Monday, September 7, 2009

Beijing In San Diego Tonite! Queen Sea Big Shark, Hedgehog to play Che Cafe

Come out tonite and catch a very rare show--San Diego's Che Cafe hosts some of Beijing's most talented bands!

Queen Sea Big Shark, Hedgehog, and Casino Demon will be playing at 8pm at The Che Cafe on the campus of UC San Diego in La Jolla.

I was fortunate enough to catch Queen Sea Big Shark in Beijing last summer and they are an incredibly high energy, fun band. You will certainly enjoy. In fact, I wrote a little blog about them a few entries down. Check it out.

Plus, tonite's show is also a benefit for AIDS prevention. So come out and support, purposefully:

Here's tonite's line-up:

Sunday, September 6th

China AIDS Orphan Benefit:
Hedgehog (Beijing),
Queen Sea Big Shark,
Casino Demon (Beijing)
$5- 8PM

9/23/09 update with photos from the above-mentioned show:

The above images are of the band Queen Sea Big Shark. The following image is Hedgehog:

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I recently received news that this blog is now cnsrd in China...

To be honest, my first reaction was disappointment. I'm disappointed and also bummed that readers and my friends in China can no longer read about my adventures in their fascinating capital.

After my first blog was censored, I actually made a concerted effort to write this 2nd blog in a way that would not set off red flags (no pun intended) which Chinese internet cnsrrs would feel the need to act upon.

This blog simply observes Beijing social life. The content of this blog does not explicitly advocate any specific type of action, lifestyle, or political thought that subverts the status-quo of the Chinese political establishment. That's why I'm surprised that Beijing Dispatches has been censored.

This blog was accessible from a variety of computers in China last summer. So, I know that at one point it was not cnsrd and freely accessible.

Perhaps, the cnsrrs caught on to my misspellings. Maybe the photo taken in Chengde and featured in ‘A Snapshot of the Future?’ post was deemed controversial. I may never know. The truth is uncertain; as is the future of frdm of spch in China.

Clearly, something about the subject matter irked a cnsrr somewhere.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thank You to The Che Cafe and Art Show Attendees!

Thank you to everyone who came out to the art show at The Che Cafe!

Though the art show was two months ago--thus, making this the most belated "thank you" ever--I would still like to extend a "thank you" to everyone you came out and to everyone involved w/ putting on The Che Cafe's "Over & Under Exposed" Photo Art Show on Saturday June 13, 2009.

Thank you to photographers Alex Kacha, Alex Miranda, Robbie Butler, Shannon Partrick, and Cari V for showing your awesome work.

Thanks to Greg for organizing the event. And thanks to Javi and Amanda, as well.

Huge THX to The Che Cafe @ UC San Diego and all the volunteers who help to make such an important space available to an all ages community.

The show was a blast! My section featured pictures from the streets of Mexico City to the streets (and freeways?) of San Diego w/ a special focus on the streets of Beijing, during the 2008 Olympic Games. A couple photos from my section appear below:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Death Pedal: Free Premiere Tonite, in San Diego, CA

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(Art by San Diego's SWAMPDONKEY)

Killa Kareem Shehab’s fixie trick film is complete and premiering for free tonite!
Super stoked for Kareem and everybody associated w/ this film. SD keeps getting up on the map. And this film takes it to the next level, for sure.
Featuring SD’s sickest fix geared riders, plus world class riders from Seattle, Phoenix, Singapore, & Beijing!

I’ve got a soft spot for this film cuz’ Kareem and I were out in Beijing last summer going to shows, mashing, getting into Olympic games, and filming the Beijing element of Death Pedal!

Kareem has put together one of the raddest fixed gear films out there; certainly the most global, perspective-wise. The film is super fun to watch plus I think it’s pretty hilarious too. Kareem has an ill sense of humor and it shows.

You can catch the World Premiere tonite, at The Rat Tail warehouse for free, while sipping on free keg juice, too.

Plus, I'm DJing for my first time in a year!
Before the free screening I’ll be spinning the finest thugpunk; Playing jamz I physically brought back from China w/ me; including gutter punk, riot grrrl, & shoegaze all from Beijing! Also, (U.S.) gangsta jams, crunk jams, and whatever else I feel like, too.

I'll be DJing under my handle-name which I used for my first Beijing blog. I believe the Marcksist-connotation (intentionally mispelled) of that blog name (also my DJ name) was the reason why that blogged got blocked in China.

You are currently reading my 2nd blog, which as far as I know, remains uncensrd (sp) in China.

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(Photo of Ines Brunn, one of the world class riders featured in Death Pedal. Here, she demonstrates her acrobatic ability and incredible bike maneuverability before us, near a Blade Runner-esque construction site in Beijing).

Beijing: A Snapshot of the Future?

*This blog entry chapter, which i haven't finished writing yet, is still underdevelopment. I will be updating it soon. In the meantime, you can find some photos for this entry below:
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(A high speed lane; I believe this is the Second Ring Road, as it's called).

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(I wish our urban futures looked more like this. Real and effective bike infrastructure that really gets people onto bikes and creates a safe/easy yet extremely fun bicycling environment).

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(In Beijing, many buildings, often called "hutongs," which have generally housed working-class families for the last 700 years, are being destroyed and replaced by more 'modern' and denser new buildings).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic (The above image of a monitor which depicts (live) several different intersections being filmed for whatever purposes is actually located in Chengde, not in Beijing. Chengde is a few hours from Beijing, by bus. Do the monitors prevent crime? I guess that would depend on how you define 'crime,' right?).

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Spirit of Underground Chinese Rock

Beijing has been good. A little too good actually. So good I've decided to extend my trip by two weeks.
The main reason is due to an incredible music scene that has inspired me to self-impose a mission to explore and discover the spirit of underground Chinese rock in Beijing---China's music capital.

The expression 'spirit of underground [Chinese] rock' was used by a local barista I've befriended. I'll refer to him here as Gu. Gu, a knowledgeable Chinese rock connonsieur, expressed to me that he felt that the 90s were the golden era for Chinese rock.

If you're familiar with the violent and bloodied happenings in the central square of Beijing in 1989 (of which I can't even discuss here at this time) then you could imagine, to at least some extent, the traumatized, scared, nervous, and complex mindset of the Chinese people and the tense social climate of Beijing that developed in response.

So then, you could also imagine that art would function has a vital, yet closely monitored, outlet for some people in China.

And the most daring artists willing to respond through music did so in the early-mid 90s. I've learned that some of those artists were banned from performing and others were..."in trouble," to put it lightly.

It seems that since then rock in Beijing has gone through alot of change.
Since I wasn't around the rock scene in the 90s I'm not really going to try to make any comparisons to the way it is now. (That could be done credibly, only after lots of research and spending alot more time here than I can afford). However, there have been some big changes.

So what I can offer are snapshots from the underground and a description of my sense of modern happenings based on the few weeks I've been here and based on the people I've spoken with. There's alot to represent because there's alot happening.

The first show-show I saw here was Queen Sea Big Shark at one of my favorite local venues, the Mao Live; located in the neighborhood of Gulou Dongdajie, which looks like a Greenwich Village NYC with Chinese characteristics. However, Gulou Dongdajie remains far less commercialized by U.S. chain stores than does Greenwich.

After riding the metro, and then a "tik tik" motorcycle-rickshaw straight up to Mao on a Saturday nite, my buddy Kareem and I were totally stoked to hear some live music; something I had been eagerly anticipating for over a week. The energy was flowing that nite, because the guy up front let us into the soldout show for free!

We raced in to this:
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Hold on because shit is about to get crazy.

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Queen Sea Big Shark had this crowd upside down. The indie-dance-punkish band are local faves and it's clear why; they're fun and their shows become spaces to let loose and get crazy. In the Beijing underground, I've learned that that's one of the most important elements that brings people to shows. Kids really dance alot at shows; which is really refreshing. Except instead of calling it "dancing," they call it "pogo-ing."

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Queen of the underground.

My first Beijing show did not disappoint. One of my strongest interests and attractions to Beijing was to learn about how kids subvert popular culture out here.
I couldn't have asked for a better nite to get introduced to it all.

My favorite band in Beijing so far has been 24 Hours:

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These two girls, (singer/bassist) Zhang Chen and (guitarist/backup singer) Ren Yi Lan, as well as homeboy drumming and back-up singing have been, distinctively, the most garage-y band, w/ edgey surf and no-wave elements; i.e. stuff you can really twist up to.

Also, at the same venue (D22), playing w/ 24 Hours on a different nite was Bigger Bang:

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Bigger Bang, the self-described thrash band was commanding. They had the indie post-rock and edge-y surf and alternative thing going on as well. I've learned that Sonic Youth has been really influential here. Some bands out here can really tap into that distorted alternative edge really well. Bigger Bang manages to do that while at the same time offering their own spin.

You may have noticed lots of girls in these pictures. I'm not being biasedly selective.
Beijing has an astonishingly high girl demographic and representation in the music scene here; it's 'astonishing' in that I've never seen another city even come close to this level of equality.

Out of 8 bands I've seen in the last couple weeks (excluding a ska and experimental show which was male-dominated) 7 of them were lead by girls. Beijing's biggest rock acts are lead by girls.
According to some people I've talked to, riot grrrl band Hang On The Box has been really influential.

When I ran into the girls from 24 Hours in the neighborhood, they told me that this has been a phenomena that has especially flowered in 2008. 24 Hours told me that more and more girls are realizing they can start bands too and that it's fun to do so.

The only all-boy band in the indie scene I've scene, other than Joyside, have been The Honeys:
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An umbrella, guitar, sometimes a drum, and clever little nice songs. I admired their passion for comfort (hence the couch).

Bring on the fucking hardcore already!:

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Subs fucking rages it. Definitely one of, if not my favorite performance so far.
I wouldn't call Subs straight up hardcore, but they've got some hardcore peppered in their straight n' heavy, dead-on rock-out punk jams. Extremely movable. I'm lucky I even got a picture because I didn't even want to leave this exciting crowd.

There's a show this Saturday I'm looking forward to, but there's a very special Beijing band playing a show on Sept. 12. Catching this show was the main reason I decided to extend my visit (plus, there's so much to see in this city. I don't even have time to write in this blog!).

Now that the Olympics are over, shows are in full effect! Post-Olympics, post-rock; that's where it's at.

In this country, where fr33dm of speech has been severely curtailed, fr33dm of movement and fr33dm of sound still reign in the underground.

This subculture is not only vitally important but never forgets that fun is important.

Trying to "discover" the Spirit of Underground Chinese Rock has been a fascinating, unique, and fun experience I'll cherish for the rest of my life. I keep getting distracted in my "discovering" process. Along the way I just keep dancing instead!...Maybe that's when you know you've found something.


Friday, August 22, 2008

The Games!

The Olympic Games themselves have been riveting!

I came here only expecting to see the Cycling Track race at the Laoshan Velodrome. But I've actually managed to catch an additional five events. Each of the events have been really exciting.

The first event I was able to catch was Women's Basketball. Latvia and Brazil (my other home country) duked it out and remained w/in 4 points of each other for the entire second half. Unfortunately, Brazil lost the lead in the final few minutes and then lost by one point when Latvia made a winning basket w/ 15 seconds left! Though Brazil lost, the game got me super stoked to see more.

After watching China's Women B-ball Team dominate New Zealand, I left at the half to transport myself halfway across the city to catch Men's Field Hockey on time.

It was Canada versus Pakistan in field hockey.

I sat next to the Canadian team member's families. They were super rowdy and into it, but little did they know, I was actually rooting for Pakistan. hehe.

Pakistan held it down, controlled the ball, played some serious defense, and beat Canada 3-1. Go Pakistan!
It's always nice to see the little, developing, so-called "third world," less-wealthy countries beat the developed wealthy ones.
Canada is pretty nice and all, but how often do you get to see some rad Pakistani athletes tear shit up?

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(Two Pakistani fans proudly display their country's flag shortly after the win).

Shortly after I took the above picture someone jumps down some stairs behind a railing and yells to me, "Yo! What are you doing here?!" It was my buddy Santiago from a Globalization & Social Development class I took at my school over a year ago! Crazy! Small world, huh?

I went about a few days w/o seeing another event in person. I was waiting until the Cycling Track Velodrome race. As I mentioned earlier, my buddy Kareem flew into Beijing the night before, so it was cool to mob the 'drome in force.

The all-wood velodrome track was quite a site. We had some good seats and proceeded to take advantage of the 5 RMB/yuan (approximately 80 US cents) Tsing Tao beers.

The one-on-one style racing was cool but I particularly enjoyed the Team Pursuit category, where teams of four start out on opposite sides of the track and try to catch each other.

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(Netherlands, in pursuit of France).

The next day we ended up getting some tickets to Ping Pong aka Table Tennis (btw, after finding a hotel that sells tickets for cheap, the avg. we spent on a ticket was $15 US).
We hopped on the subway and headed to Peking Univ. to get all Ping Ponged out. Ping Pong was seriously, quite possibly, the most exciting game to watch.

Players came from Brazil, Argentina, Korea, Nigeria, Croatia, Egypt, Australia, China, Taiwan, Singapore and more.

Kareem was especially stoked to see Egypt (the country of origin of one of his parents) play France. Though Egypt lost, it was awesome that Kareem was the only person in the stands rep'n' Egypt and shouting some supportive Egyptian slogans.
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We started a pro-Egypt chant in Mandarin Chinese which spread throughout the arena.
We also sat right behind the Egyptian player, Ali Saleh Ahmed. When the camera zoomed in on the concentrated Ahmed, there we were too, in the background, and in effect on the big screen. Kinda ridiculous. We may have been on Egyptian TV which is a kind of crazy thing to consider.

My favorite Ping Pong match was Portugal vs. Nigeria.
There were 6 Portugal expats all dressed up in country colors yelling constantly in support of their Portuguese ping-pongin' hero.
On the other hand, there were no explicitly pro-Nigerian fans, from Nigeria, rep'n it in the stands.
And that's not because Nigerians don't want to be there. I'm sure most of the country would love to be there. But due to global inequality and the fact that Nigeria is a country well below the poverty line, Nigerians can't afford to go. Many Portuguese, on the other hand, can.

Ironically, many European & Western countries, including Portugal, built their wealth by pillaging the resources of societies throughout Africa (including the land now known as Nigeria) and throughout the Americas, and Asia during the colonial-era and slave-trade.

So while many people try to argue that the Olympics are and should remain completely a-political and "only about sports," I don't think that's exactly possible.

History happened. And many people remember, or learn, about historic events that effect their people.

It's nice to have healthy nationalism at the Olympics; in fact, it's quite a beautiful site to see people stoked on their countries, in front of you, and not filtered through the media.

However, the global politics, sociology, and economics are right there, in the stands. The fact that there were 6 Portuguese and 0 Nigerians is an example of those three elements playing out.

(I think a good idea for the future would be to create a program that makes it easier for citizens of developing countries to visit the Olympics to cheer on their team and nation. Maybe NBC should fund and develop it. Afterall, they're bullying YouTube into strictly keeping all Olympics footage off the site. Doing so means that millions of poor people around the world, including many Nigerians, who can manage to access the internet will be denied the chance to watch their national heroes represent their struggling countries on the Olympics world stage. The people of Nigeria need the morale boost, which watching their heroes compete may offer, far more than NBC needs the additional profits that they think will be accrued by giving YouTube the middle finger...The idea needs the right people to make it happen.)

Now, back to Ping Pong: With the unfortunate under-representation of Nigerian fans, and the soundspace being occupied by Portuguese cheers, Kareem and I, some very loud dudes, sat behind the Portuguese and cheered as loudly as we could for Nigeria.

The game went back and forth, up and down, intensely, as did the cheering; which remained fun and in good spirit.

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(Nigeria's Segun Torialo takes a breath in this back n' forth scoring game)

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(Torialo serves to Portugal's Joao Montiero).

The rallies were sassy and the emotions were high. After both players wiped the sweat off their hands Nigeria's Torialo laid the heat on Portugal's Montiero to drop a crushing and winning hit! Nigeria won! Yeahhh!

What a match! Afterwards Torialo draped himself proudly in a Nigerian flag, waved to the crowd, now standing and clapping, and walked off smiling.

It was a good day.

The next day wasn't as romantic. Nevertheless, it was awesome.
I was able to get ahold of a ticket for BMX Cycling, BMX's first Olympic appearance ever.
Actually, another dude who said he came all the way from Vegas got a ticket from the same person and at the same time I did. So we rolled in together.
This dude was pumped! His name was Landon and he used to ride BMX back when he was a kid, he said. He also lived and surfed in Pacific Beach, San Diego "a long time ago" (i.e. probably early 80s). I believe it, 'cause he was still rockin the long hairdo straight outta that scene.
Hangin' out w/ Landon in the stands was like being at a Social Distortion concert and in a (late) David Lee Roth video at the same time!; except better...and w/ bikes.

He busted out a giant American flag and put two little American flags and a Chinese flag in his bmx-er/surfer, turned rock-out-all-nite-in-Vegas-hair. Landon actually made cheering "U S A" fun and funny.

This was the first event I went to where Americans did well. Mike Day, local Cali kid, came in first.
I saw him afterwards signing autographs for the dozens of Beijing locals surrounding him and I said "Congratulations, man." And he responded, "Thanks, man."

Another good day for the books.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Reclaiming My Edge

While in Beijing I've reclaimed my edge.
I've not only "found" the edge of life, but I've reclaimed it by living on it.
I've done this by simply carrying five keys around with me.
Apparently, it's illegal to ride the subway in Beijing, during the Olympics, with more than five keys...Yes, normal keys, like house keys, etc.
And no one I know knows why that's become a new rule.

For awhile I was riding the subway with EXACTLY five keys on me; three keys to get into the apartment I was staying at and two keys for two, very necessary, bike locks.
If someone wants to get back at me for something they could totally sneak an extra key into my backpack and I would get totally fucked.
Imagine that.

This is the new edge.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sodas, Scientists, and Explaining Happiness

Wow, Beijing has been a whirlwind of fun the last week. I haven't had much time to blog here, even though there are many things I've been meaning to share with y'all.
I'm blogging in my mind, I s'pose.

So, here's some things for your minds, too.

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I drew this picture of Soda Mask Man.
A person sells sodas while wearing a mask. I should mention that while it's true that this city is quite smoggy, it's actually very rare to see people still wearing these masks. In fact, according to an article I read, some of the Chinese people were somewhat offended that members of the US Cycling Team walked off the plane wearing these masks. Apparently, the Chinese government, including planners and scientists, have worked especially hard to keep the city less smoggy for the games, i.e. restricting and halving car usage, closing factories, etc.

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Taxi Driver (Beijing).
Well, here's the ID card of one person still driving a car.

This taxi driver dropped me off here (a parking lot storage thing for bikes):

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A red tag for every day a bike is left in storage.

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Make bike. Not car.

It just so happens that one of my friends who I worked w/ in Chula Vista years ago is in Beijing, too. He, Sam, is a "DIY" traveller who I look up to; he's been to 98 countries, some which don't exist by the same name anymore. By the way, Sam works full time delivering pizzas, quits, then travels for 2-4 months every year, then gets rehired at the same pizza joint.

It was awesome because I was able to travel w/ him for the first time ever.
We ventured all over Beijing on the sunniest day of my trip.

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Dagoda Temple at Beihai Park.
One of my favorites sites so far.
I think the temple looks like a castle in Super Mario Bros. 3; one of my favorite games of all time, and one of the finest works of media/art ever constructed, in my opinion. Yes, for real.

I love the philosophical-ish names of sites and things in China. Everything is so epic and well-named. For example, a temple at Beihai Park is named and translates into 'Explaining Happiness Temple.'
I learned about the site after leaving the park, but I'll go back there to check out said temple. I'll try to explain what it's like.

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The Forbidden City.
Dead center in the middle of Beijing.
Haven't been inside yet, but soon will.

Last nite my buddy Kareem flew into Beijing. So now shit is on times two!
We hit the streets on a Beijing Saturday nite.
I'll tell y'all what it was like soon.

But now I have to leave asap because we have tickets to see the Cycling Track Race at the Laoshan Velodrome! We're very excited 'cause this is the event we're most looking forward to.
More on events later, too.

Peace from Beijing. Yours truly.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Carrying On and 8/8/8 in Beijing

I should first clarify that this will be the new site of my blogs. For some reason, my previous blog site is blocked in China. Well, at least from this particular computer. Perhaps this was due to the Marxist-language of my url headline. I figured Marxist-thought would be encouraged in a proudly communist & socialist country. 'Know your roots!,' right?

Either way, cnsrshp has also been a problem here, despite agreement to allow reportrs open and unregulated use of the internet during the Olympics. I heard that some sites were blocked in internet zones designated for members of the prss.

So, with that said this site will try to carry on the torch. (No pun intended.. Ok, maybe intended).

Oh yeah, did I mention that I did in fact make it to China!

It's been absolutely incredible.

I'm staying w/ the cutest old couple in Beijing. They've been really helpful in getting me situated and accustomed.

I've been riding a mountainbike around that I'm borrowing from a buddy who comes here often.

Traffic is thrilling! You've really got to be on edge in the streets over here; moreso than LA, SD, Mexico City, and NYC in my opinion. Tons of things are going on. And motor vehicles do not yield! You will seriously get bodied if you don't pay attention. I've learned that you can't rely on traffic signals to tell you what's going on. Traffic signals think they know what's going on. The reality is in the streets, not the lights dangling out of sight above them.

It's clear to me how and why the expression 'critical mass' originated from Beijing. (The film Why We Ride claims this). Right of way is usually determined by numbers. A cyclist or pedestrian will wait on the side of the street to cross. With cyclists and pedestrians everywhere, they'll quickly gather up while waiting, then cross together---changing the relationship of control in the public space.

Despite all the business in the streets, I'm fascinated to see how non-personal and non-"highly-emotionally charged" and non-violent traffic politics are in Beijing. I swear, the more time I spend outside of the US I realize how many motorists in The States act as if you're dragging behind a burning American flag on your bike for riding in the lane. Well, not here.

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(Watching traffic in the Deshengmen district)

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(Deshengmen Qiao the street)

Yesterday, 8/8/8 was a particularly amazing and unique day. The Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games (8/8/8) was a day the majority of the Chinese had been anticipating for a very long time (this according to a few locals I was fortunate enough to talk to).

I decided to at least try to get into the Opening Ceremony last nite. So I rode as close as I could. Unfortunately, certain roads w/in a mile of the venue (the "Bird's Nest) were blocked and guarded. So I followed the flow of people that kept it in moving in different directions. We walked to a nearby overpass where hundreds perhaps a thousand other (mostly young) people found a good spot to see the Bird's Nest and fireworks. Hundreds turned into thousands as the time neared 8pm.

The vibe and social energy of the crowd was overtaken by a tremendous sense of positivity and celebration. These Olympics games, I've learned, are vitally important to the new Chinese psyche. While it's true that the games are being protstd by many people all over the world, the protsts are directed towards the Chinese gvrmnt. The Chinese people on the other hand, at least the majority of them it seems, and certainly the ones I've spoken w/, see the games as an opportunity and window to show the world the excellence and friendliness of the Chinese people.

As a citizen of the US, living under a govrnmnt I often disagree with myself, I can certainly sympathize.

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(A girl celebrating on 8/8/8/8)

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(People celebrate on 8/8/8/8 in view of the fireworks-emanating Bird's Nest)

There's much more I can say about 8/8/8/8, my adventures so far, and the incredible friendliness of the Beijing residents, but I'll leave that for later.

-Peace from China.'Til next time.