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Zhang is a random Chinese person, I meet him everyday. Sometimes he’s a man, sometimes she’s a woman. Sometimes old, sometimes young. Sometimes she drives a taxi, sometimes he’s a cashier. Zhang is everyone.
One day, I walk into Zhang’s store to buy some groceries. After finding my head far up in the sky Zhang’s eyes quickly fall to the floor, as if to see if I might be standing on something. While I buy my things Zhang whispers and gestures indiscreetly to his co-workers to check out the foreigner. I walk across to the checkout counter and Zhang starts conversing with me while bagging my things.
—You’re very tall, he tries.
—I know, I reply coldly.
—Are you two meters?
—Yes, two meters two centimeters.
—Wow, so tall.
Zhang goes on to tell his co-workers how tall I am, and then asks the same question Zhang always asks.
—Do you play basketball?
—No, I don’t play basketball. I don’t like the ball and the ball doesn’t like me, I reply trying to be funny.
—Such a waste, Zhang sighs and moves on to ask where I’m from. I tell him where I’m from. He looks impresed and continues talking, but I soon interrupt him.
—No, Switzerland has good watches, I come from Sweden. We don’t make watches in Sweden, and not famous chocolate either. Zhang looks slightly puzzled.
—Sweden is in the north of Europe.
—Oh, Sweden was it? Zhang seems to realize his mistake, but I’m not sure if he really knows where northern Europe is.
—How long have you been here, Zhang proceeds to ask.
—Hmm… seven or eight months.
—Wow, you’re Chinese is so good
—Oh not at all, my Chinese is far from good, I say while secretly smiling.
—Hehe, you’ve learned Chinese modesty too, Zhang mutters.
Zhang has individually bagged the toothbrush and the instant noodles, and now puts the two bags into a third bag. I hand over the money and we say goodbye. Tomorrow I will meet another Zhang in some restaurant and we will have the same conversation all over again…
Today we visited the China National Film Museum out in the north-east suburbs of Beijing. It’s a huge complex with a three-story exhibition, an IMAX theater, a digital theater and the usual 35 mm theater. The exhibition focuses on the history of Chinese cinema from its beginning more than 100 years ago till the present. Since I am a big fan of Chinese cinema I recognized many of the actors, directors and films that I love.
I was disappointed, however, to find some glaring omissions – one of the best films by the most famous director was mysteriously missing. I’m talking about Zhang Yimou’s To Live, which was banned for its unfavorable treatment of the Party and the cultural revolution. Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Blue Kite suffered the same fate. This makes me wonder what else might have been omitted. In the 1930’s film-making was heavily influenced by the politics of the day – might great films from this time be missing because of aligning with the Nationalists?
Where did The Blue Kite go?
The treatment of Chinese animation was very satisfying. Original sketches from Uproar in Heaven were on display, as well as information on Princess Iron Fan and other old gems. Furthermore there were sections on costumes, special effects and the abomination that is dubbing. All in all very nice, but I should warn that there’s very little information in English. Visit only if you’re a film buff, can read some Chinese and already know a fair bit about Chinese cinema.
Making of Uproar in Heaven
Having been through the 20 exhibition halls, we watched an IMAX 3D screening. It was a 30 minute gimmicky movie about the creatures of the sea, obviously made only to showcase IMAX technology. If you ever go to an IMAX theater, be sure to watch a real movie.
Watching IMAX makes you look stupid
Digg has gone crazy over this 128-bit number.
This means that there is hope of being able to back up HD-DVDs, making me actually consider buying them in the future.