Monday, May 31, 2010

You'd think that after three weeks of Chinese food, Chinese people, Chinese religion, Chinese smog, Chinese rain, Chinese language, Chinese art, I might want to settle in at home with a pepperoni pizza and an Al Pacino movie.

But last night, I was compelled to re-watch "True Legend (Su Qiu Er)" the Vincent Zhao Wen Zhuo (Chiu Man Cheuk) film I had been longing to see for a year, failed to see in Beijing (on 3D on a big screen, long past its debut and widely available on DVD), but scored as a Hong Kong region DVD in Honolulu Chinatown before I left home. It's about the popularizer of "drunken fist," an on-going theme in martial arts classics.  I loved Vincent in it, and refuse to compare his performance with anything by Jet Li or Donnie Yen (Zhao is a decade younger, anyway), although the segment that featured David Carradine (to whom the movie was dedicated, after his peculiar demise) was terrible...if I were Carradine, I might have looked for a less embarrassing way out of the embarrassment of the film role.  What was he thinking?

What I did do in China was drop Vincent's name a lot.  "Oh, yes, he's so handsome," our tour guide agreed. She knew all of his TV roles. Although another male tour guide said he preferred Hollywood movies, like Star Wars, when I told him I liked Chinese film.   Movies and Zhao Wen Zhuo were good topics for conversation with cab drivers.  One said he liked Julia Roberts, whose big grin was everywhere in Lancome advertising all over China, even more prevalent than Mao's kitchy visage.  We agreed that Julia and Vincent both had wondrous big smiles.

So, Vincent's name earned me a little street cred in China, and I had to pay homage on my first movie night back at home. Having done that, next on the agenda is to complete the Korean Jumong series, on my iPad, a pleasant little traveling companion and addictively good story. Too bad it's in Korean, not Mandarin. It sounds really foreign. I was getting used to CCTV in Beijing which featured whole channels devoted to martial arts, drama series and Chinese opera. Returning home one evening after a live opera sampler which included scenes from White Snake, with which I have become very familiar, I turned on the opera discover an honest-to-Mao revolutionary opera being played out.  It was just like classic Peking opera, but with characters dressed in Red Army uniforms and 1960s peasant chic.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

When the Wizard brought me my morning coffee today, he said, "Your phone's been ringing since 6. It's playing Bob Dylan."  It was 7.  "Please bring me my bag," I mumbled after a slurp of homemade latte.

Although I apparently hadn't heard the ringtones emanating from the depths of my leather carryall (Subterranean Homesick Blues for incoming voice  and Like a Rolling Stone for voice messages), maybe that was why I was actually having a dream about Bob Dylan before the latte was delivered.  I don't generally dream about celebrities or my particular idols -- although Vincent may have turned up in one or two -- but Bob?  In this dream, I was at a concert, a small venue, he was there, I was probably flirting, and he introduced himself.  I shook his hand. It was small and delicate and soft, feminine. I wasn't sure it was really him though, he looked young.  I commented on that and he said he'd had a face lift.

I returned the phone call; someone on the 6-hour-later East Coast urgently needed something, and I had to rush to the office to satisfy the need.  Dressing quickly, I actually put on an old Bob Dylan T-shirt. My office has a pretty forgiving dress code.

I was thinking about the dream when later someone else came to me and said, "There's a new Bob Dylan album at Starbucks."  Huh?  I usually know about these things well in advance. "No,  I'm sure that's Jakob, his son."  They insisted.  So I went to Starbuck's and confirmed that it was indeed the younger Dylan. Looked just like Bob, with a face lift.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The weather is weird (voggy and rainy and humid and oppressive) but I feel great.  It could be due to some medication I was in need of, but the stagnant feeling I've been suffering just recently has evaporated.  It could be because in less than a week, I leave for a three-week spiritual/cultural vacation in China.  In any case, the energy is flowing.  Unblocked qi?  Wu wei?

Is that why I was able to score a 3G iPad just an hour after the store opened to distribute them?  The coolest toy I've seen since an Etch-a-Sketch, which I never had. (Except a teeny tiny one attached to a pen, a sort of mini version, the nano-iPod of an Etch-a-Sketch.)  And now, after a weekend of "downloading apps," (I don't have an iPhone-but-now-I-want-one, so I've never done this), I have a Mandarin phrasebook that TALKS (in a voice that sounds like Vincent Zhao), a nice travel alarm clock, a way to update my blog on the road (China willing), visit Facebook, check weather and news (BBC and China Daily**).  A little piano.  Mahjong games.  Access to a lot of free literature. (So far, a collection of "Asian Wisdom" and Leaves of Grass.) And all my music and photos and the internet and .... the world.  Just hope I can get a China Mobile micro-sim for universal wireless access in the Middle Kingdom.  Seems to be difference of opinion as to whether they will be available.   But they make them there!

Moving on from 3G to 3D, do I credit unblocked qi for acquiring a DVD today of True Legend, the Vincent Zhao movie I have been obsessing over for nearly a year?  I should be watching it right now -- real soon now, the anticipation is delicious -- but I am still reeling with knowing I don't have to waste any time searching for a cheap copy for a buck in Shanghai or Beijing.  Although, if it is on a big screen there, I may just have to buy a ticket.  I understand some scenes are in 3D...Vincent in 3D! Vincent in the mountains.

I finished Bi Chun Mu, a good wuxia series, with some surprises, although as usual, pretty much everyone dies (martyred really)  in the end.  Since I am going to be in China very soon, I decided to follow-up with something not quite so Chinese.  What could be less Chinese than...The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency, based on the novels of Alexander McCall Smith, set in Botswana.  I love those books, but was a little leery of seeing them translated by HBO to video.  But they are perfect.  (And you learn to pronounce those Botswana words. Rra and Mma and dumela.)  Then it came to me: this is just the yin version of House, M.D.  A gifted person who has their own sense of justice, their own intuitive way of solving problems, and their own internal suffering to overcome.  I think Precious Ramotswe, a "traditionally built" lady, does it better than the skinny drug-addled doctor.  No drugs required, just a lot of compassion.

Why am I writing this?  I must go pop True Legend in my DVD player.  Now.  The African bush is beautiful, but China is calling.

**China Daily has a headline in my first look-see on the iPad,  Shanghai Welcomes World Leaders for Expo.  I have made news already!  Actually I'm hoping everyone will be at the Expo so I can roam the Shanghai Museum's landscape painting exhibit in peace and leisure.