Thursday, November 5, 2009

Oh The Weather Outside Is Awesome

Wercome wercome. It's been a hellacious couple of weeks here with intermittent spatterings of awesomeness, but I gotta say the bad has has most definitely outweighed the good as of late and I'm ready for that to turn around.

Let's get this out of the way:
Now, down to the business. It's snowing here as I type this. Most people here in China are not please about this but I absolutely love it. I've been jonesin for a little bit of home lately and this weather provided some much needed comfort.

I suppose I'll go back for a quick recap since the last post. A few weeks ago I had a rough week. Can't really say why, I was behind on sleep and it just seemed to drag on forever. This was also right when a quick bout of the flu swept through our school, and when you work at a boarding school something like that hits pretty much everyone. The kids were dropping like flies from a bug zapper, and this began a couple weeks straight of never having a complete attendance. So, not much sleep, unenthusiastic/sick kids, oh, and it got cold. Now, those of you back in MN may be saying to yourself, "But Ben, it's been cold here since like August". While this may be true, you also live in a free country, that is to say, a country where you are free to control the heating in your own home. I, however, live in a country where the government decides what date the rest of the country can turn on their heat, and the usual date is November 15th. That's right. If you check your calenders, you might notice that date still hasn't passed yet. And it's been cold here for about 3 weeks now. Not MN cold, but just above freezing at night cold, and when you don't have heat, that means it's barely warmer than that in your apartment, and that my friends sucks huge. So, well into a shitty week I went and saw DJ Kid Koala and that was pretty bangin.

Even though I was already tired as hell, I made it to the end of his show (around 1:30am) and still made it to school on time the next day. Dude's got some serious chops on the turntables. I've been a fan since around sophomore year of highschool and was pretty excited to see him. I dragged along a couple friends who said they liked it, but I'd say maybe a quarter of the audience could comprehend the turntablism they were seeing, the rest just got drunk and danced and had a good time.

That saturday we had an all day sports meet at our school with the kids. The weather turned around for pretty much that one day and we ended up with clear skies (a rarity in this smoggy city) and temps in the 60's. Perfect weather for some sports. This year was much better planned than last year and ended up being a lot of fun rather than tiring as shit. After the day was over I started up a game of touch football with the older international kids and a few teachers and played for about an hour. I hadn't played touch football since highschool so that was a blast. I highly recommend doing it if you haven't for a long while.

Oh, that saturday also happened to be the 31szt of October. Some of you may also know this date as Halloween.

Also, just to give you an idea of the work that went into that mustache, I present you with the following:

Also, that great weather I just spoke of lasted all of about 12 hours, because right around 9pm on the 31st of October it started to rain. Then it started to snow. That first picture up there is from the morning of November 1st. And I was wearing nothing more than what you see above.

Begin: shitty week #2
Following the night of running around in the rain and snow in short shorts and a tank top I did indeed pick up a cold. To make matters worse, my Grandma died. That tuesday was among the top worst tuesdays of my entire life, but I did discover that a quick cry will clear your sinuses out quite nicely. It wasn't entirely expected (complications from a surgery) and it was the first time I realized how far away I am from home. I usually feel like I could just hop a flight home if I ever really needed to, but in this case the worst happened and there was nothing I could do. At this point I'm doing fine. A few downs here and there, but what really gets to me now is being so far from the rest of my family. The best I can do is send emails or call, things that pale in comparison to a hug. Anyways, the dog's been extra snuggly lately which has been nice.

That friday I went and saw this dude.
"Clive Chin is a Chinese Jamaican record producer whose work includes seminal recordings by The Wailers, Dennis Brown, LeePerry and Black Uhuru, among others. "
He spun some classic Reggae jams all night after giving a short talk about his experience in the scene and growing up around all that music. I talked to him for a few minutes towards the end of the night It was pretty neat to a) meet a Chinese dude with a Jamaican accent b) meet someone who was around and played an integral part in the popularization of such an awesome genre of music and c) get to listen to it all night at a bar in Beijing.

It snowed again on monday, and this time around it wasn't just a dusting. Beijing got somewhere around 3 to 4 inches in a single night. That made getting to work something of an adventure. After taking 40 minutes to get a cab I made it school only 20 or so minutes late. After school I decided I'd show some of these kids who'd never before seen this much snow how to handle a snowball. Little did I know that as soon as I threw one, I opened up pandora's box in terms of a snowball war. Of course, every student wants to hit their teacher with a snowball. How could I have possibly overlooked that? Next thing I knew snowballs were flying from all directions, most coming from the older kids (who can throw pretty damn hard) and who are unaware that headshots are unsportsmanlike. After 4 lazerbeam shots to the head I retreated in doors. Not to be outdone, I ventured back out after a few minutes, recruited a few students and opened thigns back up. I like to believe that final outcome was a draw if you ignore that first lopsided massacre.

Oh, somewhere in there I tipped over on my bike and ended up with a fat lip and a banged up knee cap, but things seem to be healing well.

Now, this city doesn't have snow plows but they do have a shit load of people, so after only an afternoon of millions of peoples worth of shoveling power, most of the streets were clear and Beijing traffic resumed it's usual chaos. Now, two days later it's snowing again. I rode my bike this time. I made it with icy pants cuffs, glasses that I could barely see through and and a water stain on my carhartts that ran from my crotch and down the inside of each pant leg (my studetns still don't believe it was from the weather) and honestly I couldn't have been happier. I've had three relatively snowless winters in a row and without even realizing it, this was the little piece of home that I needed right now.
The view from my classroom

Check you later folks,

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How Many Purses?


In sticking with my infrequent updates, here I am three (four?) weeks later to yet again update you on the going ons of my life here in Beijing and hopefully entice you to read the whole thing by providing you with music and visual entertainment. So without further ado:
If you've actually been keeping up to date on the podcasts over the last year you might notice that we jumped form I believe podcast 14 in the previous post to #17 here. This is because I've been putting them together in my spare time and numbering them as I go and it turned out that I liked #17 better than 15 or 16, so it's jumping a couple spots in line while I put 15 & 16 on the back burners for a few weeks.

Life stories
Things have been happening for the last few weeks on a pretty regular basis. This happened, in a big way. Fighter jets, tanks, people marching, fire works, China showing off just a what a huge communist country can do when they decide they want to put on one MFer of a parade. Unfortunately there were rules (see: laws) about foreigners not being down on the main route to see the parade, to the point where police went around to all the apartments that lined Jianguomen Rd (the main road that runs past Tianmen Square, which was the center of the parade route) and put up notices that no one is to be seen looking out their windows during the parade and if seen it is possible that they will get shot by a sniper. I figure it's just a rumor, but I heard this forma number of people from a lot of different running crews. I did watch it on tv though at a friends' apartment while he and his bride to be made breakfast burritos. Bangin? Indeed. I was even able to run down to Gongti Beilu (Worker's Stadium North Rd) and see the tanks making their way back to wherever they go after a parade (army base? Tibet?) and snapped a couple of bad photos on my iphone. Check it:

WOW! Tanks! Them shits were loud, lemme tell you what. The whole parade thing was to celebrate China's 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Peoples Republic of China (i.e. communism) and what says communism better than giving everyone a week off of work? Nothing as far as I know. So while everyone else was on vacation, worked because our school takes some kids on a trip during our fall break and after trying to move 60 kids around last year while the rest of China was on vacation sucked like so many shop vacs, which year we decided to push our break back a week in order to avoid the scramble. So on my vacation I had a whole lot of nothing to do. I ended up just bumming around the city, riding my bike a bit, playing ping pong, going to happy hours, hanging out with the dog, and generally being a huge load. However, the weather during that week was mostly beautiful and I managed to snap a few pictured during a couple rides with that handy dandy lil gadget I call iphone again. So, yes the pollution is pretty bad here, but once you get a bit out of the city and into Beijing's 'backyard' you get a little bit of this:

Yes, that is the Great Wall. (Of China).
Somewhere, about 60k in the distance, is my apartment.

I'll try to save the too-much-bike-talk for another post. Before I do though, I just want to bring to your attention something that has been bothering me for a while. There a criminal trial going on in California right now over a 60 year-old former ER medic who purposely braked in front of two cyclists to "teach them a lesson". One rider went over the car and into oncomming traffic, the other went face first into the rear windshield, breaking and nearly severing his nose off of his face. If you're curious you can read coverage here. Now this is all the talk on most of the bike blogs right now. The driver is being charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Obviously, the source I'm reading about this from is pretty biased, and lots of people have been writing in with their stories of being hit by angry drivers with not justice. It's really made me think though (hard to believe, I know). Here I am in a city with something like 9 million bicycle commuters, most of whom are not skilled riders at all, and somewhere around 3.5 million cars (not including trucks, buses, and other motorized vehicles) where most drivers of those cars didn't drive 2 years ago. Now, granted the bikes outnumber the cars here almost 3 to 1 and cars are used to dealing with driving AROUND bikes, but the drivers here are still pretty terrible, worse than most in the US I'd say since pretty much no one here obeys traffic laws, same with the cyclists. However, the rage is avoided here. Here in China, the bicycle is a necessary form of transportation and everyone understands that. In the US riding a bicycle is usually a choice, and understandably so since most things in the US are much more spread out than most other places in the world. Cities sprawl, towns are miles from the next, and the easiest way to get form one place to another is by a motorized vehicle simply because of distance. For some reason people in cars see that vehicle as their right and it's yours too, so why the hell would you choose to make your life more difficult and ride a bike? To some it seems to offend them by assuming that those pesky cyclists think they're better than those who drive. I'll stop trying to pick apart the why of the drivers vs. cyclist rage that exists in the US and get to my point: I feel much safer here. Even though people are worse drivers here, cars move slower. Hell, I'd say most cars top out on the highway at around 45 mph. I heard from a friend that the average speed of a car in Beijing is 19mph, meaning if you're a quick cyclist it takes you the same amount of time to get somewhere as it would in a car. People are also looking out for bikes here, while they most definitely are not in the states. Most importantly though, bikes belong here. I hear a lot of people in the US say bikes don't belong in the street (which is very much untrue since most states declare it illegal for bikes to ride on the sidewalk). I'm going to digress here since I'm probably preaching to the choir here since many of you do ride a bike at least for fun as much as for function and end with a couple requests. Please be careful. Both bikers and drivers. I'd like for drivers to be more careful around bikes, but a lot of the rage stems from bikers assuming the road belongs to them. It doesn't. You have to share it, and so do the drivers. Keep in mind that the way you ride reflects on all bikers and although you may get away with doing something stupid that pisses off some driver, he may take it out on someone competely innocent. My bottom line I guess is something my mom taught me a long time ago: It doesn't matter if you had the right of way if you're dead. Bikers are very exposed and it's easy to forget that on both sides. whew. I'm gonna cut that rant off since it's not keeping with my promise to avoid the too-much-bike-talk.

In other exciting me related news, I met this dude Rob last night who is a director and film editor. We got to talking and it turns out he's making a short film that has some funding from Sony and he asked if I'd like to do some music for it. I told him hell yes I do. The film will be starring Rick Stanning who you can see in the music video below filmed mostly in the Beijing subway system.

The Electric 6 will also be on the soundtrack. Rob also put together an unofficial music video to a Queens of the Stone Age song.

The Most Exalted Potentate of Love from terrible_apartment on Vimeo.

I hope this actually pans out. Rob says there isn't really money to be made, which is cool with me, but that he's gonna enter the film in a bunch of festivals and I gotta say, after watching the two videos above, I'm impressed. I'm pretty excited to hopefully be a part of this in the near future. I'll post updates as they progress.

To finish off here, I spent a good deal the last few weeks watching BMX films. Yes I love bikes. Yes I love going fast. But there's so much grace and beauty involved in bmx cycling, and when someone puts together a good film, well it's something worth watching. This first one I got the opportunity to see on a big screen at the Bicycle Film Festival this summer and after further searching found the second one by the same guys. The second one has made me decide that I'm moving to Spain after I leave China, because why not? Right?

Fox Bmx - Andalucia! from FoxHeadInc on Vimeo.

Last things lastly, My friend Maggie is in this band called Hildur Victoria. They're putting out an EP in a few weeks. They're playing a show with Halloween, Alaska and Haley Bonar on November 27th. You should go buy the album when it drops and go see that show cause they are sick live.
I would probably be plugging them anyways since I've got a friend in the band, but I'm dead serious when I say they should be the next big thing to come out of the Twin Cities. After only two shows they're already bumping elbows with a couple of the big local names. Get in on the ground floor while you can cause I expect them to blow up soon.

That's all for this extended edition. Catch you on the flip side.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009


After a long hiatus, I am back in a big way (that's a terrible attempt a joke about me being tall and in China. Get it?).  Summer's been all kinds of done for quite some time now and I suppose it's about that time to throw another update out on the series of tubes known and the internets.


What it do friends, family, and chumps of other various affiliations to myself?  I suppose it's been a while since I've put anything up here and it's getting to the point where some of you may be wondering what the hell I'm doing (probably not, but a guy can always pretend that people care about him).  Well, as most of you are aware I'm back in China.  I've been back now for about four weeks now and I guess I'll try to bang out a greatest hits post here of what it's like being back.  

First things firstly, since this is shaping up to be more of the informational type post I may as well entice you with some music which will then hopefully guilt you into reading the whole thing.  Or I suppose you could just download an hours worth of free music that I prepared for you (with love no less) and then get the funk out.  But then you would suck.  Don't be that dude.  (Kehoe, I'm looking in your direction).

Check it: FREE MUSIC

Now that you got some jams pleasuring your earholes, let's get to it.  Upon my arrival a few weeks ago everything went smoothly.  Both bikes made it without getting lost as did my luggage (first time that's happened in three trips over here).  The driver from my school picked me up form the airport (ballin) and drove me to my new apartment where my old friend (from the Stp) and new roommate Megan was waiting with Q-Tip the D-O-double-G.  I didn't really know where my new place was since Megan found it this summer while I was back home but once I found out where it was I was super excited to say the least.  It's right at a subway stop, around the corner from a bunch of restaurants and a short bike ride from some really great hutong (old chinese alley) neighborhoods.  It also turns out that I'm a 10 minute bike ride from the hutong where three of my friends just moved to also.  In short, I'm A LOT closer to everything I wanted to be closer to (friends, restaurants, bars, places to bike) and now only a 35 minute bike ride from work.  Also, that 35 minute bike ride includes about 10 minutes biking around and cutting through a very beautiful but largely abandoned olympic park.  I find this part of my commute pretty awesome just about everyday.  I'll try and put some pictures up of that soon too.

We got a bunch of new teachers this year and they all seem pretty cool.  All in all, the office just feels more comfortable this year than last year and also much more positive and professional.  Small world alert: the new nurse graduated with me from St. Olaf but we had never met.  Weird stuff.  

I spent the first couple weeks and weekend scoping out the new neighborhood and seeing friends I hadn't seen for a couple months or more.  I was introduced to a guy who suggested that we get together with the guitar player from his band and jam in their practice space.  I damn near wet my pants at this suggestion.  So hopefully that's gonna start soon.  

The weather's been bouncing back and forth between hot as bawlz and actually pretty nice.  It rained for about 4 days in a row a week ago, and in a place where rain is enough of an anomally, 4 days straight was pretty strange.  However, after it cleared, Beijing experienced that lovely post-rain chill that us Minnesotans know so well and we were hit with about a week straight of clear skies (again, weird stuff) and 70's, just perfect for my first long bike ride of the new school year. 

Saturday we embarked on our journey via bus at 6:30am in an attempt to beat traffic out of the city and get to the country side at a reasonable hour.  After a few hours in the bus (traffic hit us like a ton of shit bricks) we made it to the drop spot, got out, and started riding.  After a couple hours and about 80 kilometers of pretty hard pounding on the pedals we took a break to get more water, maybe a coke, and I opted for some white rice at this restaurant:
(check the shirtless dude in the back.  He may be reason #1 why I enjoy living here so much sometimes)  
It was around this time that Tom (the guy who organizes the rides) discovered that we had missed a turn/that turn didn't exist.  That meant that instead of having about 30 miles left, we instead had about 50 to go.  It also turned out that most of those 50 miles were false flat (gradual uphill) and into a head wind.  Fun stuff.  So last saturday I rode my first century (over 100 miles in a day) on accident. I got back home around 8:30pm, making it a 14-15 hour biking day.  Not too bad, but tough on my poor legs that had only done city biking and a carney sized handful of 40 mile rides this summer.  For those interested (which is most likely none of you) we did the whole 100 miles in almost exactly 5 hours with a couple substantial rest stops, making our average speed somewhere between 22-24 miles per hour.  Not super fast but definitely not slacking.  

Lastly, my dog is hella cute:

Peace & Hairgrease Homies

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Does anyone else remember this?

Cause I do.  Watching Snoop get wheeled out in the wheel chair was a childhood memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.  Ah, to be young again.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

When the bummer life get's you down.....

....Stand back up and kick it to the curb. This dude, Dan Caro, is perhaps one of the most awesome people I have ever heard about or witnessed in the medium of video. You can check out his bio here. If you want the long short of it, Dan got toasted by a water heater when he was 2, burning over 70 percent of his body. He lost his hands. Bummer, right? Well, yes. BUT, Dan said "F that noise, Ima play me some drums, dammit." And so he did. And did he ever. Check it:

Dan Caro is a new hero of mine. Dude can flat out play.

Secondly, it was the 20th anniversary of the Tienanmen protests yesterday. Now, while I may not know a whole lot about those, I've read a very minimal amount and I found this article very interesting and informative. It gives you a very quick idea of what's up with communism and capitalism in the place I am currently calling home. Also, surprisingly enough, it's not even that long. Bonus.

Happy friday. I land at MSP in 4 weeks. Hoo. F-ing. Ray.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009


So I believe I mentioned quite a while ago that youtube has been blocked by China. Well, a few weeks ago they did the same thing to blogger(dot)com. This explains my absence from the realm of this online journal as of late. That, and once again happenings have been happening. Since the last post the weather continued being hot but that provided ample excuse to get my sorry behind outside. So outside I ventured. Next thing that happened was when Ratatat came to town. I don't know why, but for some reason Beijing is getting hit with a slew of fairly decent acts from the US. So back to Ratatat: It was F-ing awesome. The club way oversold tickets, there was no air conditioning, putting the heat somewhere around 115 degrees for the entirety of the show. Although the heat was making some of the people cranky (myself included, bows were thrown) all the hostility melted away when Ratatat came out and rocked the funk out of the crowd. By the end of the show I was soaked completely through with mine and other peoples sweat, so much so that when I got out of the club I took off my shirt and wrung out probably close to a litre of liquid. Sweet, right? Anyways, here's some pictures of the show from rdx913's flickr page:
(Not Ratatat , not even close to the full crowd yet)

I know I wrote semi-excitedly about the race in the last post. Well, funny story, I set my alarm but forgot to turn it on so I didn't wake up in time to rush out to catch the bus., In fact I woke up well after the race had started a good 20k from my apartment. whoops. I have a chance for redemption though. Two weekends from now there is some sort of 'cycling weekend festival' out at the olympic cycling center & velodrome which includes a 40k road race and a 14k team time trial. They're both on sunday the 14th and I plan on riding in both. Here's the rub:

Ghostface is playing the night of the 13th. I will be going to this show. Dammit. I will the roll my sleep deprived, sore, probably a little hungover ass out of bed early on Sunday morning and go race 40k on my bicycle. I will then eat some lunch and power nap somewhere outside and then gear up for a 14k time trial with four other guys that I hope to finish in well under 20 minutes, the idea being this: the faster you go, the shorter the suffering.

Last weekend I went to a mixed martial arts event (think ultimate fighting with even less rules). 8 bucks to go see 12 fights and be surrounded by a whole lotta big dudes (total bro-fest) in small shirts. It was mildly entertaining, and became even more so when the jock jams guy came out to announce the last 6 fights. Hearing him say "Let's get ready to rumballllllllllllll!" was worth 8 bucks in itself (especially since I heard he makes a million everytime he says it, so I got a steal of a deal).

J-Rocc of the Beat Junkies is here this Saturday and I plan on going to that as well.

And to wrap up this pointlessness I'll leave you with a Podcast and a really awesome video inspired by my recent viewing (in the theaters no less) of the new Star Trek film. It was intense. This, not so much:

I'm home in a month. Get ready.