First something about Thursday’s gig at Mao. Snapline opened the show with electro-pop-rock and English vocals delivered in a “slowly going crazy” but yet charismatic manner. Next in line was what I came to see – Carsick Cars. As they entered I noticed that two of the members are actually shared with Snapline. The music, however, is not in the same genre. Rather, it’s riffy and swingy rock with lots of noisy things in between. Some would call it indie rock I suppose.
There were quite a few non-Chinese in the audience, a number of which formed a brief mosh pit to the horror of some Chinese visitors. “No thanks, I don’t mosh.” Unfortunately the band only played about 5 songs, but short is sweet I suppose. When they played the last song – 中南海 (Zhongnanhai) – every smoker in the audience bombarded the band with cigarettes while the rest of us shouted along with the not-so-hard-to-remember lyrics.
The main band was the Beijing girl punk band Hang on the Box, but as far as I’m concerned the gig was over. Afterwards I chatted a bit with the record label guy and bought an undisclosed number of copies of Carsick Cars’ album. I sat in a couch until bassist 李维思 (Li Weisi) and drummer 李青 (Li Qing) turned up and signed my album. Li Weisi smoked Zhongnanhai and I waited a bit longer until guitarist/singer 张守望 (Zhang Shouwang) came along and made my album autograph-complete. I assure you that I’m not crazy, I just thought it would be neat…
Adapted from Maybe Mars without permission.
The album includes 7 songs in Chinese and 3 in English. I’ve been listening more or less non-stop and I do think it’s really cool, especially 志愿的人 (Volunteer), 中南海 (Zhongnanhai) and 广场 (Plaza). The undisclosed number of copies that I have in my possession have a purpose, which is this: I will send a copy of Carsick Cars’ album to anyone who requests it for free, with no conditions attached whatsoever. Just contact me and tell me where you want it delivered. When all my copies are gone I hope that there are an undisclosed number of new Carsick Cars fans in the world!
Copies delivered as of 2007-11-05:
- China: 2
- France: 1
- The Netherlands: 2
- Norway: 1
- USA: 2
Disclosure: The original number of copies were actually only 4, but since there were so many who wanted the album I went to buy all the copies in a record store here in Beijing, bringing the total to 8. Despite my best efforts I have not been able to find any more, so at this time I can’t offer to send any more. Nonetheless, I do hope that there are at least 8 new Carsick Cars fans on the planet now!
Carsick Cars is a fairly new Beijing rock band which I discovered via MusicBrainz only yesterday. After listening to the repetetive lyrics and riffy guitar of 中南海 (Zhōngnánhǎi) I think I’m hooked! The title refers to the name of a popular brand of cigarettes, but Zhongnanhai is also the name of the area to the west of the Forbidden City (called the New Forbidden City by Beijingers) from where the Party runs the People’s Republic.
Zhongnanhai, Zhongnanhai… Zhongnanhai, Zhongnanhai
Zhongnanhai, Zhongnanhai… I only smoke Zhongnanhai
Zhongnanhai, Zhongnanhai… I can’t live without Zhongnanhai
Zhongnanhai, Zhongnanhai… who fucking smoke my Zhongnanhai?
Figuring out which Zhongnanhai the lyrics might refer to is left as an exercise to the reader. I haven’t been able to get hold of their self-titled debut album yet, but a record shop in 东单 has a copy booked for me. On Thursday they’re playing at the Mao Club and everyone must go! For those not in Beijing, here’s the video of Zhongnanhai instead.
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
In Sweden I usually demonstrate on labor day, but that’s obviously not an option in China. Instead we went to Houhai, a lake area north of the Forbidden City. I accidentally stumbled upon this big thing:
It’s the Bell Tower and is actually a tourist attraction, but I didn’t feel very attracted to it. There are a lot of Hutongs in the area – Hutong is what the old narrow streets in Beijing are called. More and more of them are destroyed to make room for the modern life, which is a pity in some cases. However, many of them are actually really shoddy. Would you want to live here?
Soon we arrived at Houhai. This area is very un-Chinese with reagge cafes, bars and the like. Nonetheless, walking around the lakes (Houhai is just one of several) is pretty nice.
Feeling kind of bored, we went to Wangfujing to watch a movie. If you get a chance to see Shanghai Red, do pass. It’s unoriginal, slightly pretentious and has corny dialogue, mostly in English (it’s a Sino-American production, I found out too late). Enough about that. I found a huge DVD shop and wandered around for a long time. I was kind of surprised to find Devils on the Doorstep, which I wrote yesterday has never been shown publicly in China. Finally, I bought Mongolian Ping Pong, by the director of the popular hit Crazy Stone.
In all, a great day for the international labor movement (and the international film industry). Last but not least, a warning from the kitchen of BLCU’s dorms:
After 2 weeks in school I’ve changed classes twice and in the end only take 5 classes with a total of 18 hours per week. The main Chinese class has the greatest teacher ever, teacher Zhang (张老师). She’s a middle aged woman who dresses formally, wears a big smile and doesn’t waste a minute of class time with nonsense. There is only one teacher who is a bit vague in her teaching. She’s the same age as me so I guess it will work out with a few years of experience.
I’ve taken a closer look to find that the person on the North Korean’s badges is the Eternal President of the Republic, Kim Il-sung (i.e. the deceased father). Also, not all of the North Koreans are teachers. One studies automatic control, the stuff you need to make missiles hit their targets (when I studied it in Sweden the examples were often military aircrafts or similar). Actually, automatic control is used in lots of industrial processes, so there’s no need to jump to conclusions. If I were a bit less lame I would just ask him.
The Spring Festival is over and by now I’m almost certain that it’s some kind of mass psychosis. During all the 15 days of celebration there have been fireworks and yesterday the car alarms rang one last time to welcome the new year. I’ve heard that one person was killed and many others injured by fireworks during the festival.
Today classes started again. I’ve jumped up a level since last semester so things are a little different now. I have 2 mandatory courses and 4 selectable courses, in total 20 hours per week. I’ve only had one subject today, so I don’t know yet how things are going to be, but it seems that the level is OK anyway. One seriously cool thing is that I have no less than 5 North Koreans in my class. All of them are men over 40 and some or all of them are teachers. What’s more, all of them wear badges with the beloved leader Kim Jong-il (or maybe his dad, I haven’t looked closely). Given that North Koreans generally can’t leave their country I had never expected to see them in real life, much less talk to them. I’m not sure why but it’s kind of exciting!