Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Party choices

Ah, yes - one of those things that the Chinese political system is lacking!
(Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)
The Choirboy has - somewhat belatedly and unconvincingly, I have to say - been trying to revive his proposal of a couple of months back to have an early morning cocktail party down at his place.  I fear this is simply unfeasible, since he's on the south side of Chang'an Dajie where the parade will run.  Beijing is split into two by these dratted 60th birthday celebrations, and movement between the north and south is going to be all but impossible for the next 24 hours.
Some of my girlie chums - the remnants of 'The Coven' - have taken pity on me and invited me over for a brunch party.... which is temptingly in the 'hood (although it will mean making do with a tiny TV, and the distractions of rugrats).
Some my blogger pals are threatening to have a 'live blogging' party - which is just sad.  Sorry, boys, I love you dearly, but it is.  It's likely to be a more committedly alcoholic gathering, though, so I may go just for that.
Tun, I gather, is one of the few bars that have advertised a screening of the celebrations from 9am (complete with a breakfast buffet and drinks specials).  I have no great love for the place, but that does sound as if it might be quite a fun occasion.  However, given that the city's public transport system is going to be almost entirely shut down tomorrow (and Beijing's notoriously cranky cabbies are already showing a marked reluctance to take any fares anywhere), I fear Sanlitun is just too damned distant a destination for an early morning walk.
I hear a rumour that Ginkgo may be doing something similar in my 'hood, but.... they don't seem to have done much, if anything, to publicize it yet, so I doubt if there'll be many people there.
I'm quite tempted to just stay up all night (in a bar, of course; probably the Pool Bar), and then wander down towards the centre of the city to see if it's possible to get anywhere near the parade (though I'm guessing NO; and the crowds will probably be horrendous).
Likeliest outcome, I fear, is that I wind up watching the TV tout seul at home with a few cans of beer.
No, no, the likeliest outcome is that I catch up on all the sleep I've missed over the past week or two and snooze through the entire show...

Tuesday Night Music Club

I discover that the boys at Jianghu have instituted a regular Tuesday night jam session for the city's jazz musicians.  I've been the last few Tuesdays, and it is a very fine and mellow evening - with an impressive mixture of local and foreign talent.
One of the drummers particularly impresses me, as much for her consuming enthusiasm for the art of drumming as for her actual playing (though she's not at all bad).  She listens with rapt attention to all the other players, and even takes down notes of some of their moves; her passion is inspiring.  She's one of the very few Chinese jazz drummers I've ever seen, and, I think, the only lady jazz drummer - of any nationality - I've ever seen. She's an unremarkable middle-aged woman who looks for all the world as if her day job might be bus conductor or market stallholder - but damn, she plays a mean set of skins. 
This is likely to become a frequent Tuesday night haunt for me, I suspect.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The Bookseller always used to say that when one of his romantic relationships was on the decline, he could always recognise the moment when he'd begun to fall out of love because his girlfriends "started to seem shorter".
I happened to run into my Great Lost Love last week.  And she was, I thought, quite frankly, looking a bit rough.  Well, it's four years on from our affair, I suppose; and she's entered her 40s now, or getting very close; and this harsh Beijing environment does take it out of you!  Hardly surprising that she wouldn't be looking quite as captivating as when we first met.  Particularly since we are so prone to romanticize the past!
But, perhaps.... perhaps I am finally getting over her.
I still find her very attractive in all sorts of ways: she's feisty, passionate, creative, intelligent, opinionated - very much a soulmate.  But the fierce tug of lust I once felt towards her seems to have withered.  Probably a good thing, I should say.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bon mot for the week

"I am in that temper that if I were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the top."

John Keats (1795-1821)


Sunday, September 27, 2009


Or.... The elements of a really miserable session of pool
1)  Lousy weather
The third straight day of sunless murk, thoroughly depressing.  And clammily humid as well: my shirt was soaked through by the time I'd walked the three miles to the pool hall.
2)  Insufficient sleep
After a couple of days of restorative lie-ins which had finally started to top up my sleep-health account again, I ended up staying up way too late on Friday night (and being unable to sleep in the next morning because of building work going on in one of the apartments downstairs).
3)  A touch of loose bowel
Not that I was troubled by a need for bathroom breaks while playing, but it was probably rendering me a tad physically frail, just a little shaky.
4)  Shaggy hair
I am well overdue for a trim, and my fringe is starting to hang in front of my eyes - that's always a bit distracting when lining up a shot.  This is one of my oldest excuses for a dip in pool form.... but it is quite true, honestly.
5)  Aches & pains
The 'arthritic' pains I've been suffering in my left elbow and right shoulder (the result, I suppose, of carrying heavy bags around with me on holiday in July and August) are finally easing, after 6 or 7 weeks.  But they're still a slight - and very unwelcome - distraction.
6)  Depression
Health problems, poor sleeping, the foul, gloomy weather, ongoing vexations with employers, and the mounting lunacy of oppressive 'security' measures prior to next week's 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China have all been dragging my spirits down into the mire over the past week.  Usually I find that my pool form is a sensitive predictor of an approaching crash in my mood.  When I'm already glum - and this is somewhere beyond, beneath glum - I really should stay way from the game: I just don't have the emotional resilience to bounce back from setbacks.
7)  No air-conditioning
Or none that was very effective, anyway.  And it took several minutes of wrangling with the fuwuyuan to get him to turn it on at all.  With the level of humidity yesterday, the pool hall was stifling.
8)  An unfamilar table, with exceptionally niggardly pockets
Actually, I had played on that table a few times before; but not recently enough for it to seem at all familiar.  And the cut of the pockets - of the middle pockets, especially - was quite savage.  Ordinarily, I am a big middle bag potter - fine cuts and doubles into the middle are one of the big strengths of my game.  I scarcely made a single shot of this kind all afternoon yesterday - although I did miss narrowly, grazing one or the other or both pocket jaws time and time again.  I would judge that the jaws of the middle pockets were at least a quarter of an inch more prominent than usual - and that's a lot.  This was really not the kind of table I needed to be playing on when I'm out of practice and short of confidence.  It's pretty remarkable, really, that given this almost complete inability to make a shot in the middle bags, I managed to win any games at all.
9)  A less than ideal cue
I shouldn't complain too much, really.  It had an OK tip, and a nice solid feel to it.  But it wasn't quite perfectly straight, and it didn't have much weight to it.  Again, not a confidence-builder!
10)  A new and 'tufty' surface
Our table appeared to have been fairly recently re-covered, and so the baize was thick and a little fluffy.  This kind of surface more readily absorbs moisture in the air, emphasising - in increasingly unpredictable ways - the tendency of the balls to drift off a 'true' line.  (The balls will tend to curve very slightly towards or away from the sides of the table, depending on whether they are rolling with or against 'the nap', the natural grain of the cloth surface.  This effect tends to be exaggerated with new cloth, and/or with very damp air, such as we suffered yesterday.  And it becomes far more inconsistent or random where the cloth has not been brushed regularly, or has not been been brushed in a uniform direction - which, alas, we almost always have to suffer in China.)
11)  The most appalling run of 'bad luck'
Really.  Now, I try not to believe in 'luck'; I do try to convince myself that there is a reason - an ultimately controllable reason - for everything that happens on a pool table, and that a bad 'run of the balls' is down to me at the end of the day, perhaps some kind of unconscious self-sabotage.  But even my opponent had to laugh in sympathy at some of the wretchedly unlikely bad breaks I got yesterday.  [From one of my break-off shots, a ball split from the pack heading directly for the centre of the left middle pocket; but it was travelling just a little too fast to drop over the lip, hit the far jaw, bounced across the lip of the pocket, hit the near jaw, and bounced across the lip again, bounced off the far jaw a second time and came to rest in the middle of the pocket, hanging so precarious over the edge that it seemed certain to drop after just another second or two of hesitation; another ball had bounced around all the cushions and was approaching this middle pocket ball from behind, on a perfect line to hit it and nudge it into the pocket; this contact occurred exactly as anticipated, except that the dratted ball again wobbled to and fro along the lip of the pocket, ricocheting off both jaws without dropping in.  I cried.  Whether with laughter or self-pity, it is hard to say.]
12)  A too good opponent
I was playing New Dad, my pool nemesis.  I would like to think that, at my best, I have the beating of him.  In fact, in the Pool Bar, I have managed a pretty good record against him - maybe even slightly better than 50-50.  But in this pool hall, the stats are running badly against me.  In a typical two or two-and-a-half hour session, I think I usually win 4 or 5 of the games, and manage another 4 or 5 in which I run him very close (and possibly should win, but don't!); and the other 7 or 8 (or 9 or 10 or...) he just thwoops me.  Yep, I'm struggling to make one game in three against him lately, and that's just pitiful.  Yesterday, I think I may have been even worse than that, perhaps not taking more than one in four.  Throwing away the last game of the session when I was well in front seemed an almost inevitable final insult in the afternoon's catalogue of woes, a bitterly apposite salting of the wounds.
No, in the circumstances I probably should have called an early halt to that dismal humiliation.  Indeed, I perhaps should have ducked out of the rendezvous altogether.
But you know, sometimes, as our American friends have it, you've just got to suck it up.  My feeling about my pool form is so low at the moment that I can see myself quite easily running away from the game for a period of months.  Perhaps even forever.
I can't let that happen.  I've got to keep plugging away.  I've got to learn to deal with the frustration and disappointment.  I've got to rediscover the mojo, however long and painful the search may be.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's not just me

According to The Guardian newspaper, the redoubtable manager of the Arsenal football team, Arsène Wenger, learned everything in a pub.

[Arsène is a very cool dude, too.  I think – although my Arsenal-hating buddy, Big Frank, would berate me for saying so – he's my favourite personality among the current Premiership managers.]

Another useful acronym?

Apparently, the 'birthday bash' at The Bookworm last night involved an open bar from 8pm till midnight.  They didn't publicize this fact, not wanting to attract riff-raff.  By the time I found out, I was already somewhat committed to alternative activities closer to home.  Ah well, maybe next year....
Animator Ben was determined to go.  He has fond memories of the 3rd anniversary party last year, when they were similarly generous in giving away the beer.  Or rather, he remembers that he doesn't remember very much about it at all.  "I blacked out!" he admitted candidly.
It seemed likely - inevitable - that he would meet the same fate last night.... although he was somewhat late getting started, having stopped off elsewhere for some food first.  Anxious to keep track of his progress, I sent him the quizzical text message: "Estimated Time of Blackout?"
I think this one will have its uses.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Worm!

Today - I had almost forgotten - is apparently the 4th Birthday Bash for

The Bookworm.

Gosh, is it really that long?  I suppose it must be, because Beijing's firework ban was officially lifted for Chinese New Year 2006, and I remember being in The Worm - with only the owner, Alex, and a few friends - on New Year's Eve, sheltering from the storm of ordnance outside, often unable to continue our conversation over the thunderous racket which seemed to last, without lull or intermission, from late afternoon until the wee small hours of the following morning.  (Subsequent years have been mild by comparison, believe me.)

The Worm also holds a special place in my personal history because it is where I met the love of my life (well, one of them).  And, indeed, the fateful, frivolous, eternally frustrating Madame X; and a fair number of other distractions & infatuations.

So, I wish everyone well at The Worm tonight.  And I'd like to join them for the party. But.... well, I don't think I know anyone who's going (many of my pals seem to have quit the city already, leaving early for October 1st holidays).  And it's Sanlitun on a Friday night - ugh!!!

No, I think I'll wait until the big celebration for next year's 5th Anniversary....

Yet more music (shhh)

Mamur, the excellent Kazakh folk musician who used to have a band called IZ (I think they might in theory still be in existence, but it must be a couple of years now since I've seen their name in the gig listings), pops up once in a while at my favourite little courtyard retreat, Amilal.  And occasionally, he plays a bit - sometimes on his own, sometimes with one or two friends.  (Earlier this year he did a bit of a jam session with a few of the guys from the very popular Mongolian folk band Hanggai, which was marvellous - except that the place is so tiny that hardly any of the audience could actually see the musicians; most of us just stood in the courtyard outside, packed together like sardines, soaking up the ethereal, disembodied sounds.)
There is a rumour he might be playing there again very shortly.  I wouldn't like to say for sure exactly when.  The Weeble would never forgive me: he likes to think of the place as "his secret".  Yes, chiefest of Amilal's charms is that it is a 'hidden gem', and most of the time not too busy.  With a dozen people in there, it feels "too busy".  If word gets round of an appearance by Mamur, there could be several dozen people, and that won't be pleasant at all.  So, I'm saying nothing more.

HBH 150

The flying fingers
Are not what mesmerises,
But the flying minds.
Another Panjir Thursday at Jiangjinjiu, and all three lads were on dazzling form - Ekber-jaan particularly so.  Just awesome.  In a town full of exceptional guitarists, I think he takes the top spot.  We must make the most of him while we can, because he's off to the States in January.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Weeble learns a new word

A few days ago my friend The Weeble was resisting my promptings to join me for a drink on the - highly improbable - grounds that he had to get up early the next morning for a breakfast meeting.
"Breakfast?!" I boggled.  "Surely, for you, it would be brunch, at the very earliest?"
"Yes, I was confused too," he replied.  "Apparently, it's the meal after dinner."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Choices, choices

There are two events on tonight which hold a certain attraction for me.
One is an International Networking Night at the St Regis Hotel, staged jointly by a number of the foreign Chambers of Commerce.  When I was a newbie here, I used to go to these things quite a lot, and mostly I quite enjoyed them, but.... well, in the last few years I rather seem to have lost my zest for them.  However, I really feel that I ought to start getting out to that sort of thing again more often, since my circle of friends is dwindling.... and I haven't met any new romantic prospects in... well, all year, really!
The other is the Manhattan Short Film Festival at Yugong Yishan.  Event sounds fun.  Venue sucks.
Hmm.  Tough call.  I may have to flip a coin, or something.
If it were a straight choice between sex and culture, I'd go for culture every time (but it isn't that straightforward a dichotomy: the networker will probably have far more people there, and thus give me a statistically greater chance of meeting someone interesting; but there's likely to be a far higher proportion of people that I'd find interesting at a film show).
Ah, but it's such beautiful weather, I don't think I'll much fancy cooping myself up indoors anywhere during the early evening.  You'll more likely find me at a sidewalk table somewhere, supping a cold beer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Froog Solutions (3)

Froog's solution to the danger of having your taxi get snarled up in rush-hour traffic...

Hole up in a bar for a couple of hours, until the rush hour is dying down.

Ordinarily, I do everything I can to avoid using a taxi other than for work reasons; and I'm often quite happy to walk home from the east side of town - yes, sometimes even the 7 or 8 miles from Chaoyang Park. However, one day last week I was headed out that way on a major shopping expedition and didn't fancy lugging heavy bags too far. Although, as it happened, I did lug them the 3 miles or so back to Dongsi and then take the subway... I was a bit drunk by that point, you see.

The weekly bon mot

"In our leisure we reveal what kind of people we are."

Publius Ovidius Naso ['Ovid'] (43BC-17AD)

I have just spent an hour online trying to find a source, and the original Latin, for this, but..... I give up.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Feast or famine

I'd been griping that there didn't seem to have been many decent gigs on recently..... and then this week, we get TWO at the same time (it's like the London buses!) that I would normally regard as a must-see.
This Saturday night, we see blues-rock party boys Black Cat Bone returning to their spiritual (and I'm thinking Jack Daniel's here) home of 2 Kolegas.  I'm happy to learn that new kids on the block, The Redbucks (a gaggle of young Americans who play 'roots music' - country, bluegrass, etc.), will be opening for them. That's two bands worth travelling out to the wild east side for. (And if you miss The Redbucks on Saturday, they have a Monday night residency at Jiangjinjiu this month, and are returning to 2K on their own next Wednesday.)
A major rival attraction, however, is that the very wonderful Ningxia folk rockers Buyi are playing in my own backyard, at Jiangjinjiu on the Bell Tower Square, at the same time.  Apparently they have yet another new album to promote, so are likely to be gigging a lot (do they ever take a break?) over the next few months.  And, to be honest, they're a bit too popular for 3J: the last time I saw them there it was a taking-turns-to-breathe scenario, and I practically had to sit on the stage with the band (although this did enable to me to get cosy with their outrageously sexy bass player).  Although there's always the option of listening from the Square outside...
Yes, either of these would be a most worthy use of my Saturday night (or both - isn't there some way one could fit in both??), but.... I'm spending the weekend in the country.
Ah well, there'll be other gigs...

HBH 149

Drinks work no magic;
Party with little joy -
Farewell to old friend.
Leaving parties are always a bit of a downer, but on this occasion, I fear, especially so.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I have decided on a new monicker for the "Mouthpiece of Evil".
That title was apt to seem a tad too harsh.  And our friend is not in fact voicing the evil himself.  Rather, he sees his job at the state-run magazine as being to dilute its evil as far as possible.  And he may be leaving there soon, anyway.
No - no more 'Mouthpiece', then; from henceforth, I am going to refer to him instead as Dr Manhattan.
Because he has a strange predilection for the Manhattan cocktail - and I cannot allow that to go unmocked.  He tries to persuade us that it is not a girlie drink - but I feel that in doing so, he only makes himself look more ridiculous.  He attempts to suggest that one can reduce the presence of sweet vermouth until it is almost negligible.  Even the cherry may be dispensed with, if one chooses.  So he says.  Hmm.  Well, why not just have a glass of bourbon, then, eh?
Perhaps I should cut him a little more slack.  After all, he is more knowledgeable about cocktail culture than me.  And perhaps he is also more secure in his masculinity.  All I know about the Manhattan is that Bette Midler ordered one at the beginning of her great bar-room duet with Tom Waits, I Never Talk To Strangers.
But.... for me, any drink that is sweet and red and (conventionally) has a cherry in it should only be drunk by the ladies.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Eye on The Wall

JK, the boss of 12 Square Metres, is away on an extended break in Australia at the moment.
We regulars are missing him (and his charming Chinese partner, Li Mei), and have taken to imagining that he is still joining us on occasion - remotely, via the webcam recessed into the wall at the end of the bar.  I think, in fact, the camera is a dummy, a 'security device' to discourage bad behaviour - but not actually connected to anything.  No matter.  We like to pretend.
We picture him in a beach bar in Queensland, at the end of a long day of baking in the sun or frolicking in the surf (lucky, lucky bastard!), dialling us up on his laptop to check how the business is getting along without him.
We raise a glass to him in absence.  We appraise the performance of his replacement bar staff.  We keep him updated on our progress in attempting to finish off Ben's canteen of Mongolian horse milk baijiu.  And from time to time we unleash on him one of our favourite running taunts: "How many times are The B-52s going to come up on this playlist tonight??"; "AfterShock!  Really?!  Who drinks that muck?"; "20 kuai for a Harbin?  Come on - how is any domestic beer worth that much?"  And so on.
Oh yes, Mr K, you're missing out on such a lot.  Or is there a live feed on that camera after all?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Money for nothing

The chaps at Ginkgo decided to try and charge a door fee for the second appearance of young Scottish folk band Skerryvore there on Saturday.
I find that a very puzzling choice.  Door fees always cause a certain niggling resentment (they were a comparative rarity even at the mainstream music venues until two or three years ago, and still cause significant price resistance amongst the cash-strapped Chinese punters).  And the amount being demanded here - 20kuai - was too trivial to have made much of a difference to the management.... but still enough to be irritating to the customer.  Basically, almost any amount is irritating to the customer.  I firmly believe that, especially at a venue like that, attempting to impose a door fee will drive away some customers altogether, and possibly have an adverse psychological impact on those who do attend - perhaps even inhibiting their spending to a degree that wipes out the paltry 20kuai cover several times over.  It just doesn't make any sense to me.
Moreover, door fees can work at the dedicated music venues because they're relatively easy to police.  And because there's not much danger of deterring any punters who aren't interested in the music (most of these places are in sufficiently out-of-the-way locations that there's little chance of any walk-by custom; nobody ever goes there except for the music).  Ginkgo, however, is a regular bar and restaurant.  Many punters going to the restaurant portion upstairs probably have no interest in any music event downstairs.  Folks who might happen to be passing by on the street might fancy just popping in for a drink or two, and not be much fussed about a band that's due to come on.  These are the kind of customers Ginkgo is trying to build its business on; and these were the kind of customers they were turning away on Saturday.  Daft!
Ah yes, and the final insult was that..... there was no band.  I looked in at about 10.40pm - by which time you would have expected the gig to be in full swing; or, at the very least, to be obviously about to start imminently.  But the band were not even yet on the the premises, and there was no confident prediction as to when they might arrive.
Now, when your band has let you down, and they're not there on time, and you have no idea when - if at all - they will actually start to play, then it becomes a downright cheek to try to ask people for money, any money at all, to come in.
Sorry, chaps - serious loss of brownie points there.

Bon mot for the week

"I live in my own little world.  But it's OK.  They know me here."
Anna Davis (presumably this one)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

You know you've been in Beijing too long...

... when the bar staff start giving you sass.
She (without a trace of irony): "You're not drinking very quickly tonight."
Me: "What do you mean?  I've been here just over 40 minutes, and I've already had 4 beers and 2 whiskies!"
She (grumpily): "Well, you're drinking that one slowly."

Gig slut

I was going to go to a gig last night.  In fact, I was hoping I might be able to squeeze in two gigs.  Maybe even three.
And, as the plan started to go awry, and gigs started to be eliminated from that programme, I began to think about the possibility of trying for 4, 5, 6.... Checking out every music bar in the neighbourhood.
The original plan had been to check out the Joyside gig at MAO Live House.  I haven't been to a rock gig in quite a while, and Joyside are a pretty decent band - although nothing so very remarkable, in my limited experience of them (they have a little laowai fan club who represent them as the best thing since sliced bread, which is always a little baffling: are they talking about the same band?).  And this was billed as being their last-ever performance.  I'm not sure if I believe that.  They may not have overworked the "comeback" ploy quite as often as 'Ol Blue Eyes, but there have been so many rumours of breakups, and actual breakups, over the years that cynical observers are predicting a speedy reunion.  In fact, the very cynical suggest that the whole 'farewell gig' thing was nothing but a marketing ploy, since they haven't played much this past year or so and needed some kind of special hook to stir up interest in this show.
If that was the case, it worked.  This was the first-ever MAO show I've turned up to that was purportedly SOLD OUT.  (The security was so leaky that I probably could have found a way to sneak in, but.... well, without the Chinese skills to provide a supporting blag if challenged, it might have been awkward.  I didn't just want to play the surly foreigner and rely on size, determination, and an inability to understand the language to carry me through.  Crashing stuff is supposed to be a test of guile rather than bloody-mindedness; charming, persuading, or duping - but not just throwing your weight around.  I think not all of the excluded punters last night - Chinese or foreign - were feeling so ethically constrained.)  I was not desperately disappointed.  As I said, they're not that wonderful a band.  And MAO, when it gets that crowded, is unpleasantly sweaty.  So..... next!
Well, my old friends the No-Name Trio were playing in a new bar over near the Lama Temple a little later, so I thought I'd go and check that out.  I was not enamoured of the venue, however - an undistinguished bistro type of place, designed to appeal to Chinese yuppies - and although the mellow French jazz was as delightful as always (and benefitting from an unusually good sound system), I thought I'd move on after a few songs.
I had been planning to hook up with The Weeble to check out Scots band Skerryvore at Ginkgo, but.... well, he was vacillating.  And the band were absent.  Since I'd already got a fair flavour of their music the night before, and had also suffered their vexing disinclination to start playing promptly, or at all, I didn't feel disposed to wait around to see when/if they would finally turn up and start doing their thing.
It was at this point that the notion of attempting to check out every single gig in the neighbourhood briefly took hold.  I really fancied dropping in on Jianghu and East Shore Jazz to see what was going down there, but.... well, it was already nearly 11pm by this point, and those two places did represent a sizeable detour.  The Weeble had heard a rumour that there was a "Buddhist rock" act at Jianghu - which sounded interesting, rather than good.  Anyway, the much more accessible - well, much more on my way home - Jiangjinjiu was supposedly playing host to an American folk/blues outfit called The Redbucks, who I was eager to see.  However, the one thing you can rely on with 3J is that the programme is never as advertised, and in fact there was a Mongolian solo folkster on - throat-singing, traditional robe, acoustic guitar, the usual stuff; no idea what his name was, but he was pretty good.
Hmmm, so the great evening of gig-going peripatetics ended up being barely an hour of music at only two venues.  Well, that's how it goes sometimes (most of the time, in Beijing): "plans" can seldom be more than a guideline.   I got me plenty of exercise, at least.
I am now vaguely regretful that I didn't check out the "Buddhist rock"....

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Highland fling

There was a rather fun little impromptu gig in Ginkgo last night, with Skerryvore, a young band of folk rockers from the West of Scotland, taking the stage.  Apparently they'd only just arrived in town - brought over by the Scots government to promote Scottishness for a few days, or somesuch - and had booked in the extra show at Ginkgo at just a few hours' notice.
Alas, they didn't actually get going until around 11pm, and then, after playing only a relatively short set, took a drink break so protracted that one began to doubt they would ever return to play more (it was getting on towards 1am when I gave up on them; well, I had been drinking for 9 hours by that point!).  I don't know if they did play on into the wee small hours, but apparently they made enough of an impression that Olly has invited them back tonight.  So, well worth checking out if you're in this part of town - Ginkgo from 10ish (or 11...).  They have a Pogues-y zest about them.  And a very good fiddle player.  And bagpipes (which, in a confined space, are just awesome: you don't need any amplification with bagpipes!).  FUN.

Friday, September 11, 2009

HBH 148

Avoiding the bars
A bottle of good whisky
To be drunk at home
Time for a spot of drying out....

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The crazy world of Froog

I've been out on the lash - all for very good, even 'cultural' reasons, honestly! - for the last 5 nights in a row.
And tonight.... I have a book talk, a gig, a birthday celebration.... and the England v. Croatia World Cup qualifier at 3am!!
And I do, you know, work occasionally as well.
This is no way for a man of my advanced years to be carrying on.  Stop me, someone, stop me.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Ogre does what ogres can....

I had been hoping to grab an after-work drink yesterday in one of my newer favourites, the No. 8 Beer Garden - but found it closed.  In fact, it looks as though everything around the north gate of the Workers' Stadium is closed.  Hmm, when did that last happen?  Ah yes, last summer, in the run-up to the Olympics.
Tonight I went for dinner at Saveurs de Korée on Nanluoguxiang.  Since it was one of the clearest evenings (if a might nippy) that we've had for a while, my friend and I were hoping to dine on their roof terrace - but we were told that all roof terraces on the street have been closed down until further notice.
With the celebrations of the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China now just a few weeks away, we are officially entering the zone of NO FUN again - just as we did last summer.  Expect a clumsy and pointless 'clampdown' on the live music scene - at least, outdoors - within the next few days, 'character' bars like Maggie's and Destination being arbitrarily closed, and teams of chengguan thugs rounding up all the beggars and Africans.
I am getting really tempted to skip the country before October 1st.  And perhaps never come back.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A bon mot from life

"You claim you can so fall in love with a view that you would like to gaze upon it every day for the rest of your life, yet you have never been so enamoured with a woman that you wanted to make love to her - or to sleep with her, or even to see her - every day for the rest of your life. Why is that?"


"Well, I don't think it's impossible that it might happen one day. But views don't talk back."


Real people, real conversations, real wisdom....

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Dirty Deeds!

Great times last night with the one-off reunion of AC/DC cover outfit Dirty Deeds - one of this city's great laowai party bands, but defunct these past three years or so.  The guys' playing was impressively tight, considering how little rehearsal time (any??) they'd probably had, and Alex's guitar-playing seems to have got better (his place in the lineup originally being secured more by his spirited physical impersonation of Angus Young than his axemanship).  There was a good crowd of nostalgic old Beijing hands, and even Yugong Yishan's crappy sound system was much less crappy than usual (though that ridiculous high ceiling inevitably muddies things a bit).
Unfortunately, I have to work this morning - otherwise I would have been tempted to see if hell-raising frontman Jaime Welton made good on his threat to party all night after the show.
If I get through the next four hours of misery, I might go and see if the lads really are having a late, late breakfast at The Den....

Friday, September 04, 2009

About time too

After months of empty promises, Ginkgo - the undistinguished revamp of last year's short-lived watering-hole of choice Room 101 - has finally restored the Stella Artois on tap (one of the factors that was chiefly responsible for my spending so much time in its predecessor last spring and summer).
They've also restored the early evening 'happy hour' - although it's much less "happy" than of old, with only a paltry 5 or 10 kuai off selected drinks rather the two-for-one of the good old days.
Still, it's been a long and shitty week of work.  And it's only a 25-minute walk away.....

HBH 147

The table, the bar
and the players are the same,
but the game is gone.
That dashed elusive mojo!
I thought, for No. 147, you know, it should be something on a pool (snooker, billiards) theme.  I played my first few games back at the good old Pool Bar on Monday, but felt like a stranger in a familiar land.  Most disheartening.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

New Picks of the Month

Since my two little blogs are about to pass their third birthday (gasp), I thought it would be appropriate to delve back all the way to the opening month's output for my latest archive recommendations.
On Froogville I direct  you towards What job do I do?, one of my favourite autobiographical nerblings.
And on The Barstool, it has to be The All-Nighter, a celebration of what we love best (and fear most) about the drinking culture here in Beijing.
Not sure if/when I'll be able to add these links in the sidebar.  Still mighty troubled in my blog access...