Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A dangerous combination

The Choirboy somehow managed to keep a mental note of everything he drank during his birthday revels the other day. It went like this:

Veuve Clicquot
Cooper's sparkling ale
Johnnie Walker Black

He dubs this 'cocktail' the Coup d'Etat, because - "It's an overpowering combination. And you're not sure who's in charge the next day."

I have suggested that the more moderate hair-of-the-dog comedown session the following day might be termed a Counter-Coup.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A mixed bag

I checked out the gig at new(ish) venue, Hot Cat Club, on Saturday. I guess it's been open several months, maybe a year or so now, part of the swanky Fangjia Hutong development - but they've only recently started doing anything to advertise in laowai circles. And on the few previous occasions I've breezed past, the place has either been dead or packed out, and I haven't been enticed into staying.

I was yet again caught out by China's perennially erratic approach to scheduling: Rustic, the band I'd most wanted to see in a bill of four, had gone on first, at around 9pm or so, and I'd completely missed them. When I got there, a band called Xiudaoshe were on stage; there was a reason why I'd never heard of them (and probably never will again).

Next up, it was Hang On The Box, the band I'd most wanted to avoid. Well, except that it wasn't really Hang On The Box; HOTB, although most of their songs were shite and their lead singer couldn't sing, were actually a moderately decent little band back in the day - but they split up three or four years ago. Now, their 'singer', the excruciating Gia, having failed to draw any sort of audience for the three or four other musical incarnations she's gone through in the last year, has decided to to try to revive the name of her "successful" former band, without the other original members. What we appear to have is her follow-up all-female group, Girl Kill Girl, augmented by a young guy with better guitar skills, doing the old HOTB material. HOTB is quite a well-known name, and a fair-sized crowd of laowai had turned out - who, I guess, had never seen the original HOTB and were curious about their reputation. Numbers soon began to thin out, though, after screeching talent-vacuum Gia took the stage. I managed to endure two or three numbers, and then went outside to rest my eardrums.

Luckily, the last act was some compensation. The Dancers have been - somewhat extravagantly - called a 'supergroup'. I don't think the fact that they've all previously been members of better-known bands like Joyside and Hedgehog really qualifies them for that title: they're not that famous or that good. They are, however, a fun band who play with a lot of energy and commitment. Despite having only performed together a handful of times so far, they now seem to be a very tight unit. And it's nice to see a bass-player taking centre stage for once. Unfortunately, neither he nor the other guy who takes on some of the vocal duties can actually sing - but that's par for the course in Beijing rock bands; at least they bawl so enthusiastically and unself-consciously that you kind of forgive them. Shame about the name, though: dreadful, dreadful band name.

I shall probably have more to say about the Hot Cat Club in a little while. On this first proper visit, I was very pleasantly surprised. I had expected it to be rather naff and overpriced (like the rest of the poncey Fangjia complex), but in fact it's cheap and grungy, like a proper music bar should be. Very cheap indeed. I'll definitely be back.

Bon mot for the week

"With all this darkness round me, I feel less alone."

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How much or in what manner?

A friend asked the other day what I thought of all-girl band Hang On The Box.

"They SUCK," I replied concisely.

She interrogated me further: "How do they suck?"

"Well, you know; they just put their lips together and inhale."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Something for the ladies......

Friends have been telling me for a year or so that I should check out Kiwi comedy duo Flight of the Conchords (now with their own series on HB0), but I only just got around to it. What have I been missing?!

The longer version of this, Ladies Of The World - with funny intro of the show-off ladykiller dude who gives the boys the idea that roller-skates might help their chances - is on the SubPop Records YouTube area here, but embedding is disabled, unfortunately.

I don't think I can quite crowbar this one into my 'Great Love Songs' category, but it is a great song...

By the way,there's an extra special end-of-the-month treat over on Froogville today, a collection of half a dozen of my favourite animated short films. Go check it out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Haunting image

A friend was taunting me the other day that she was enjoying a beer beside a pool, asking if I'd care to join (knowing that I had a few more days of abstinence to observe!).

I experienced an intensely vivid mental impression of cannonballing into a swimming pool full of beer.

Hmmm, foamy!!

I think that's how I'd like to celebrate my return to drinking ways this weekend. I wonder if it can be arranged?

HBH 197

Last mile is longest:
Weary after hard journey,
Anxious for the end.

After finding my month (OK, four weeks) without alcohol to be mostly quite a doddle, suddenly the last few days have become hard.

My sense of disorientation (Am I a drinker again, or not? When will it end??) is not helped by the fact that The Choirboy is now dithering as to whether he's going to celebrate his birthday this weekend (the terminal date that I'd been building my whole alcohol-free plan around!) or not. It's looking as though I might push through till Monday, to give myself 30 days of purity.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Top Five Obscure (and defunct) Beijing Bars

Following on my humorous dissection of the typical rise and fall of an out-of-the-way Beijing bar a couple of weeks back, I thought I should put together a post giving a few classic examples of this 'genre'. (Don't miss the comment to that post in which I already mentioned some of my 'inspirations'.)

There are many, many potential candidates for a list like this (perhaps readers will suggest a few of their own favourites in the comments), but I have tried to confine myself to..... ones that were actually pretty good, ones that weren't too well known, and ones that I really went to (more than just once or twice).

I would have liked to include Together, Robin Wang's friendly little reggae bar out on the East 3rd Ringroad. This would appear to have been one of the very best bars of this type, and I heard a lot of good things about it from various friends (it was briefly hosting a drumming circle a musician I know belonged to, until the neighbours complained about the noise); it even won one of those 'Hidden Gem' prizes in The Beijinger Bar Awards a few years back (though, as I mentioned in the preamble to my original post on the precarious existence of such bars, an accolade like this is almost invariably a kiss of death in Beijing's volatile bar scene). However, the east side of town is just too darned far away for me; I only looked in at Together a scant two or three times, and only in the late afternoon or early evening - when it was completely dead, and left no very strong impression.

I might have been tempted, too, to include something like Red Yard. That was remote, hidden, but nevertheless a decent bar. However, as part of the Huxley's franchise, it was reasonably well promoted, and, despite its obscure location, was pretty well-known (if not very consistently attended) by Beijing's laowai community.

And I considered also the Banpo Beer Hut, a bizarre Beijing institution probably best known for its name (and the fact that no-one has ever been to it, and precious few people even know where it is). However, Banpo is famous-for-being-famous - or famous-for-being-awful - which makes it not quite obscure enough for this list, in my view. (Moreover, I am one of the handful of people in this town to have tried the place - several times - and it really is unbelievably SHITE.)

So, here then are my......

Top Five Obscure Beijing Bars (that somehow managed not to survive)

5) Kilimanjaro
In general, I am suspicious if not outright scornful of anything much in the way of a 'theme' for a bar, so the notion of an 'African-themed' bar in the hutongs just off Jiadaokou was more apt to provoke derision than sympathy. However, the owners - a young Chinese professional couple who had worked in Kenya for three years - seemed very genuine in their enthusiasm for things African, and they put such a lot of effort into the place (even a huge archway of crossed elephant tusks - I hope fake - above the entrance) that even my cyncism cracked a little. However, their enthusiasm for things African seemed to stop short of attempting to build up any African clientele. In fact, they appeared to do absolutely nothing to advertise; and they were in a very obscure location. The place was absolutely deserted the half a dozen or so times I looked in, and it didn't survive much over a year.

4) Nameless bar near BNU
This was quite a regular hangout for me when I was teaching at Beijing Normal University in my early days here. It was a fairly generic "we haven't really got much idea what we're doing, but we're trying our best" type of small Chinese bar. On the plus side, it was suitably dark, had a bar (and barstools) of a proper height, and served an OK pint of local draught at a fairly low price. They also did a small selection of quite filling Western-style bar snacks (although, as so often in places like this, the Chinese-style curry or noodle dishes were the best choices; the pasta etc. better avoided). And it was a decent place to watch the football on a Saturday night (back in the days when CCTV5 still carried live coverage of the English Premiership). On the down side: the other drinks weren't up to much, there were no other foreign customers, the hygiene was very poor (I saw a rat in there once, but the house cat studiously ignored it and let it go on its way), and it stank a bit (the staff all slept on the sofas there, and their seldom-or-never-washed bedding was piled up in the cubby-hole next to the loo). And of course, it had no name (not even in Chinese, I don't think) - which didn't make it easy to recommend to others. I think The Chairman may be the only other foreigner ever to set foot in the place. I haven't been back there for years, but I doubt if it's still there.
[I also have some almost fond memories of the old e-cafe (the first 'e' being surrounded by a swirl, in the manner of the @ symbol), a small bar just inside the east gate, in the foreign students' hostel. It had cheap prices, a decent range of reasonably-priced snack meals (I still rather miss their hamburger), and even a couple of decent top-shelf whiskies. Alas, it got driven out of business by the opening of a huge McDonald's downstairs. Ggrrr.]

3) Blackjack Bar
Now, this place actually had legs. It had really a very good location, within a stone's throw of the Workers' Stadium - but, strangely, it never seemed to attract any laowai custom (nor did it seem to want to; I can't ever recall seeing a listing for it in any of the expat magazines). It may be there still: I heard a rumour that it had closed, but I haven't been to check on it in person in at least a year or two. Proof that a place can prosper - or at least survive - without gaining a 'profile' amongst the expat drinking population??

2) Whatever
The best of the little bars on and around Houhai. In fact, the only one that I've ever had any time for at all. Almost certainly the littlest of those bars, too: probably not much bigger than the original 12 Square Metres (when it really was 12 square metres); although it was occasionally possible to sit up on their roof as well (though discouraged, because of lack of safety railing, exposed electric wires, and complaining neighbours). It went through two or three similar incarnations in quick succession: it seemed to be the kind of place that people took up as a 'hobby bar' - perhaps while scoping out the area for better opportunities - but soon found that they couldn't really make it pay. It seems to be completely defunct now. I was sort of a 'regular' for a short while back in '07 or '08 when a couple of nice young Chinese girls had taken it over, and my old mate Jackson Bai was doing an occasional guest spot behind the bar for them.

And the best of the lot....

1) B2M
Also occasionally known as 'The Moatside', a more usefully geographically descriptive name, since it was located near the old city moat running alongside the North 2nd Ringroad. The more cryptic B2M stood for 'Beijing to Melbourne': the owners were an Aussie girl called Anna and her Chinese fiancé Essen (in all my years of meeting Chinese students who choose inappropriate foreign names for themselves, I think he's the only guy I've known who's opted for a German place name), who were planning an epic bicycle journey together to return to her hometown of Melbourne. It was a fairly regular haunt of The Chairman and myself through the second half of '03 and into the beginning of '04 (I experienced one of my best ever Christmas parties there - a night that only narrowly, and perhaps mistakenly, failed to gain inclusion in this list of my best Beijing Christmases ever). It was a very charming and characterful little bar; but it never had any custom except on the weekends, and even then relied almost entirely on Anna's friends. Well, it was hidden in the middle of an apartment complex - almost impossible to find unless you had a trail of breadcrumbs to follow, and miles from any other bars. When they quit the bar to begin their long ride home to Oz, I was sorely tempted to buy it off them: relatively inexpensive at 100,000 RMB, but I just couldn't see any way I could make it pay. Ah, it was a lovely spot for a while - but the good things never last.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Into the arena....

Luke at the Pool Bar has recently instituted a Monday night pool competition.

I'd felt a bit bad about failing to support the event in its first two weeks (for no other reason than that my metabolism, suddenly deprived of the 50% or so of its daily carbs that it usually gets from beer, slumps into catatonic torpor, and I struggle - for the first few weeks of a spell on the wagon - to find the willpower to haul myself off the sofa); and, since last night was to be the last of my current run of 'sober Mondays', I thought I ought - in a spirit of scientific enquiry - to test out my long-held hypothesis/superstition that I can't hit for shit without a few drinks inside me.

Last night, alas, furnished further evidence in support of the hypothesis.

Well, actually, no. Last night I was very relaxed, feeling reasonably confident, seeing the balls well. I was just woefully out of practice. I haven't played much at the Pool Bar this year (well, haven't played much anywhere - but only the Pool Bar really counts), and when I have, my confidence has generally been dented by severely disappointing performances. A lot of the problem has been a wrenched shoulder muscle (that I picked up playing Wii tennis with my nieces last summer!) which caused me persistent discomfort for getting on for a year, and was inhibiting my cueing action. I think - touch wood - I finally seem to be over that. Now - I just need to put in a lot of hours on the table to try to get my form back to what it was a couple of years or so ago.

I'm not sure that I'm ever going to make much of an impact, though, in this sort of company. And I don't want to be regularly reminded that there are least 15 players better than me in this city!! The Pool Bar has always attracted some very fine Chinese players, and this competition is starting to draw even more out of the woodwork (the two best players last night I'd never seen in there before). It seems we're already reaching the point where the 16 spaces in the draw fill up fairly quickly, and we may have to start signing up well in advance to be sure of getting a spot.

Next Monday - well, no, maybe not next Monday, or the Monday after that; but one Monday very soon - I'm going to see if I fare any better with a reasonable number of beers on board to take the edge off my nerves.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Glowing Ember

Canadian singer-songwriter Ember Swift (which is, apparently, her real name; did her parents realise they were condemning her to a career on the stage - and a lifetime of punning headlines - when they gave it to her?) has, after a number of visits over the past three or four years, recently come to make her home in China, and has been playing quite a busy gig schedule in the last few months to 'relaunch' her career over here.

A week last Saturday, she was playing in my backyard, at Jiangjinjiu... so I thought I ought to check her out.

Well, she has an amazingly sweet voice - high range, very smooth, very pure, sounds classically trained. Trouble is, it's almost too damned pure; it's not really rock'n'roll. For the kind of songs she was doing that night - or the way she was performing them that night - it would have been good to hear a bit of husk and rasp and raunch.... but she doesn't seem to have that in her repertoire. She's put a superb little band together - awesome Aussie drummer Zac Courtney, laidback bassist Paplus Ntahombaye, and an extremely pretty Chinese girl on erhu - and they really rock; but her voice doesn't. I have a feeling her style is probably far more suited to folksy, acoustic stuff (I've heard raves about the unplugged two-hander she played with Jess Meider at The Bookworm a couple of months back).

On this occasion, I wasn't convinced by the songwriting either. She has some pretty and catchy tunes here and there, but there wasn't any progression in structure, no sense of building excitement. And the lyrics often seemed a bit clunky: mundane or clichéd or struggling against the scansion (but then, most of her songs this time were in Chinese, so I was tuning out for long periods, not really trying to follow songs all the way through - just having my attention snagged by the occasional 'off' line).

She's a very engaging performer, though - poised, relaxed, funny. And she looks to have pretty good Chinese skills: most of her between-songs banter was in Mandarin, and she seemed to be getting genuine we-get-the-joke laughs from the Chinese audience rather than the more usual oh-it's-a-foreigner-trying-to-speak-Chinese embarrassed titters.

I was probably in an excessively curmudgeonly, rather unreceptive mood on this night: feeling ill, exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open, yearning for an early night (I had, in fact, decided to skip the gig and go home..... until The Choirboy made a last-minute decision to come and join me). So, I may perhaps be failing to give Ms Swift her due. I'll certainly go and check her out again sometime.

[This Jiangjinjiu session was being filmed, but none of it appears to have shown up on the Internet yet. One of the best bits of Ember I could find just now was this experimental jam with another musician (uncredited on that YouTube posting, but one of the commenters below tells me it's Lyndell Montgomery - now pursuing a solo career).]

Bon mot for the week

"A good bar is hard to find. A better bar is hard to remember!"

Crazy Chris

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Another new Music Festival?!

I hate to say this, but we're in danger of having almost too many music festivals in and around Beijing these days. I could get to miss those simpler days of yore when we just had Midi in May and the (usually eminently missable) Chaoyang Pop Festival in October.

The latest entry in the field - the enigmatically titled Max Star Festival - has been on at Ditan Park this week.

There are a number of curious things about this event:

1) It runs all week, rather than the usual two, three, or four days of any of the other festivals. However, it's only got the one main stage (the DJ area at the north end of the park doesn't really count, as far as I'm concerned) and it's playing in the evenings only (well, the advertised start time is 4pm, but when I went yesterday it seemed as though nothing had happened before 5.30pm), so overall it's probably a similar number of bands to the other smaller or mid-sized festivals.

2) It's running in the evenings only. You'd think they might be tempted to extend the schedule on the weekends, at least - but no. It's strictly a 4pm-10pm (well, 5pm-9.30pm seems to be more like it) deal.

3) It's running during a regular working period, not linked to any of China's national holidays. A bold move - but how many people are going to turn out regularly on a 'school night'?? Well, OK, maybe it will work. I suppose most Beijing rock fans are students, who are on their summer break now, or rich kids who don't really have to work for a living, or fellow members of the demi-monde - musicians, writers, artists, poseurs who tend not to have conventional employment, or at least not to work very conventional hours.

4) It's being held slap in the middle of August, when the weather is usually appalling (sweaty and rainy); and when a good 30%-40% of foreigners, and just about all of the full-time Mandarin students (who are a huge demographic for this kind of thing), are away on holiday. For me, this ends up being a plus: it's nice to go to a festival for once where at least 90% of the fans are Chinese (although I worry about how many Chinese fans can afford an 80-kuai asking price for a ticket even once, let alone on a series of nights throughout the week).

5) It's had just about ZERO publicity. I'm sure it's had postings on Chinese music sites like Douban, but there seems to have been nothing in the way of posters or flyers, nothing in the way of word of mouth. I go out to small music bars around my 'hood - Jianghu, Jiangjinjiu, Zui Yuefang - just about every week, and nobody in these places has mentioned that this festival was about to happen. It certainly hasn't achieved much awareness in laowai circles (although that might be partly because Time Out and The Beijinger have got such circulation problems these days: these past few months it's been just about impossible to find a copy of either of them anywhere inside the 2nd Ringroad). The latest bi-weekly edition (and therefore most up-to-date of the laowai rags) of City Weekend has listings for the event, but no feature story. That's the only reason I knew it was on at all. Well, that and Beijing Daze (Badr's usually pretty well tuned in to the jungle telegraph, but even he didn't seem to have much advance warning of this one).

And 6), it's in Ditan Park. And not just the little enclave inside the north gate where they've run the Ditan Folk Festival the last few years; actually in the main altar enclosure, right in the middle of the park. Now, I LOVE the idea of a festival that I can walk to. And it's quite a fun space: the elevated altar platform is a good height for a stage (and plenty big enough to provide adequate backstage facilities for the performers, too); there's lots of room around the periphery for merchandising stalls and such (although only two or three refreshment stalls in evidence, which wouldn't have been nearly enough if the weather had been hotter), and for crowd overflow, if that should ever be an issue (the altar precinct is a huge, double-walled square, with a wide avenue between the outer and inner walls, from which - in the front half of the enclosure, at least - you can still hear and see the stage reasonably well); and there are four large exits, at the points of the compass, allowing for fairly speedy evacuation if necessary (although I question the wisdom of putting the sole entrance directly in front of the stage: I think that could have led to a few problems if the crowds had been bigger). On the other hand, the optimum viewing area in front of the stage really isn't all that big: by 8pm on Friday, it was starting to feel pretty packed - with probably only 1,500 or 2,000 people there.

The organisers haven't been well served by the weather, either: it's been coolish but oppressively humid for most of the week; and today, it's pouring down - which presumably means that tonight's lineup will have to be cancelled. Frankly, it wasn't looking much good to me anyhow: Xie Tianxiao was the only significant talent on the bill, and he seems to have gone all drippy-hippy in his middle age, deserting Kurt Cobain in favour of Bob Marley as his major influence (I love Bob, I really do; but XTX is a rocker, not a folker; reggae & co. doesn't work for him). Sunday's roster doesn't look much better (although there's a rumour that the always fun swing band DH & The Hellcats are going to be on, which would jolly things up no end; the City Weekend listing did not include this); Tang Dynasty are an interesting band, but not worth sitting - er, standing - through three or four hours of dross for.

So, the Max Star Festival has been an interesting if somewhat quixotic experiment. I doubt if ticket sales have been terribly impressive this week - but I hope they'll give it a try again next year. It is - potentially - a great venue. And it's certainly - for me! - a great location.


I notice my close-cropped look is becoming quite the fashion in Beijing this summer. Music scene luminaries like promoter Ed Peto and Beijing Daze blogger Badr are amongst those who have followed suit.

What have I started? HOW has this come about??

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bon voyage, Pierre!

Salud drew a particularly big crowd this Wednesday.

It wasn't just the sudden downpour forcing people inside and keeping them there. And it wasn't just the irresistible Aeolian cadences of those Lennon/McCartney classics being belted out by Beijing's one-and-only Beatles Tribute Band (once again gamely donning their moptop wigs and lurid Sgt. Pepper uniforms).

No, most of Beijing's laowai music community had turned out to bid farewell to lanky Frenchman Pierre Billiard, one of the best bassists we've seen in this city, and a man who in his time has played with just about everyone (the extended lineups of No Name and Panjir, and of course the Beatles Tribute Band, to name just a few).

Pierre, alas, is having to leave Beijing at very short notice, after more than 4 years here. We wish him well in his travels and his future musical career.

[There's a particularly sad and ugly tale behind Pierre's abrupt departure. Apparently, he got into a late-night contretemps with a Beijing taxi driver a couple of weeks back, and rashly aimed a kick at the door of the cab as it pulled away. Unfortunately, this trivial act of frustration was witnessed by a group of policemen, who immediately pounced on him and his Chinese girlfriend, roughing the girl up quite badly. They were dragged off to the local nick, and detained - without food - for 24 hours. After which, the Chinese girl's family made a fairly substantial cash payment to secure her release. Pierre declined to do likewise - and so found himself banged up for another 8 days, and then told to quit the country by the end of the week because his visa had been cancelled. It seems the police had decided to represent the charge as a direct assault on the taxi driver; although I don't think the matter ever went before a judge, and the cabbie probably didn't even file a complaint.

This, unfortunately, is what life in China is like. We could any of us fall foul of a policeman in a bad mood at just about any time. And there is absolutely nothing we can do to protect ourselves: our Embassies don't want to get involved in individual cases; and we certainly can't expect any justice from the ramshackle, opaque, endemically corrupt - in practical terms, virtually non-existent - Chinese "legal system".

At least, most of the time, the worst that can happen to us foreigners is that we'll get booted out of the country (although that could be pretty disastrous for many of us, when our families, our social lives, our livelihoods and our financial assets - which it would probably be impossible to retrieve remotely - are all here; and we'd be unlikely to be allowed ever to return). However, when Chinese citizens get swallowed by the 'criminal justice' system, they can disappear for very long periods, indefinitely, for good.

I despair more and more of this wretched country. It may be time to leave.]

HBH 196

In a quiet lane
noise carries too easily;
the neighbours complain.

Problems for Jianghu? Occasional run-ins with the police are inevitable for any live music venue, particularly ones in predominantly residential neighbourhoods (aren't they all?), but JH has been fairly lucky in keeping them to a minimum during its nearly 4 years of operation. But last night, some psycho bitch from the adjacent apartment block was berating them almost before the gig had started. And it wasn't even a very loud gig! But the cops were called, and they had to pull the plug after barely half an hour. A big disappointment, the more so because Jean-Sebastien and Ubuul seemed to be on especially scintillating form. I do hope this isn't going to be an ongoing, venue-threatening sort of conflict.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Recommended Posts, January-March 2009

Another of my little quarterly 'best of' selections.

Guided Tour - recommended posts from the 1st quarter of '09

1) The Formula? - 7th January 2009
My friend Dapper Dan identifies the ideal qualities for a 'girlfriend'.

2) Froog on abstinence - 18th January 2009
Half-way through my attempted month on the wagon, I pause to reflect on the pros & cons of teetotalism.

3) A favourite metaphor revisited - 18th January 2009
Is a bar like a girlfriend? I think for me it is. Except that I tend to have better relationships with bars....

4) The Three Pint Rule - 19th January 2009
One of my oldest slices of 'wisdom': why a certain amount of alcohol is essential to playing your best game of pool.

5) The Chairman in control - 21st January 2009
My catastrophically feckless buddy tries to "put his foot down".

6) Parenting Advice - 22nd January 2009
A couple of very funny pictures - suggesting that you should start your child drinking young.

7) The Three Month Rule - 22nd January 2009
Following on from my crucial rule-of-thumb about pool playing the day before, I offer my key theory on LOVE (well, in fact, a whole raft of inter-related theories - touching on such topics as the 'soulmate' fantasy, love at first sight, and long-distance relationships).

8) Hogan's - 23rd January 2009
A special post (the 1,000th item on The Barstool!), dedicated to old friend and regular commenter The British Cowboy, celebrating his former 'local' in Philly - quite possibly the best bar in the whole of the United States.

9) The Cast List - 25th January 2009
Photographic representations of the friends (and commenters) who have most often 'appeared' on my two blogs.

10) Great Drinking Songs (15) - 31st January 2009
Marlene Dietrich singing See What The Boys In The Backroom Will Have.

11) More thoughts on sobriety - 1st February 2009
My recent experiment with abstinence leads to this scrap of poetry.

12) Messing with the clock - 2nd February 2009
Over-indulgence on Superbowl day reminds me of another of my important theories, on the potency of daytime drinking.

13) The perfect name for a Chinese bar - 5th February 2009
I suggest Fubar as a bar name long before Chad Lager launches a bar in Beijing with that name. I want royalties, dammit!

14) Dream Bar - 9th February 2009
I have a series of dreams about an 'ideal' music bar in Beijing. Curiously enough, it is quite similar to the Mako bar - which didn't open until more than a year later.

15) Three Barmaids - 12th February 2009
A recollection of a summer long ago, when I was still young: the Anchor on Polstead Rd in North Oxford, for a very short while a little piece of heaven on earth.

16) HBH 119 - 13th February 2009
One of my favourite haiku, describing the phenomenon of losing track of time during a great, late-night drinking session. (It was a disturbingly common theme for me around this time.)

17) Revelations - 14th February 2009
I suddenly realise why I'm coming to hate living in Beijing more and more these past few years: it's because I'm becoming an old fart - in a city of teens and twenty-somethings.

18) Why we play pool - 17th February 2009
In the words of the immortal Fast Eddie Felson...

19) Dorian Gray - 22nd February 2009
I glance at my face in the wing-mirror of a taxi on the way home one night. It is a disturbing experience. (Don't overlook the follow-up comments.)

20) A similar state of drunkenness - 23rd February 2009
Another of my theories: why I can't quiz when I'm sober.

21) Last night's text message highlights - 4th March 2009
Three of my bons mots - that are almost as good as this one. I must have been going through an especially fertile spell.

22) The never-ending quest for VALUE - 21st March 2009
A consumer's price comparison on some of my favourite bars: where can you get the most alcohol for your yuan in Beijing?

23) Chinese bar fights - 23rd March 2009
Or restaurant fights, as they more commonly are. A curious phenomenon, indeed. (I witnessed a particularly alarming example up in Harbin a year or two back.)

24) Elements of consolation - 29th March 2009
I was feeling a bit glum after my latest short-lived romantic interest passed out of my life, but.... as so often, a wonderful night at the Pool Bar cheered me up.

25) Fine dinin' - 31st March 2009
I come up with a list of my favourite restaurants in Beijing (an enduring reference item for the sidebar).

26) Everything happens for a reason - 31st March 2009
A not-quite-broken but creased and crumpled heart prompts me to some 'new age philosophizing'...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Top Five Foolish Things (favourite memories of an old friend)

Although we're currently having about the best summer I can ever remember in Beijing (well, the best late summer, anyway; it started cold, and then got stupid humid for most of July; but August has been just peachy), I am bitterly missing my (approximately) biennial trip to the Edinburgh Festival.

And, more particularly, I'm missing my chum The Arts Entrepreneur, with whom I invariably hang out there.

It is sobering to reflect that we met each other in our first teaching jobs, when fresh out of university, still in our early twenties. We have known each other for virtually the whole of our 'adult' lives (although it might be objected that neither of us has shown much commitment to the 'growing up' project), and for very nearly half of our entire lives.

Here then are just a few of the foolish things that improbably remind me of him......

Top Five Foolish Things....

5) Stuffed beetles
Well, I suppose 'mounted' is the proper term. He used to have a remarkable little collection of huge and colourful insects in glass display cases hung like paintings on the walls of his flat, ornaments he'd inherited from an eccentric uncle or somesuch (I was always a little envious of his extended and modestly affluent family). I'm not much of a coveting person, but I coveted his exotic beetles.

4) Sigourney Weaver
The imposing actress featured in one of his wonderfully daft, risqué improvised stories. In fact, she was a component of what I think was almost certainly the funniest line I have ever heard. But I couldn't begin to do justice to it here. It was, as they say, heavily context-dependent.

3) Edvard Munch's The Scream
We once agreed to meet at the National Gallery to view an exhibition of Munch they had on there - a cultural prelude to an evening of serious drinking. Where exactly should we rendezvous? "In front of The Scream," he suggested, playfully. "How will I tell you apart?" I quipped in response. [You see, he does have something of the elongated features and the hollow-eyed angstfulness of Munch's famous depressive.]

2) Half-pint glasses
When I first knew him, he used to drink quite a bit of bitter with me. But perhaps he was just slumming to indulge me. He always thought wine was more high-tone, and in recent years he has moved over to this exclusively when we get together for a tipple. And when we meet up in London, he'll usually try to drag me to The French Pub*, which serves better wine by the glass than just about any other pub in central London, but also makes a point of refusing to serve beer in anything but half-pint glasses - a poncey affectation that bugs the crap out of me. A half just isn't enough to be satisfying: there's no weight about it, in the hand or in the stomach. And it keeps you jumping up and down to the bar twice (or more than twice) as often. I only put up with it because I love him so. And he probably only insists on taking me there because he enjoys winding me up so.  
[* The York Minster on Dean Street has long been one of Soho's best-known pubs. It was one of the haunts introduced to me by the writings of professional alcoholic Jeffrey Bernard. Because of its quixotically continental ambience, it became universally known as 'The French Pub'; many of its customers genuinely didn't know that it was officially called the York Minster, even though the sign still hung outside; and curious tourists were generally unable to find the place - well, at least until it was finally renamed The French House a decade or so back. Since the early 1900s it had been run by a pair of Belgians: first Victor Berlemont, and then - for more than 40 years - by his son, the redoubtable Gaston.]

1) A 2CV
When I first knew him in that teaching job, he had a Citroen 2CV - a particularly old and dilapidated one that looked in need of a following wind to get anywhere. On one occasion we were pulling into the driveway of the part of the school where he lived, at breakneck speed (well, 30mph is terrifying in a vehicle as rickety as that), when the gearstick suddenly came off in his hand and dropped to the floor (in these cars, it's a flimsy stalk on the side of the steering column rather than a sturdy floor-mounted lever). He giggled hysterically and ducked down beneath the dashboard to see if he could retrieve and reattach it...... rather than look where he was going. He must have negotiated that driveway so many times by that point that he could do it blind. We skidded to a halt (stalling the engine with a brutal shudder, since we were still stuck in 2nd or 3rd gear) right up against the front steps of the building - while his head was still down around his feet somewhere. When he popped back up again, grinning triumphantly as he brandished the broken gearstick in his hand, he commented, "I never realised I was so butch!" [Though decidedly hetero himself, most of his male friends at university were gay (he said he found them more entertaining, and mocked himself as "a male fag-hag"), and he cultivated a strain of feyness or campery in his personal style, both a certain dandyishness of dress and a bitchiness of humour. A macho man he was most certainly not. But it doesn't take much to break a 2CV.]

Well, I might have had more - but this is supposed to be a 'Top Five' list, isn't it? No room, then, for Fernando Pessoa or Paul Pennyfeather or Ella Fitzgerald singing It's Only A Paper Moon......

Monday, August 16, 2010


The Choirboy has decided to hop aboard the alcohol-free bandwagon with me for the next two weeks, on an I will if you can basis.

I am gratified to have made such a powerful impression upon my friend, but also somewhat dismayed at the thought of thus becoming a role model. I was finding resisting the temptations of booze to be quite a doddle while it was only a matter of fulfilling a promise to myself, but now the burden of others' expectations of me is becoming a bit oppressive.

"I am proud to be an inspiration to the young. But I could probably do without the additional pressure."

Friendlessness is the friend of sobriety

One of the things that's making it surprisingly - distressingly - easy for me to give up booze this month is that I have no-one to go out drinking with anyway.

Everybody seems to be away on holiday. Or cutting down on their drinking too. Or just perennially inaccessible or unreliable.

At the weekend, I was going to go and watch an early-evening football match with The Choirboy - but he dozed off, and slept right through the engagement. (He woke up to apologise, but then nodded off again.... Poor chap must have been working too hard.)

I'd tried to make similar plans for fun & footie on Sunday with The Chairman - but he got the time of the match wrong, 'forgot' that he was tied up for most of the evening with another engagement, and then told me we should put things off till next weekend (although he subsequently told me that he hadn't meant to say that, and was miffed with me for standing him up!!). Ah, Chairman - you make disappointment into an art form!

So, yet another weekend devoid of any pretexts to go out and do anything..... If things carry on like this, I might never drink again.

Bon mot for the week

"On occasion, I will drink beer to celebrate a major event - such as the fall of communism, or the fact that the refrigerator is still working."

Dave Barry (1947- )

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Great Love Songs (20)

Funnily enough, the premise of this song generally reminds me of one of my most-missed male friends (the original 'Drinking Companion', with whom - if all were fair and just in the world - I would be drinking right now [well, maybe not right now; in 7 or 8 hours' time] in the noble city of Edinburgh), rather than one of my Lost Loves. The deepest loves, and the fondest memories, are as often as not non-sexual.

This song also evokes particularly strong recollections of Bertrand Tavernier's Daddy Nostalgie (originally released in the UK as These Foolish Things), which paired Dirk Bogarde, in his last role, with Jane Birkin as a father and daughter struggling to repair their strained relationship as they confront his terminal illness. It came out at a particularly stressful time in my life, when I had health worries of my own that were considered to be potentially terminal, and I was about to lose the lifebelt of regular employment and become one of society's outcasts. It is one of the most beautifully melancholic pieces of cinema I can remember seeing: absolutely nothing happens for an hour and forty-five minutes, but it's quite mesmerising, heartbreaking.

Here's the classic version of These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You) by Billie Holliday (with Teddy Wilson and his orchestra), accompanied by a nice slideshow of photographs and artwork of the great lady.

It's usually a tough call between Billie and Ella, but I think I take Billie (narrowly) on this one. However, this is an irresistibly mellow version from Ms Fitzgerald, accompanied by Oscar Peterson on the piano.

In the Tavernier movie, the song was performed by Jane Birkin and Jimmy Rowles (on piano and occasional vocal). Her breathy rendition doesn't have the pzazz of the great divas of jazz, but there's an engaging sincerity about it - which gained enormous power from its context in the film. I finally found it on YouTube, but, alas, there's just a still photo with it - of the cover of an album called Jazz À St Germain - rather than a video (but at least it provides the lyrics in full).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Brick!

The Brick, way down yonder Shuangjing way, is, I learn, having a little first anniversary bash tomorrow: two-for-one Tsingtaos and a few other specials.

I missed the opening last year because I was away in Edinburgh (ah, Edinburgh... I wish to god I was there again now!). In fact, I've only really discovered the place within the past few months, and haven't yet managed to get a crew together to attempt a really big session there.

I don't love the place: terrible location (for me!), eccentric pricing (mostly quite reasonable - but all over the shop, and with unnecessarily complicated two-tier 'happy hour'/'regular price' sets of menus), and rather charmless setting in a retail space amidst a string of small restaurants and barbershops. On the very considerable plus side, though, they do have a great range of beers; and young Ryan is an amiable host, and very handy in the kitchen. And I kind of like the name, because Holling was my favourite character in Northern Exposure.

Also (the main reason why I've hankered for some time to try and spend a full evening there), they seem to attract quite a lively and diverse - and often, it seems, packed - crowd of laowai 'locals'. There seems to have been quite an explosion of the foreign population in that south-eastern quadrant over the past couple of years - helped, no doubt, by the opening of the Line 10 subway line following the East 3rd Ringroad down thataway.

Moreover - with the exception of the gaggle of stupid-expensive cocktail bars around Guomao, and the new-ish music bar, Mako, a few blocks to the south-east - there isn't really another bar, not another foreigner-friendly bar anyway, within a good 3 or 4 miles in any direction. Imagine that! Being the only game in town in 40 sq miles or more!! No wonder they're doing so well for themselves.

It looks like tomorrow would be an ideal opportunity for me to go and check out the scene there. It's a darned pity that my self-imposed abstinence from alcohol is so style-cramping this month.

Ah well, have a great time, guys! I will look in on you again very shortly - when I've got my 'drinking head' on me again....

Friday, August 13, 2010

Now, there's a thought

Yes, I think I might try that. This could be the answer to my "What on earth can I drink?" problem. I don't know of too many bars that offer them, but it would be a nice option at home. I haven't fired up my blender for far too long....

HBH 195

It drains the wallet,
But it does not fill the mind.
Tonic water bores.

Yes, the hardest part of renouncing alcohol is finding something else to drink.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The phantom comb (and other analogies)

I recounted on Froogville a little while back how I had finally been driven to shave my head.

I'm quite happy with my 'new look', overall. And the initial novelty is wearing off: I no longer find myself stroking my own head every couple of minutes to test the continually softening texture of the bristles.

However, it's beginning to bug me that every time I step out of the shower - every time I set foot in the bathroom for any reason, in fact - I suddenly find my comb in my hand.

I am still a good two or three months away from needing the services of a comb again. At the conscious level, I am fully aware of this. But the more primitive centres of my brain are obviously locked in a (disturbingly vain??) set pattern of "bathroom - mirror - COMB".

I am trying very hard to 'reprogram' myself, but..... every time I relax my vigilance the slightest little bit, the subconscious takes over and I'm picking up the bloody comb again.

I fear I have the same problem with drinking and bars. At the conscious level, I am very happy with my decision to abstain from alcohol this month. I don't think I've ever found it easier to undertake one of these dry spells. I'm actually, sort of, enjoying it. I'm starting to think that I could extend this run of abstinence beyond my original plan of 28 days - or at least, cut down very drastically when I do resume my wicked drinking ways.

Except that...... whenever I'm in a bar, something like The Phantom Comb Syndrome takes over: my subconscious brain doesn't get the whole not-drinking thing, and it keeps nagging me, nagging me, nagging me, two or three times every minute: "Why haven't you bought a drink yet? Why haven't you bought a drink yet? No, not that - a real drink! Why haven't you bought some alcohol yet??"

I think this is why it's such a trial for me to stay DRY if I go out on the town, why time seems to drag so terribly. It's that nasty little ingrained habit in my subconscious mind to expect an alcoholic drink every time I'm in a bar, peevishly piping up to register its complaint and bafflement every few seconds. That, I think, is what keeps reminding me of the (non-)passage of time, and can make the evenings seem so insufferably long.

Well, I suppose I have reinforced that expectation countless thousands (gawd, probably tens or hundreds of thousands) of times now. It's quite a task to try to undo that much conditioning. I'm not sure that I'm ever going to be able to throw the 'OFF' switch on that pestering inner voice.

Then again, I haven't picked up my comb for a few days now. Maybe there's hope......

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Up close to the action

I have for some months (years?) been trying to find a decent place to watch sport - particularly motor racing, which is catered for little if at all in the main Sanlitun sports bars. And, ideally, somewhere more or less "in my 'hood".

I think I may finally have attained my Grail. But I'm going to keep schtum about it for a while, so as not to attract the riff-raff....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Great Dating Disasters (8)

Some years ago, I sort of almost very nearly dated a rather glamorous French lady for a week or two.

Our first 'proper' date (after an initial flirtation at a networking do, followed up by two or three less pressurised 'meeting with friends' encounters) went wrong in just about every way conceivable.

We had agreed to meet on Tiananmen Square (her idea). Not the best plan: it's a very BIG place, there are crowds of people around, and the phone reception's fairly shitty (or it was back then, anyway). And I couldn't understand exactly where she was suggesting we rendezvous. We managed to meet up eventually, but it took 20 minutes or so, which was a slightly angstful start to the evening.

We went to the Li Qun Roast Duck Restaurant for dinner (her idea). Again, not the best call: it's a very basic kind of place - tiny, noisy, dirty (part of its unique 'charm'; but not really conducive to a date). The service is surly, and they love to make you wait (especially if you're a foreigner). And it's more or less exclusively a kaoya place: people go there for their Beijing Duck; the rest of their food is, frankly, pretty ropey. We didn't have time for a duck dinner anyway; and this is not the kind of place you go for a quick snack. So, we left after just a few 'small dishes', feeling frustrated and hungry.

The centrepiece of our night out was to be a classical recital at the Forbidden City Concert Hall (my idea). Alas, it was one of the International Festival Chorus' shows. Not that there's anything wrong with the IFC... except that they do tend to draw big laowai crowds, and it is almost inevitable that you will run into a couple of dozen people you know at any of their events - not ideal for a first intimate evening with a romantic interest! However, it seemed particularly ill luck that her flatmate was there - just a couple of seats away from us. A bunch of my friends were in the vicinity as well. So much for the 'intimate evening'!

I was then rather appalled that - despite the lady's apparent credentials as a person of breeding and culture - she chattered throughout the concert (quite loudly at times) to her flatmate.

By the time we left the concert hall, the language barrier had divided us: she preferred to talk French with her flatmate, which left me with little choice but to chat in English with my friends (I used to read French pretty well, but I never developed any confidence in speaking it; and I am well rusty now). We all went off in a gaggle to get some drinks somewhere, but the 'date' was effectively over.

I think I only saw her once more after that.

Really, I can't conceive of anything else that could have gone wrong with that night. I mean, her flatmate just happened to be sitting in the same row as us at the concert??!! Could this possibly be The Worst Date In History? I think so.

Weeble Solutions (9)

The Weeble's solution to the challenge of having to find himself a new apartment at very short notice...

Distract himself with much cathartic SMS grumbling about how "Mao had the right idea about landlords".

Monday, August 09, 2010

Bon mot for the week

"Something has been said for sobriety, but very little."

John Berryman (1914-1972)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The bar scene goes BANANAS!!

I just sat through an episode of Rediscovering China, one of the horrifically amateurish documentary strands that pad out the schedules of CCTV9 - the entirely homegrown 'English language' television network here.

I was suckered in by the familiarity of the opening shots - taken in the hutongs near the neighbourhood where I live. I kept watching, I confess, out of an unwholesome - nay, positively ghoulish - fascination with the host, a portly Canadian who appeared to have dyed his hair with carrot juice, and had about the worst Chinese pronunciation of anyone I've ever met (let alone seen working as a TV presenter). And I stayed with it to the bitter end just to see how much worse it could get.

Overall, some nice traveloguey shots of Beijing, Shanghai, and Yangshuo just about compensated for the even-more-laboured-than-usual commentary.

The theme for today's humdinger of a show was...... yes, the flowering of the nightlife scene in China over the last few years. Naturally, this being the 'official position' on the topic, we got Lotus Lane rather than Nanluoguxiang, and a Tibetan theme restaurant rather than Maggie's or Chocolate or China Doll. More expensive tourist traps in Shanghai - the Cloud 9 bar near the top of the Jingmai Tower, and anodyne hotel lounge jazz rather than proper music clubs. At least in Yangshuo they showed a few bars run by foreigners - although on West Street I imagine the temptation to rip off one-time customers for all you can get must be near overwhelming. Little or nothing of the 'bar scene' that most China residents would recognise.

And this incisive and wide-ranging survey of the transformation of the country's nighttime entertainment options ("a fascinating phenomena", we were told) was titled..... The Bar Bananza.

I kid you not. Nice to see CCTV9 maintaining the standards of English that have made it a reliable cheap laugh for foreigners living here for over a decade now.

Getting too emotional

While perusing the whisky list in 12 Square Metres earlier this week.....

"Oh my darlings, my children, I'm missing you. Please don't think that I've abandoned you. I would never do that. I will come back to you again. Soon. Very soon, I promise. Please be patient. I will be coming home to you, my dear ones."

Friday, August 06, 2010

HBH 194

The mind whirls restless,
World's edges remain too sharp;
Soft drinks don't distract.

As I've observed before (more than once), I find the hardest part of going dry to be how time drags - particularly in a bar. I've looked in at 12 Square Metres a couple of times this week, just to be sociable: an hour or two on soft drinks has felt like a day-and-a-half!!

Thursday, August 05, 2010


There are more bars in this city than are dreamed of in our philosophy, fellow laowai interlopers. Way more.

Outside of Sanlitun and a handful of other well-established bar areas, places hardly ever manage to get on our 'radar'. Yet there are quaint and curious little bars all over the place (no, not just around Houhai - everywhere).

Most of them seem to have no prospect of attaining commercial viability. Some, it is rumoured, are money-laundering scams for local gangsters. Others, perhaps, are purposefully profit-avoiding tax dodges for wily businessmen. Others again (as I recently discovered) are mere 'fronts' for less salubrious kinds of hostelry. And a good number of the swankier ones, especially those around Houhai, are, I suspect, just vanity projects for brainless rich kids.

But here and there, just once in a while, you happen upon one that seems like it might possibly be an honest endeavour - just some ordinary Zhou* trying to put his life-savings to work for him. And, however naff the place is, you feel obliged to try to offer the chap a little bit of support.

This, I would suggest, is a typical life-cycle for the non-mainstream Beijing bar:

Phase 1: Deserved Obscurity
You're nowhere near any laowai population centres. You're nowhere near the subway. You're nowhere near any other bars. And you do nothing to advertise. And you wonder why your bar's always empty?

Phase 2: Hidden Gem
But you get lucky. Perhaps one of the neighbouring apartment blocks suddenly becomes a little bit trendy among the big-spending, hard-drinking foreign contingent. Perhaps the government builds a new subway station at the end of your street that you hadn't known anything about. Perhaps you're not so very far from one of the universities. One day some foreigners stumble across you and give you a try. It might even be just one foreigner. But, if you manage not to piss him/them off with over-solicitous service, shite music, and opportunistic price-gouging.... you might just have found your first repeat customer. And one repeat customer will bring others. (Not even necessarily by design. I always say that the owners of new bars ought to comp their mates - or anyone they can get hold of - for the first few weeks, just so that there's always someone in the place. An empty bar doesn't attract any walk-by trade; a bar with some drinkers in it does.)

Phase 3: Flavour of the Month
If you've actually got something going for you (low prices, a cute barmaid, a good music selection, some decent bar snacks), or if you're willing to follow the advice of your new 'foreign friends' on such matters, there is a chance that your custom might start to grow beyond the small but loyal-ish band of drinkers who live or work in your locale, that you start to attract people from further afield - that your remoteness from the established nightlife scene becomes less important as you start to become a 'destination bar'. You might even get mentioned in one of the expat listings magazines. You might even get nominated for one of their 'Hidden Gem' bar awards.

Phase 4: Flying Too Close To The Sun
Of course, it's too good to last. That 'Hidden Gem' gong is usually the death-knell of any up-and-coming small bar. Maybe you start attracting more custom than you can cope with. Maybe you get lazy or greedy or complacent or stupid, and start changing the things that made you a success (jacking up your prices is always a good way to shoot yourself in the foot). Maybe the fickle Beijing drinker just grows bored of you, and switches his allegiance to Beijing Boyce's latest discovery. Or maybe your business partner suddenly screws you over. Maybe your landlord grows envious of your success and thinks he could run your business for himself, and so finds some pretext to bump you out if you won't accept a trebling of the rent. Or maybe you just get chai'd to make way for another new subway station. So it goes. That's Beijing.

Phase 5: Nostalgia
Of course, in another year or so, the fickle Beijing drinker will be filled with tipsy remorse: "Oh, do you remember those great times in Tea Time Candy Bucket? Whatever happened to that place? I wonder if it's still there." How sweet. No, it almost certainly won't be.

Phase 6: Reincarnation
Of course, now you know what us foreign piss-heads like, you can really do things right for Version 2.0 of your beloved little bar. You can spread yourself over two, three, or even four floors in one of the city's fashionable new malls. And I hear space is still relatively inexpensive in the new Taoranting SOHO.....

[* My apologies for resorting to one of the cheapest and most overused of all laowai puns. I don't know what came over me. It's right up there with naming your cat Chairman Miao.]

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A bullet dodged

Sometimes the desire to not drink can be even more insistent than the desire to drink.

I'm in one of those phases right now. I'm really enjoying the not-drinking. I think it's useful, necessary to my mental and spiritual health at the moment (although it's not, as yet, doing anything to trim those pounds I piled on during the World Cup). I think I could keep it up for a good long time. And I find myself irked by people trying to lead me astray from this path I have chosen for myself for this month.

I had allowed myself to be cajoled into granting myself one 'exception' to the rule of abstinence, a solitary night when I might drink (heavily!) - in order to indulge a mate who only gets to go out on a binge once or twice a year.

As Fate would have it, he disappeared without a trace yesterday, so I was spared the anticipated ordeal after all. And I was so relieved: I really do not want to drink this week.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

New Picks of the Month

Time once again to update those sidebar recommendations for 'golden oldies' from three years ago this month.....

Well, from Froogville, I'd like to (ooh, dare I, dare I?) resurrect one of my most infamous flights of whimsy - The Foreskin Post.

And from The Barstool, I think it has to be this reflection on where China's prettiest women come from, What is it about Szechuan girls?