by a bus.

Fucking prick.

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[18 Jan 2011|07:34pm]
BRB, back to Beijing...

I know I'll be happy once I'm back there, but for now I'm pretty sad about leaving.
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[14 Dec 2010|03:21pm]
[ mood | lazy ]

Q: When does Dana update her blog?
A: Only when she's procrastinating work!

Back in America. I'll probably head back to Beijing 20 lbs heavier the way I'm scarfing down cookies and bread. Air Canada was the best airline I've ever flown on (which...granted, isn't saying much, but it WAS nice), and I just about cried when they served the eggs&hashbrowns airplane breakfast--Western food! I was disillusioned with white people/North Americans before I even left the Toronto airport. I feel so out of place among the suburbanites here that I wonder if you can ever really fit in again after living abroad, especially in a developing country, for a prolonged period of time. People here love my gross-out stories about China--eating brains, public spitting, nasty bathrooms--but can't fathom why I like living there so much. I'm beginning to think the high standard of living in North America has a numbing effect; people seem ruder, colder, more superficial. As cliche as it sounds, roughing it a bit in China, surrounded by people who live in houses without reliable heat and plumbing, does make you appreciate everything more. My home shower feels so luxurious now! It's nice to be back, but I miss Beijing already.

Naturally, my dad has been driving me crazy with his "derp derp I'm a libertarian Tea-Bagger/unions are the cause of all the world's problems!" crap (he even went on a weird rant about Noah and the Flood, whaaaaat), but when he's away on business he lets me use his office for work. BIG DESK AND SPINNY CHAIR!

My dad also refuses to abandon his attempts to get me into business. I like translating? START A TRANSLATION BUSINESS! Business business business! It may be in his blood, but it's certainly not in mine. While my intellectual side understands that businesses are a key part of the economy and society, emotionally I find everything about them repulsive. PROFITS! SALES! PR! Putrid. Do not want.

My plane ticket home was my xmas gift, but my mom also agreed to get me a jigsaw puzzle and a cheap, skinny scanner for me to take back to China. I am so stoked to own a functioning scanner again. My imaginary if-I-had-a-bunch-of-money Christmas present to myself? $400 Sennheiser headphones ZOMG. My $40 Sennheisers from a few years ago still work just fine, and I love them, but soooomeday....

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[06 Dec 2010|04:04am]

Please be gentle with me, AirCanada.
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[18 Oct 2010|04:39pm]
[ mood | cold ]

Fall has arrived in Beijing with a vengeance, and I am freezing my ass off. It takes some swallowing of my New Englander pride to admit how cold I am when it's only in the 40's BUT the government doesn't turn the heat on until November and my apartment isn't insulated. I didn't know how long I'd be staying when I first got here, nor did I realize the government controlled my thermostat, so I didn't bring much in the way of winter clothing. I've been shivering so badly in my pile of blankets stolen from AirChina that I scrounged some ill-fitting but warmer clothes in a bag left behind by some chick who lived here last year. Luckily, I found a heavy comforter in one of the closets, so my bed is pretty cozy, although it is now damn near impossible to get out of bed.

My sleep schedule is all out of wack from a slew of all-nighters translating and late nights drawing to Kathy Griffin stand-up. (I LOVE HER). One of the companies I work for is located in London, so I get fun phone calls at 11 pm asking me to start working on jobs due the next day. At 6 am the other day, just as I'd finished translating a navigational document for later that morning, my computer ate it. THERE WERE TEARS. Happily, I managed to salvage it, and I turned in the assignment not only on time, but early, because I'm just that much of a baller.

I signed up for two figure drawing club things this week. I figure I'll go to both, and whichever has more people my age, I'll stick with. My sentence structure is becoming very Chinese. First session is tonight, and I'm pretty stoked. PLEASE GOD DON'T LET IT BE ALL OLD PEOPLE. I need friends.

I've been drawing a lot, and I'm PINING for a scanner. I was hoping I could hold out until I head home in early December, but my sister messaged me the other day to report that Harley chewed up our home scanner. Oof. Puppy.

Now that I'm living alone, I bring a book to read when I go out for dinner, and I've been getting a lot done. Recently finished Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played with Fire and Frank Herbert's Dune. Dune was stunning, although the ending left me unsatisfied. After much searching in all of Beijing's foreign language bookstores, I was unable to find the next few books in the Dune series, and I was le sad. Plenty of Twilight and Robert Jordan! No Frank Herbert. Next up on my reading agenda is Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and China Mieville's The Scar. Yeah, what's up, I love genre fiction. I fantasize that some darling awkward expat boy will spot me with some classic sci-fi and strike up conversation. So far, all I've gotten is a Uighur waiter flipping through Dune and scoffing, 'What, no Chinese?'

WHAT SHOULD I BE FOR HALLOWEEN? I wanted to be either a Dune worm or Lisbeth Salander, but I know no one would know who I was :(

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Glenn Beck has never denied raping and killing a girl in 1990. [29 Aug 2010|03:01am]
I know we on the thinking, rational side supposed to be above this, but: God, I wish Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin would just die. These people and their fear and hate-mongering are seriously dangerous. Between this damn rally, recent polls, and the non-mosque non-issue in non-Ground Zero, shit's getting ridiculous. I know a lot of my liberal friends can shrug this stuff off, but I can't. I've been too close to this stuff. It's real and it's stupid and it's disturbing.

But what do I know, I'm just a pinko commie Godless Nazi Fake Amurrcan, off in another country, hanging out with people of color, learning another language, expanding my mind, and doing other Fake Amurrcan things.

(Do they have 'Not a Real Amurrcan' t-shirts yet? Because they should)

In other news, a friend is letting me use her scanner tomorrow, and I'm so stupidly excited about scanning some sketches and linearts I feel like it's Christmas! Also, almost done with Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Not exactly fine literature, but very entertaining!
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Good China weeks [13 Aug 2010|02:36pm]
[ mood | cheerful ]

the Good
- Finally discovered an art store! Small, dusty, and far away, but it had pencils and microns and cheap Chinese markers.
- Daily 30 cent USD ice cream bars
- 20.3 oz bottles of Yanjing and Qingdao for 45 cents
- Spending hours drawing in an ex-pat cafe/library
- Spencer's visiting!
- Broke into Beihai Temple at night with Spencer and Kyle and drank beer and baijiu
- Ground-bats
- Beer picnic #2 at the Summer Palace with some of Spencer's Harvard friends
- Taking an enormous spontaneous group photo with a bunch of rural tourist kids whose parents were super excited to see white and black people.
- Got lost at the Summer Palace, ended up climbing over some ancient curly-roof buildings and walls.
- Package from home arrived! Prismas, more coffee, and new external harddrive
- The company said my first batch of translations were great :B
- A Chinese man told me I was too short to be American
- The elusive Sanlitunr FALCON MAN (he carries a falcon around on his shoulder.)
- Carrot and egg dumplings

the Bad
- Sweating my metaphorical balls off
- Trying to explain my novel in one or two sentences without it sounding horrible
- Our toilet is leaking, and by leaking I mean gushing

the Just Weird
- A midget beggar lady called me a 'dog cunt' when I instinctively said 'Hey, watch out/小心!' as a truck hurtled towards us.
- Ate boiled pig brains

the Unrelated
Best comment from this article: Child Plays Dead on Google Street View, Horrifies a Nation
"On the Google street view in Worcester, Massachusetts the dead children lying in the gutter are real... and they have herpes."
I keep having to explain Worcester county to people I meet here once we get past the initial "I'm from Boston" stage of our relationship. Sadly, I shattered a Californian's belief that all of Massachusetts was a liberal playground with a few Mr. Paul and Uncle "Digging-a-bunker-to-hide-his-guns-from-Obama" Paul stories. Also met an ex-pat who once biked through Massachusetts and whose main memory of his one night in Worcester was watching a bunch of kids torch a car. Ahh, it warms my cold Masshole heart.

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[04 Aug 2010|12:46am]
After two weeks of being choked by heavy white carcinogenic sludge, blue skies have returned to Beijing! In honor of being able to breathe, we ran around all weekend. Spent Saturday night with some agonizingly fresh-off-the-plane Americans ("Lolz let's make fun of Communism in English right to some Chinese people's faces!") at a reggae bar with pot leaf flags and Matisyahu posters. On Sunday we went to an art district called 798 which had the most extraordinary converted factory galleries filled with the most bullshit SMFA freshman art and had iced tea in a treehouse. Then I rocked out to 'Hollaback Girl' in the back of a cab as we rolled down the 2nd Ring Road.

Last week we met by chance a super flamboyant Chinese guy and his German laowai faghag. She was from Dresden; I am proud of my drunk self for not replying, "Oh, that city we bombed the shit out of!/That band with the cool chick who doesn't shave her armpits!" although I came very close. The Chinese guy's English was fantastic, and he said that whenever his classmates in Beijing taunted him for being a gay peasant from the sticks of Guizhou with poor English, he would study videos of Anderson Cooper to inspire him. He also asked us to explain the meaning of "once you go black you never go back."

Highlight of the past few days was definitely a guy in a traffic jam leaning halfway out of the backseat of a car and screaming "FUCK YOUR MOTHER'S PUSSY!" in Chinese at a guy on a motorbike. Close second was the rickshaw man who rode by with a boombox blasting Auld Lang Syne played on a flute and pipa.

I am employed! Got my first batch of translations yesterday and immediately proceeded to spend all day working on the wrong article. Because that's how I roll. So far, most of the articles are about things in China blowing up.

Don't tell Kyle, but I've tagged along to some super artsyfartsy installation exhibits and such, and it seems to me that many of them are very expensive cases of the Emperor Has No Clothes 2010. I don't want to play "What is/isn't art," but I know when my bullshit meter is going off. In related news, I found a good watercolor brush at 798, but my quest for art supplies in Beijing continues. I miss having a decent space to draw that I've been dreaming about markers and desks.
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[27 Jul 2010|07:56pm]
Got a call from the HR guy I've been dealing with at the translation job today. There's been a snafu for the past week or so with issues of taxes because I'm an expat without a formal Chinese work permit. Luckily, the company has offices in the US, and it looks like they'll be able to put me on the payroll for a US branch and pay into my US account (which I can access from any ATM in Beijing, because sometimes globalization is awesome). SO, I can has job?

Anyway, before he wrote up the contract, he asked for confirmation that I'm willing to work for at least four months, which of course, I am. And then my brain did this:
Start in August. August = Month 8. 8 + 4 months = 12. Month 12 = December. December = Christmas.

WHOA, man. Like, I planned on being here for at least that long, but still. Shit got reeealll.

Last night Kyle, a Chinese friend, and I went out for malaxiangguo, which is basically a giant pot of shit cooked in a pile of Sichuan red peppers. ADVENTURE DINING. The food was so hot the restaurant supplied tissues for when your sinuses drain all over your face and your eyes water so badly you can't see. Both nom and painful.

Okay, back to WRITINGWRITINGWRITING. I've made it to Chapter 4 of my re-write, so I'm finally into the beginning of the Dakerai & Contral Epic BromanceTM.
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WRITE WRITE WRITE [26 Jul 2010|04:07pm]

Part of why I moved to China was to be able to work seriously on my novel (I never get tired of saying that, it makes me feel just the slightest bit like a *real* writer), and for the past week I've been doing that. As I lack a legit desk, I've just been hunched over my laptop on my bed with my mugs of jasmine tea. Kyle says I look like this:

Been rewriting the Ronia story. Fought with a chapter for a few days, writing certain scenes completely new ("Hmm, drag queen or inner monologue?"), and I think I finally solved it by combining all my various attempts.

Yeah, I'm writing a fantasy novel with drag queens. EAT YOUR MORMON HEART OUT, BRANDON SANDERSON.

Kyle is amazed and weirded out by my ability to sit in a corner and not leave the house for several days straight. As someone who has an endless capacity for amusing myself, I get frustrated with people who always need to be out and doing. My brother is an extreme example of that. I'm not a homebody to the point of it being a problem, but I definitely enjoy having a few days to myself to hang out in my pajamas and not talk to anyone.

Someone on DA sent me a note confessing that she'd been a lurker Redsugar fan for SEVEN YEARS, that I'd inspired her to create her own story, and asked me for tips on story-creating. Kind of warmed my heart.

Since I found out rather belatedly that Avatar: The Last Airbender got Firefly'd after three seasons, I've been dragging it out and instead marathoning CSI:NY at night. I'm watching all of season 3 and torrenting 4. GODDAMN I love that show--the cheesy one-liners ("It looks like this marathoner came in...dead last."), the ridiculously twisted murders, the endless supply of Upper East Side socialities who die grisly deaths, the sci-fi lab equipment, the NYC setting, and the ridiculously attractive cast. I would pay Carmine Giovinazzo to read the newspaper to me in that blue collar New York accent. Also? Stella Bonasera x Olivia Benson = world's hottest ladycop pairing EVER. They're both so hot I don't even need to follow that up with a 'lolz straight' disclaimer, because their sexiness surpasses the bounds of heteronormativity.
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[22 Jul 2010|01:39am]
It's been a few weeks of Good China Days.

Things I Have Achieved Using the Chinese Language:
- Bought and set up cell phone, conquered weird SIM card problem
- Located and retrieved my poor world-travelling Chinese-Dictionary-containing-Palm Pilot, which didn't arrive back home in time, had to be shipped to Beijing, and got lost in customs.
- Located Windows 7 64-bit compatible Bluetooth Adapter in the electronics zoo of Zhongguancun (required following some guy through a few buildings and up twelve floors, but I found it, goddamnit)
- Located obscure, unique charger for said Palm Pilot at Zhongguancun
- Set up Chinese bank account, received ATM card with green cartoon cow on it.
- Registered with the cops, received temporary residence permit
- Translated a four-page article about an accident in Shenzhen and was hired as a freelance translator
- Successfully called water-jug-delivery-man and received water jug delivery

Other Assorted Good Things:
- Pineapple beer
- Attended an underground rock show at a converted hutong courtyard house
- Saw a little kid scream in utter terror at the sight of two budgies who reminded me of Ben and Chris
- Discovered entire seasons of CSI:NY for sale for 50 kuai
- Obtained six-pack of PBR
- Avatar, the show, is actually really, REALLY good

To-do list:
- Make ¥¥¥
- Find art store
- Find scanner
- Obtain Chinese boyfriend
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[28 Jun 2010|03:05pm]
Leaving for Beijing on Wednesday afternoon.

Trying to pack lightly, but some things are essential: sketchbook, Wacom tablet, stuffed Jumbo, Red Sox pennant, instant Starbucks packets. BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS. How do you choose what books you're going to read for a year? We ghetto-shrinkwrapped my Slanket with a vaccuum cleaner and a trash bag and got it down to about the size of a pair of jeans, which is awesome. Definitely an indulgence, but it'll make me feel more at home, so it's worth it.

I had a dream last night that I was in Sanlitunr, and I could feel the sun and wind on my skin. For some reason, it was by the ocean, and there were honking koi fish the size of sea lions.

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Pau Gasol is a Neanderthal [15 Jun 2010|10:50pm]
I haven't had a good night's sleep in days because of this crazy bird that's taken up residence on an eave right outside my window. It sits there for more than twelve hours a day and chirps its brains out. Wakes me up at 4, 6 and 9 on the clock. It even outscreeches Chris; my AC, sound machine, and ear plugs have proven futile against it. Its feathers are kind of disheveled, and it keeps accidentally colliding with my window, so I'm convinced it's some kind of drunk hobo bird.

- Got a new laptop! Posting from my new sparkly white E Series Sony Vaio. Prrrrrr.
- Writing! Doing pages and pages of red pen edits on both Young Lords and the Dakerai story.
- The A-Team was ballin'.
- Reading me some Kerouac. Sal Paradise is my homeboy.
- Lots of late nights watching crime shows with my mom. By now we've seen so many episodes of Forensic Files, we could commit a pretty awesome crime.

- My dad, Mark "Muslims and Africans are no better than animals" Beruafkdjfhj.
- Weeding for hours every day and getting covered in bugs and Vengeful Plant Venom Blister Things.
- Reading the Worcester Telegram & Gazette every day is actually making me stupider.

Current plan: Flight to Beijing out of JFK on June 30. HOSHIT.
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Severe Thunderstorm Watches are my happy place [03 Jun 2010|01:55pm]
Back at home in Worcester, been here for about a week. Yesterday Chris escaped. I guess I didn't fully latch his cage after I gave him fresh water, and he managed to pull open the door and fly out. Our house is pretty open, with high ceilings, so he could have gone ANYWHERE. Also: ferocious Boston Terriers. My family went on the search and finally found him in the dining room. In trying to scoop him up with a fish net, I accidentally bonked him on the head with the wooden frame like Parakeet Badmitton, and he ricocheted right into my mom's hair. The screaming and flailing by my mom and sister was second in hilarity only to the Bat Incident of a Few Years Ago. Luckily, I managed to scoop him up with a scarf and get him safely back in his cage, although he bit me and was woozy and disoriented for a little while. I love that crazy little birdie.

I'm a bit out of sorts here, as I always am when I don't have a desk. I need my computer and my sketchbooks and my speakers to be set up to feel at home. All my belongings are in some state of packed/need to be unpacked/need to be packed for the storage building/need to be packed for China/need to be set aside for this weekend's yardsale.

Been reading! Fiction! It's wonderful. So far in the past week or so I've knocked off Brave New World and The Great Gatsby, two books I've been meaning to read for a while, and I'm almost done with Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Adored Brave New World, indifferent towards Gatsby. Read some of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn but had to stop. Great concept, great setting: bland writing and hamfisted characterization. Cheesy, predictable, groan-inducing. The guy should be hired by Jerry Bruckheimer to work on his half-rate action-fantasy flicks. On the one hand, I hate stopping in the middle of a book, but on the other, life is too short to read shit. Too bad, I've been looking for a good (elf-free) fantasy novel.

Getting my ass kicked in Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS) and Prince of Persia (PS2). The new 'Persia' movie looks horrendous (sorry, Jake), but I'm starting to find game!Dastan's parkour kind of hot.

In other news, I graduated from college. BA in Asian Studies. Neat. My dad bought me an awesome watch.
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[09 May 2010|10:12pm]
[ mood | bored ]

Unff. Writing the last paper of my collegiate career, possibly my last paper ever, AND EVERY SENTENCE IS PAIIINNN. It is so boring I keep drifting off mid-word. FOLLOW THE TRACK OF THE TOLUID HOUSE OF THE CHINGGISID MONGOLS REGARDING RELATIONSHIP TO SEDENTARY POPULATIONS AND AJHDJSKJHREKWHKUHD. Considering drawing a nice picture of a Mongol, stapling it to the three pages I've written, and calling it a day. After turning in my 26-page seminar paper on Friday, my brains are complete mush.

These are my dear friends Fouad and Niles, my only company during these long, sad hours typing and typing and typing.
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