Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gitz Flickz Pickz - Money might not sleep but Brett sure does

The last time I talked about a Neo-Realism film about a little Middle Eastern girl and the world around her.

Today I am going to take you down a different path. Hang on to your popcorn!

The films I watched last night were films I was not expecting to enjoy at all. In fact, the only reason why I was watching them was because I had both of them, a couple of free hours, and a Canadian Club and Coke. So it came as quite a surprise that I actually enjoyed the experience. Although I am not absolutely sure why I enjoyed it, let me share a few thoughts that could possibly help explain things.

First of all, Wallstreet is from the 80's. I thought that this would be slightly noticeable in the style of the film but I was way off. It was very noticeable, and for that reason, hilarious! A couple of the highlights:

1. When Gekko shows Bud Fox (who made up these names anyway?) a portable T.V. with a 2 inch black and white screen, we are all led to believe that this was the latest technological advance at the time. I am sure that it was but its funny to think about it.

2. At a party for rich people, there is a robot waiter, complete with a robot tuxedo. I am not joking.

3. The cell phones in this film are just a little bit smaller than a football.

4. Daryl Hannah's "Flock of Seagulls" hair-do.

5. The Sally Jessie Rafael glasses worn by Bud's coworker Marvin, among others.

Other than the hilarious style of the film, the story is actually very interesting. In fact, it was interesting despite the fact that I had no idea what anyone in the stock industry was talking about. In fact, is 'stock industry' even the right term? In fact, is 'stock industry' even a term? The dialog went something like this:

"The year end quota is being bumped down on a low premium of 3.7% interest on a sum number directly deductible by the Dow's Late November stumble into the Black. We are sitting at .9 on the dollar, plus 6% mark down."

As I said, despite the confusion I was still tracking. Bud Fox is an up and comer because he kept pushing forward in the business. Finally, when he has made it to the top he is confronted by difficult choices. Then we must find out what he's really made of.

Not that this was an amazing movie, but I would suggest watching it before you watch the sequel. I mean, it's hilarious!

Now, on to Wallstreet - Money Never Sleeps. The title is in reference to a street in New York where people trade a lot of money represented by ridiculous numbers and the fact that while all of these people are sleeping in their beds in New York, other people in Hong Kong are awake, trading the same numbers. Hence, money never sleeps.

This movie is far more interesting than the first. The topic is still confusing for an ignorant person like me, but the story is very nice to watch.

The main reason why this one is better is because all of the actors are so dang good. I mean, if there was a movie called "Pea soup and the Pirates who love it" starring Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Eli Wallach, Susan Sarandon and my recent favorite Frank Langella, I'd probably watch it. Oh, and directed by Oliver Stone.

I don't want to give away too much, but Gekko gets out of jail at the time when the world is in financial chaos. Meanwhile, a young stud of a stock broker wants to marry Gekko's estranged daughter. It is similar to the first film, but the acting and the situations are a little more believable and the acting is a lot more memorable.

Both films are filled with great shots of New York's skyline. On top of the obvious changes there are a lot of small ones that the skyline shots capture. Oliver Stone's movies have always had a unique style and these ones are no different. The camera work in both movies is smooth and fun to watch.

So, if you have time, take a look at these films. At least watch the second one. Carey Mulligan is a treat to watch. Frank Langella is great as well. If, after watching it, you find that you agree with me, then check out Mulligan in 'An Education' and Langella in 'Frost/Nixon'. These are 2 of my favorite films from this past year. Great stuff.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gitz Flickz Pickz - Buddha Collapsed out of Shame

This past week I went down to the DVD store to try to stock up on a few morsels to view during this chilly season. I was able to come out of there with a few surprises. I had no idea that I could get my hands on some Jean-Luc Godard films, along with Truffaut's supposed classic Day for Night (supposed because I still have not watched it).

I really got into French films during my film school this past Spring. I had a list of over 100 movies to watch before the school and 2 of my favorites were French, Rififi and The 400 Blows. I would recommend that you watch these two at least. Add Jules and Jim and Breathless to the list if you have the time. They are probably available for free to rent at your local library. That is, if you live in Canada.

Anyways, another one at the store that looked interesting is Buddha Collapsed out of Shame (2008). It is, in fact, and Iranian film, shot in Afghanistan, I believe. It centers around a little girl who is trying to get money to buy a notebook so that she can go to school. A mix of reality and perhaps the imaginations of the children in the film, this story is very easy to get into.

It is Neorealism, and it is done very well. All of the actors are non-professional and the stories main character could very well be the village itself that this story is set in. The idea of Neorealism is to give the viewer a glimpse of what life is like in this area and to also bring them into the lives of characters that are no doubt modeled after real people.

Watching movies like this gets me excited about the possibilities of making similar Neorealism movies here in this area of China.

I would recommend that you take a look at this film and others like it. Some of the French films I suggested that you take a look at are also from the same tree as Neorealism, or at least the same forest. I suggest that you take a handful of these out from your library and then tell me what you think.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Neighborhooding #1

We live on the East side of town. It has it's perks; quieter, close to the school, other cool people live over here. The draw backs are that its a 10 元 taxi ride to downtown. Downtown is loaded with the hustle and bustle of people walking all over the place. Actually, not as much bustle as there is hustle. Good curry, the gym, the sports field, good Western food at Bill's Place and The Greenhouse are all within walking distance of each other and sometimes I can't help but wonder what life would be like if we lived downtown.

Anyways, today was a day when I decided to rebel against these thoughts. I moved in the opposite spirit and I went to "Coffee Prince" and got a cup of coffee to go. Coffee Prince is a place located across the street from us. It started out as a cafe. It quickly (almost over night) turned into a place where students can buy cheap beer and play cards. The truth is that I went outside to run some errands and I was not prepared for the chill in the air. Under dressed, I needed something to warm up my bones. I went into Coffee Prince with the hope of finding something hot to drink. It didn't really matter what it tasted like.

Back Story Break:

In 2008, about a month after Coffee Prince opened, I went in to get a coffee on the way to class. At the counter I stood in awe as the man filled up the coffee maker with water and re-used the cold, slimy grinds that were still inside. I took the cup, sipped at its lukewarm contents, and I never returned.

Back to the Future:

But today I went in... and I ordered again, dang it! This time the owner made my cup. She called me over when it was ready. She had some sort of weird system of making coffee involving a pitcher with a mess filter built into the side of it. I didn't ask any questions. I took it to go and it was hot! I thought that no matter what this tastes like, its already an improvement. I sipped it and it tasted like a crappy cup of coffee. The funny thing was that it was cold out today and a hot drink was all I needed. It could have been hot cat milk and I would have drank it. And even though it was a crappy cup of coffee, it was MY Neighborhood's crappy cup of coffee!

My Neighborhood!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Xining Website

For those of you interested in coming to visit, here is a website with all of the sites and sounds of this beautiful city:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fresh Sounds

If you are a parent like me, you might have a little one who has a favorite song. And this little one wants to hear their favorite song all day long, on repeat. Or they watch the movie with their favorite song in it all day long. For Miles, it's Rascal Flatts' version of the Tom Cochrane classic "Life is a Highway" from the Pixar movie Cars.

The song itself is catchy. Miles has been able to sing the chorus for a few months now. His commitment to the song borders on religious, once proclaiming "All I know is that life is a highway.". His thoughts swirl around Lightning McQueen, Mater and all of their friends for most of the day. For many weeks now I have tried to get him to like other songs. But to no avail. The other day, while I was studying, LIAH was playing on repeat for just about an hour.

So, when I stumbled across a new selection of songs that I thought I might be able to sneak into the fold, I decided that I should share the good news with others.

So, if you want some nice soothing sounds to calm the kids down (and make you cheerful at the same time) then I would suggest you look up the group 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Rockstar'. It is a collection of cover songs of famous bands, done in a lull-a-by sort of way. I found them on My suggestions are the Radiohead, Coldplay, Journey, and Killers albums.

You are Welcome.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Newish... as in, things are kind of different

A few quick hits to perk your eyes and bend your ears:

- I have recently changed a few things around here, to the best of my abilities. Please take the time to look around. Don't forget that there is a new quote at the bottom of the page every single week! This week's quote is taken from one of my favorite movies. I recommend that you take it out from your local library for viewing.

- I am under 40 page views away from 1000! This is monumental considering its just me and the 3 of you looking at this blog.

- I have signed up at Flickr. I am not completely certain of it's capabilities. So far I have put up 4 photos that I happen to like. In the future I hope to continue to add to the current theme, which seems to be "people and places around where we live.". Check it out, and if you are a fellow flickrer then become one of my contacts at:

- I have a mustache, though I will continue to spell it moustache even though the red spell check line appears under it. I am not raising money for any sort of cause. There will be no fund raising for prostate cancer, male obesity, male ED problems, or any other sort of cause. I happen to be in a place where people don't really pay attention to what kind of facial hair I have, so I figure that now is the time to keep the upper lip a little warmer as the winter continues to trickle in. Chances are that I will lose the battle between my self in regards to the insecurities of having a moustache, forgetting I have it, and then getting curious smiles from other foreigners when they see it and remind me that I look like a creeper. Grant me the strength!

- I have edited my little list of movies you should watch. You should take a look (they are on the left, down a bit... a little further... there you go!). I suggest that you watch them and then, most importantly, tell me what you think of them.

That is all. Continue with what you were doing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Continuing on...

This week I am back in Chinese class after being gone for over a year and a half. I have to confess that I am a little rusty, but in good spirits none the less. For me, learning Chinese is a marathon... or maybe its more like a brick wall that I have to dig through... with a spoon... and the spoon is plastic.

I know an American guy here in town who has lived here for many years now. He has studied a lot of Chinese and has, up until recently, been involved with managing a Chinese company. With those credentials, it is pretty clear that the man can communicate with the locals.

One day, he asked a local friend what he thought of his Chinese skills. The conversation, which was probably in Chinese, went something like this:

"Hey, Mr. Wong. We've been friends for a long time now. You would probably be honest with me. What do you think of my Chinese? On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being fluent, where would you say that I'm at."

"That's a tough question, friend. Let me pour some more beer and think about it."

About a minute later...

"Ummm, maybe a 2? Does that sound right?"

So, judging from Mr. Wong, it is a long road to the pot of gold of fluency. I don't know, maybe the guy is way off on his estimate. When I told another American guy this story he said something like:

"What? Mr. Wong? I know more Chinese than that guy and he's Chinese!"

So, who to believe?

Anyways, back to me. I probably need to use decimal points for my language level. But like I said, it's got to be a marathon. I will continue to pick away at it, with a bad accent and stupid questions along the way.


"Quitters never win because that's why they're called quitters and winners win because that's why they're called winners." That is a direct quote from the 13th President of some country in the Pacific.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting Comfy

It has been about a week, maybe 6 days in time zone world, that Barbara and I pried the boys out of the clutches of their grandparents hands and boarded an airplane back to our home here in Xining. Between now and then we have had time to dust out our apartment (literally) and begin to contemplate what this year will look like.

Firstly, the 2 little boys have adjusted lovely to the time change. Miles is actually quite positive and pleasant pretty much from the morning when he rises at 5am until the night when he goes to sleep around 830. I had wondered how he would handle his celebrity status as a handsome little white boy in this city and so far he has handled it very well.

I took him to the restaurant to pick up supper and he was invited to sit right next to the boss. Once seated, the boss' wife gave him the usual attention that little kids like him get over here. Miles smiled his Miles smile and talked to them in English as if it was agreed upon that he would be understood. The wife continued to interrupt him with all of her English words. "Okay". "Hello". "Hi." That's about it.

Both of the boys like the food, more or less. I think that the noodles are probably going to be the favorite. The other day, Jonas enjoyed eggs for the first time.

Now I am trying to think about how to make movies. I've got a little idea about a boy and a kite that sounds good so far. I am trying to develop some "silent" projects, to avoid the whole language thing for a while. Its also a good idea because it forces us to "put it all on the screen", as they say.

I will start language classes next week. It will require some of my time 3 days a week. It will be a good opportunity for me to connect with people at the school again, foreigners and locals alike.

Tomorrow I hope to work up the courage to take my new camera out for the first time in this dust bowl of a city. I am glad I bought the filters. Wish me luck.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

We Are Back

After 7 months, we a finally back in Xining.

Soon enough I will be back at the university across the street to continue studying Chinese.

I will also be roaming around looking for people and places to film with my new camera.

This all means that I will finally get back to updating this blog with news and notes regarding the above and also the ins and outs of Miles and Jonas. There might even be an appearance or two from the lovely Barbara.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Away we go!

This time tomorrow we will be in the midst of our journey out of China and towards beautiful Hawaii for a 3 month film course. It will be a busy time and considering that it's expensive, I might as well sacrifice other less expensive things, like these posts.

So this is it for now. Hopefully I'll have something to say in a couple of months.

The other big news of the week? Jonas has 2 brand new chompers on the top to match the bottom.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Movers Move Movingly Slow

Often times when people get a moving company here in China, things go pretty swiftly. It takes maybe 3 or 4 hours for a group of 4 or 5 guys to move a family's life of belongings. We had a decent time moving from our first apartment 3 years ago without much of a problem at at a price around 250 RMB (40 bucks)

and then...

There are many words that I could use to sum up our latest experience of moving out of our apartment, but the one that makes the most sense to me right now is actually two words, which when separate from each other mean two completely different things, but when put together form the sum up of the day. Those two words are "Fiddle" and "Sticks".

The back story is that we had to move out of our apartment before we leave next month. Our lease is up in October and we needed to move out now or else we'd have to find some poor soul to move all of our stuff while we are away. Considering we can rent out both apartments while we are gone, it's not such a bad thing.


So, we get a moving company. Actually, our Chinese friend gets us a sweet deal on a moving company. The only problem is that when they showed up they noticed that we have white skin aka. deep pockets. The other thing that they noticed is that we live on the 6th floor and they would have to move all of our stuff down 6 flights of stairs. I believe it was the massive wardrobe in out room that persuaded them to turn down the job. The conversation went something like this:

"Well, it's going to take 2 truck loads to get all of your stuff out."

side note: we glanced out the window and noticed that they had the "biggest truck in the world" parked by our stairwell. It was more than big enough to take everything, and since they charge by the truck we knew that they were trying to kick us in the groin.

"No, you can make it with one truck. You have a big truck."

"No, we need two."

"Fine, then you guys can leave. We'll get someone else."

The amazing thing was that they actually left. They committed to the job, and saw our big wardrobe and decided to go eat some noodles or something instead of making money.

After this, I glanced around the apartment at all of our stuff packed in bags and boxes and Barbara cried. Miles and Jonas we're in the other room watching "Nimm's Island" on the Mac. I also noticed that there was a little bit of syrup left in the syrup bottle and that we should take that to the other house since syrup is expensive. It was an emotional time.

To cut down on the story a bit, Barbara called a good friend of ours and she got us a new moving company. 步步高 is that company's name and it translates to "step, step, tall" which I would guess would mean some sort of reference to going up steps at a high level of speed and ability, along with some sort of high standard of excellence. The problem with this new company is that they sent a smaller truck with 2 dudes to do all of the work.


The guys seem like decent workers at first. However, soon enough I begin to feel like these guys are pretty lazy guys. They also aren't the smartest. That fact is supported by their inability to work together. They carried everything down 6 flights of stairs individually. Using a long strap, they are able to put copious amounts of stuff on their backs and lumber their way down the stairs. Some of their loads had to exceed 200 pounds. They might as well have carried me down in the end. A kitchen table, a marble slab, a t.v., a couch, all carried down by 1 person.

The only thing that they carried together was the massive wardrobe. It was actually the first thing on their to-do list. After they took the wardrobe down I realized that they had been gone for about 30 minutes. Upon this realization I went down to see that they had the wardrobe on the 3rd floor and were sitting down. I asked what was up and they said that there was no way to move it down from there because it was too big. I suggested that they lean it over the railing and tilt it down to the next staircase, which they did in about 5 seconds and continued on down the stairs. It was after this little episode that I knew we would have problems.


The wardrobe is down and the guys are slowly moving down the rest of the stuff.


We are across the complex at a friend's place when they movers tell us that the truck is full. We went down to meet them and walked across the complex to our new apartment building, which has an elevator. We told them to take a lunch break but they insisted on continuing the move.


They finish moving in the first truck load, so Barbara tells them to take a lunch break. Once again, they insist on continuing the move.


I go down stairs from our friend's house and up the 6 flights of stairs to the old apartment to let in the workers. They come all the way up to tell me that they are going to take a lunch break. I laugh a little bit but my heart breaks a little bit too. I told them to leave the truck and that I would continue moving stuff. I just wanted to get the whole thing finished! By that time it had been 5 hours since we started.


The guys return and slowly continue to move stuff, all the while asking if this goes or if that goes. We had told them about 5 gillion times what stays and what goes but I guess they liked asking.

They stop and look at the kitchen table:

"We can't move this. Its too big."

"My wife and I moved it all the way up here. She is a girl, my wife is. You are men."

"Okay, we'll try."

As mentioned earlier, the "we'll" meant that one of them would strap it to their back and inch sideways down the stairs. It probably took twice as long as it should have.


There is still a lot of stuff in the house and this is the time where the guys sit down and say that they are going to need to charge more money because they need to take two trucks. I knew that the first truck was kind of full, but originally these guys said that we would be charged a flat rate of 250 RMB (40 bucks) compared to the 200 (30 bucks) the other dudes were going to charge. We figured that the extra money would help cover any extra stuff that would spill over into the next truck load. However, their new price is at 450 RMB. This is when the wheels start to fall off of my patience and I explain a few things to them:

"You guys need to stop talking about money and work faster. Its been well over 6 hours since you started and I've even been helping you to try to get things done faster. Also, you scraped the side of our wall and didn't even tell us. And you want more money?!"

Then, in my angry Chinese and motions, I give an example:

"If I went downstairs right now and kicked (swing foot in the air) the side of your truck would that be my fault?"

The guy that could understand me laughed a little and then explained it to the other guy. They agreed that it would be my fault.

"Well, you scraped my wall and broke my wardrobe. And you want more money?!"

We finally agreed that 350 would be the price. The price for the worst service I've ever received in China. All I wanted was my stuff moved and it was like pulling teeth with these guys.

After that, they got to work. Their boss was calling wondering were they were, as they said that there was only 1 truck load and kept the extra 100 RMB for themselves, they kept saying that they were almost done.


The guys had to leave or else their boss would figure out that they were cheating him, so I told them to leave. Even though there we still a lot of stuff to move, the big stuff was all finished and I could do the rest on my own. So, in total, we spent 350 RMB for 2 guys to move our stuff for 8 hours and in the end I still had 10-12 armloads to carry down myself, which I did in the following 2 days.

The scrape on the wall is in our old apartment so I'm not too worried about it.

I fixed the wardrobe so it is functional, though not as lovely as it once was.

It's all over now. Bless those guys they sure were slow.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Into The Woods Trailer

After messing around with this thing on and off for a few weeks, i finally came up with something to show for it. This will give you a good idea of how Barry and I spent the first day of snow this past winter. It consisted mainly of Barry running/lying/falling/walking in the snow with no jacket.

It was fun, and someday we will finish/remake/do something else with this project/video camera.

My limited knowledge of Compressor ruined some of the fine art on display here. That, and my shaky hands and amateur focus capabilities.

As they say in Threewordstogetherland...


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gretz and the Hound

Miles and Jonas playing around. They're a couple of pretty funny fellows.

Wait for it, Wait for it....

Watching this video takes patience, but I think that its worth it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Death and All of His/Her friends


"It has been said that as animals, one factor that sets us apart from all other animals is that our lives need to be stories, narratives, and that when our stories vanish, that is when we feel lost, dangerous, out of control and susceptible to the forces of randomness. It is the process, whereby one loses one's life story: "denarration". Denarration is the technical way of saying, "not having a life."

"Scott doesn't have a life."

"Amber is denarrated."

Up until recently, no matter where or when one was born on earth, one's culture provided one with all components essential for the forging of identity. These components include religion, family, ideology, class strata, geography, politics and a sense of living with a historic continuum.

Suddenly, around 10 years ago, with the deluge of electronic and information media into our lives, these stencils within which we trace our lives begin to vanish, almost overnight, particularly on the West Coast. It became possible to be alive yet have no religion, no family connections, no ideology, no sense of class or location, no politics, and no sense of history. Denarration.

In a low-information environment, pre-TV, etc. relationships were the only form of entertainment available. Now we have methods of information linkage and control ranging from phone answering machines to the Internet that mediate relationships to the extent that corporeal interaction is now beside the point. As a result, the internal dialogue has been accelerated to whole new planes as regularized daily contact has become an obsolete indulgence.

The West Coast continues to be a laboratory of denarration. In a very odd sense, the vacuum of nothingness forces the individual either to daily reinvent himself or herself or perish. Therefore it should come as no surprise that, sunny weather aside, Hollywood and the dream-creation apparatus of the 20th century should locate itself in a planetary locale of relative blackness.

Q: Who are you this week? This year?"

Taken from Douglas Coupland's Polaroids from the Dead pg. 179-180


First of all, I would suggest that if you ever see one of Coupland's books you should pick it up and read it immediately. After much criticism I will throw JPod into that category as well, though it will most definitely be a while before I read that mess again.

There are a few reasons why I wanted to share this excerpt. One reason is that I've caught myself a lot lately thinking in "status". Let me explain. Recently I was playing hockey upstairs with my son Miles and at one moment I caught myself saying in my head, "Brett is playing hockey with his son." This, of course, is a Facebook status that does not nor ever will exist. I am "writing" things in my head that I don't even mean to write nor do I want to write them. I'm sure that many others can relate to this. Maybe there are even a few Tweeters our there that can agree that this kind of thing is common. I am thankful that I am not a Tweeter.

"Brett is sitting." 4:17pm
"Brett's legs are straightening out." 4:17pm
"Brett is standing." 4:18pm
"Brett is thinking about sitting again. Details to follow..." 4:18pm

The point of this is that there are a lot of thoughts buzzing around in my head. I'm sure that statistics would show that most of us with sleeping problems have these problems because our brains are slowly frying, literally, and they never do settle down. Kind of like a big sunburn that keeps on burning while your trying to sleep. The reason why TV commercials are so annoying is because they stimulate your brain in such a way as to grab your attention away from all of the other distractions around you.

"Fred stopped texting on his cell phone while tuning out the voice of his lovely wife in order to look around his daughter's computer screen so he could see the new Rickard's ad."

The sad thing about all this is that we don't even have a choice anymore. I mean, walk into your kid's school and notice how many of those little rascals are wearing glasses. We are born into this distraction.

Ladies and gentlemen... Progress!

This is what we, as humans, have come to think of as "the good life." It seems to me that the good life is just good because its convenient and easy. The convenience is pretty amazing,

"How are you doing, George, who lives in Montreal while I am in China talking on Skype with you? You look well."

but I believe that though I can talk to whoever I want to whenever I want to, there is a tendency to build up a bunch of shallow relationships full of how-are-yous and see-you-laters.

I'm sure that pointing this out is nothing new. Most of us love all of the gimmicks and gadgets that we can spend our time with. Its like an addiction that everyone is addicted to so, when everyone has it, is it still an addiction or is it just the norm?

A few questions come to mind...

1. How many deep, intimate, genuine conversations have I had this week or this month for that matter?

2. Is the world progressing? Are all of these things for the better?

3. Will I still be able to go camping in the year 2035?

***Photo taken from the set of the film "Into the Woods". The trailer should be ready before April but the film itself might never be finished.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Photos of the week.

Here are a few interesting photos from this week:

Our city is going through quite a transformation. There are 20 story apartment buildings in places where they were tearing down old buildings when we left 10 months ago.

The picture below is of a doomed building. The character on the side is 拆 which means "to be destroyed". Most of the old buildings in the city have this character stamped on the side of them.

You don't know how relieved I was to see that our local grocery store was finally carrying corn juice again!

And finally, I made tortillas for the first time this week and this one ended up looking just like me! Do you see the side profile there? Weird.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2 base hits and a double.

I have been watching a lot of movies these days, and one I would recommend to all would be Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. This film seems to raise a lot of interesting discussions. The way the film itself is shot is made to look as though it was shot in one take. That is, its one 80 minute scene, which is very unique in film. Actually, I don't think that there are any other films made this way. Click on the link to see a very unique trailer as well. Do yourself a favor and watch the film, too!


After watching Terminator 2 for the millionth time I noticed something new; John Conner, the future leader of the human resistance, is wearing a "Public Enemy" t-shirt for the entire film. Seems to be a pretty significant wardrobe piece. Good job, Mr. Cameron.


Another public display of embarrassment this week on the bus. First of all, it costs 0.6 RMB to ride the bus, which is literally pennies. Anyways, a lady came on and "beeped" her card on the scanner and sat down. The driver, another lady, told the lady that it did not "beep" and that she should scan it again. Well, that was enough to send the passenger into quite a raging pout. She went to the front to argue with the driver while the bus was cruising down the road. Her screaming and arguing grew into a lash of her purse to the drivers shoulder. She kept calling the driver a "swindler", which everyone else knew was absurd considering the driver would not "swindle" the lady out of a few pennies. But by this time the rage was quite embarrassing and the women knew that she needed to keep arguing in order to save face.

So the screaming and whining continued for about 5 more minutes until something else happened that I have never seen before in these kind of arguments. The other passengers got sick of the screaming and told the lady to drop it and to, in a way, "shut up". After that, she was quiet and I got off at my stop a few minutes later.

It was refreshing to see those passengers get fed up with this kind of scene as I originally thought that us foreigners were the only ones.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Andrew Bird plays Shanghai this week. I asked his people if he could come over to Xining for a day and play for us here. I offered the price of a plane ticket and an unlimited amount of coffee. His people were very nice in the response, yet his schedule takes him to Tokyo the following day so they had to turn down my generous offer. Thanks anyways, Mr. Bird. Maybe next time.

Click here for a video of one of my favorite cover songs of all time.

Friday, January 22, 2010


The 2 most important things to teach a 2 year old:

1. Tell mom or dad when you have to go pee.
2. The proper way to hold a hockey stick.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beer me that price

I had mentioned in previous travels home that the price of beer in China is ridiculous. In many cases, it is cheaper than bottled water.

Qing Dao, "The famous and Popular Chinese beer in the World" is the decent one of the bunch made available at our little corner store.

Jonas is in this picture to give you an idea of just how big the bottles are. They are about a litre each. Now, for the price:

20 RMB = $3.06.

That is for ALL 9 bottles, working out to 34 cents a bottle.

Drink responsibly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


A Haitian man named Fritz, who told me of a curse that Haiti has suffered under for 200 years.

A place where evil is reality.

Everyone finally has a reason to turn and look at this country.

What do you do with all of the broken hearts?

prayer for Haiti

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Don Miller needs a new editor

This was the worst the the 3 errors I came across in the last 2 chapters. Can you spot it?

Other than that, and I must confess I am no stickler when it comes to spelling, the book is a nice read. Miller's other books tend to tell of stories from his childhood and when he was a young adult going through life, like "back at Reid college we'd streak through the auditorium in the mornings and then later dig into 2 Corinthians while the girls would spoon at a big bowl of Chocolate Mint and the guys would smoke fruit pipes."*

A million Miles in a Thousand years is similar to those books, only post-Jazz. It is pretty nice to read about all of the things he's been experiencing in the past few years. His honesty and humor are second to none when it comes to books you buy at Blessings.

Miller weaves through the last few years as though he is creating a story with his life, which is actually the main lesson from the book. It's turning out to be a really good idea for a book. I like these kinds of books (and movies, for that matter) where there is a lot of dialog and thoughts being presented with some, but not all of, the answers. Barbara likes movies and books where things actually happen. I like those too, but I have a soft spot in my breathing lungs for contemplation and heartache.

* may not be an actual quote from any book.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back at it.

We've been back in one of our favorite places for about 36 hours now. Here are some of the highlights:

- I went out at 7am yesterday morning to pick up a few things to eat, considering that the only thing in our fridge was an old jar of spicy sauce. I stopped by at the Hui guys down by the school and picked up a dozen potato dumplings. Heaven.

- Ginny and Dustin brought over noodles for lunch. The only Chinese food that Miles has liked so far. He is a work in progress.

- We went out for dishes last night with the Hendys, Joneses, and Heather. It was nice to get out and eat some fried potatoes, cashew chicken, sweet and sour chicken, garlic cucumbers, and a swack of other favorites.

- The boys sleeping from 830pm last night until 6am this morning. This is amazing bordering on a miracle. The jet lag is one of my sworn enemies, along with Nickelback, pork, certain Coupland novels, and the Vancouver Canucks.

- Miles has been holding his ukulele in rock star form while singing the ending of "Oh, Canada". Its been fun watching him while he knows he's being funny and cool.

- Jonas is addicted to the walker. So much so that he's already down for a nap at 9 am.

- I made eggs this morning with a dash of dill and they were amazing.

- My parrot shirt is back on.

Some of the lows:

- DVD player is busted. Heather said we could borrow hers so I can watch my 60 movies.

- My cell phone is busted. I'll probably try to borrow one for the next few months.

That's about it from the first 36 hours. We're glad to be back and as the weather warms up to a balmy 6 degrees this week we should be able to head out and enjoy the lovely people and places.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"He didn't look busy!"

A Serious Man

I tried too. I'll try harder this time. Stay tuned you half dozen followers!