... in china

Mall of hyperbole

16 Jun 2008 | 331 words | china development modernity

The National (from that other place of hyperbole, the UAE) runs an fascinating article (‘Mall of misfortune‘) about a desolated shopping mall in Dongguan in China’s Pearl River Delta:

The South China Mall which opened with great fanfare in 2005, is not just the world’s largest. With fewer than a dozen stores scattered through a space designed to house 1,500, it is also the world’s emptiest - a dusty, decrepit complex of buildings marked by peeling paint, dead light bulbs, and dismembered mannequins.

[…] What sets the South China Mall apart from the rest, besides its mind-numbing size, is that it never went into decline. The tenants didn’t jump ship; they never even came on board. The mall entered the world pre-ruined, as if its developers had deliberately created an attraction for people with a taste for abandonment and decay. […]

It’s odd to find a store with an actual person in it, like S-Square, a small, stylish clothing store with black-painted walls. Its 21-year-old shop assistant, Miss Chen, said business wasn’t so bad back when the mall first opened. Rent was then 10,000 yuan, but it’s no longer collected. “We used to get lots of tour groups,” she said. “Now it’s just student groups, and occasionally groups of factory workers, and they don’t buy anything.” She gets “one or two” customers a day, and passes the hours reading magazines and sending text messages to her friends.

Miss Chen often sends texts to Miss Peng, also 21, who sits behind the cash register at Eyaya, an accessories shop that is just far enough around the corner to prevent the two ladies from chatting. “Our bosses say we could go into the corridor and yell down to each other,” Miss Peng said. “I usually just stare into space. Sometimes I get really sleepy and want to take a nap, but I get scared because at any time a customer could come in, and I might miss the only customer of the day.”

Honest spicy food

24 Mar 2008 | 188 words | food china new york

Just back from a week in New York (taking benefit of the favorable dollar to euro exchange rate) which was amazing in a number of ways. One of the more interesting culinary discoveries was the Sichuan hot-pot. If you like honest spicy food than you should try one if you have the chance. It consists of a simmering metal pot of stock made from Sichuan Pepper (also known as ‘flower pepper’) that is placed at the center of the table. The broth is so spicy that the Chinese seem to refer to it as ‘Ma La‘ (‘numb and spicy’).

The hot-pot is used to cook vegetables, thinly sliced meats and seafood at the table (pretty much like fondue) which are then dipped in a dipping sauce (try the extra spicy dipping sauce for extra effect!) and eaten. Takes a while to get used to but then it is delicious!

Sichuan hot-pot @ Grand Sichuan

Apparently the best hot-pot in NYC is served at Grand Sichuan, a tiny little storefront restaurant on 125 Canal Street opposite of the Manhattan bridge on-ramp (at the intersection of Bowery and Canal street)…

Infrastructural claims to fame

I think i bought my last CD (‘Original Pirate Material‘ by the Streets) in 2002 only to rip it to my computer and then to leave it in a train running along the river rhine from Cologne towards Karlsruhe (in the hope that someone else would find it and enjoy it). I have not bought a music CD ever since (with the exception of a couple of baile funk CDs in Rio de Janeiro in 2006, but these don’t count because they were burned on demand by the sellers).

As everybody who hasn’t spend the last couple of years under a rock or in Gunatanamo Bay will know, CDs are not exactly selling well anymore. This is not only evident from the sales figures from 2007 (another 20 percent drop in volume) but also from this little gem of a story (‘Robbie Williams CDs will be used to pave roads in china‘) from BLDGblog:

EMI has announced that “unsold copies” of Rudebox, by British pop star Robbie Williams, “will soon be used to resurface Chinese roads.” More than a million copies of the CD “will be crushed and sent to the country to be recycled,” we read, where they “will be used in street lighting and road surfacing projects.” […] In any case, does all this imply some strange new infrastructural claim to fame? “You know that CD they used to pave the King’s Road?” a man asks you, putting his coffee down as if to emphasize the point. He crosses his arms. “I played bass on that.”

Guess those CDs won’t make it very far beyond the year 2008…


07 Aug 2007 | 172 words | china dubai modernity photos urbanism

Ran into some amazing slideshows in the last couple of days which somehow remind me of my trip to Dubai, India and China (see here) late last year. First, the New York Times (which apparently is one and a half inches less wide these days) has a beautiful slideshow from construction sites in Dubai (see my own pictures here): Photo by Tyler Hicks nicked from NYTimes.com And the Atlantic Monthly hosts an extensive slideshow by James Fallows (complete with voiceover and cheesy pseudo Chinese music) portraying the manufacturing city of Shenzhen. i was in Shenzhen for a really intense day last December and this slideshow definitely makes me want to come back and stay a little bit longer (another recommendation for those interested in South China manufacturing madness: the documentary movie ‘Manufactured Landscapes‘ by Jennifer Baichwal)

Bonus: the New York Times also hosts a stunning slideshow about ‘Television in Afghanistan‘ which so reminds me of the WICTV project that Shaina Anand did in Bangalore for World Information City back in November 2005.

Phantom menace

28 May 2007 | 102 words | berlin movies india china piracy file sharing

Lawrence gave a pretty amazing presentation on ‘what can be learned from asian cinema?‘ at piratecinema on sunday morning. His general point was how new forms of distribution (read shameless copying) slowly lead to another form of aesthetic/cinematorgaphic practice in Asia (or to be less general China & India). towards the end he showed a couple of slides form an earlier presentation he had given at the Asia commons conference in Bangkok last year. I really liked this diagram, which gives a little bit of context to my earlier post about obtaining the latest Bond movie:

Bonus recommendation: Suzhou he (Suzhou River)

He wants 20 million yuan, or he'll stay till the end of the world

12 Mar 2007 | 8 words | china urbanism architecture

Gotta love the chinese! [from ananova.com via boingboing]

Chi (from China with pride)

04 Mar 2007 | 228 words | china airtravel wine

Seems to me that globalization is more or less complete as of today. Until today i was under the impression that half of everything comes from Shenzen and the rest of the pearl river delta (also see my post about CFLs from a while ago) and the other half of things comes from other places. Looks like this is not true anymore, as now even the red wine comes from China (seems to have something to do with the fact that KLM is having an ‘experience china food and wine festival’ on board of its flights):

Never knew that the chinese were producing wine (which is surprisingly(?) good) in the first place. The internet is kind of silent about this fact as well and mainly comes up with stories about wine consumption in china: Apparently it is all the rage in Bejing to drink your red wine with sprite and ice:

Today, people in Beijing have also fallen under the spell of red wine. […] However, every imported idea inevitably undergoes Sinofication. By mixing red wine with Sprite and ice, the Beijing people have already invented their own way of “bottom-upping” dry red wine.

Just tried this myself and personally i think it makes much more sense to drink your wine without sprite and ice (all the air hostesses on this flight now consider me a crazy weirdo).

Casino Royale

10 Dec 2006 | 386 words | delhi dubai china media conspiracy copyright business

So i have been trying to buy a dvd copy of the latest James Bond movie all along my trip. finally managed to score a decent copy with proper english sound in Shenzhen (china) yesterday. in total i bought 4 different discs which gives a nice little insight in the dynamics of movie piracy in asia:

25/11 Dubai, Karama market: got a 4-1 dvd with three other crap movies on it in a upstairs room behind one of the numerous fake brand clothing shops in the Karama Market Shopping Complex. Paid 20 Dirham, to the guy who claimed that he had seen it the other night and that image and sound quality were ‘good’. turned out to be really crappy image quality (blurry 320*240 pix) and the sound was distorted and out of sync. the seller claimed he got his DVDs supplied form Malaysia.

28/11 Delhi, Palika Bazaar: got the same 4-1 DVD with the same unwatchable video and audio files on it from one of the many stalls in the palika underground shopping complex for 200 rupees.

08/12 Temple Street Night Market, Hong Kong: got a single movie DVD from a market stall on the Temple Street Night Market. According to the cover it is a region-code less English language version with English, Chinese and simplified Chinese subtitles. The person i bought it form for 20 Hong Kong Dollars claimed that he had seen it the night before and that audio and video were fine. Turns out that audio and video are good quality, except that the audio is in russian (so is the DVD menu) and that there are no english subtitles. the disc also contains a muted and inaudible english sound track.

09/12 DVD shop near the Shenzhen railway station, China: Nobody claimed anything, because nobody spoke english. bought a single movie DVD for 10 yuan in a shop near the railway station. The back cover contains a senseless machine translation which seems to refer to the movie, plus the credits for the latest ‘harry potter’ movie. The disc label looks professional but there is the same russian language menu as before. however this time there is actually an audible english soundtrack which runs in sync with the images (except for 4 minutes in the second half where it runs out of sync).

Europe is so 20th century ...

17 Nov 2006 | 118 words | europe china modernity movies war

… coming home form the (opening of the going to be) excellent mycreativity event/conference/meeting i stopped by the shoarma place around the corner from my house. The egyptian guy who runs the shop was in chatty mood and somehow we ended up discussing Syriana which he described as…

… a film about the CIA and the Arabs (sic!) fighting about influence about the enormous oil resources of the Persian gulf

… form there our discussion went towards describing how much of a mess this confrontation and between ‘the Arabs’ and ‘the Americans’ had caused and when he handed me my shoarma he concluded the discussion by stating:

but who is going to keep this in check? the Chinese?

My new 9/11 lamp

19 Feb 2006 | 294 words | new york united states terrorism lamp berlin china

Bought a new lamp today after having spotted it yesterday night on the way back from the theatre. it is a cheap (ok, actually they charged me €20 for it, so it is not cheap) plastic lamp that emits a cold, ugly blue neon light and makes a cracking sound once in a while. tres plastic baroque! and while it was not really misplaced in the cheap late night grocery/liqour store window i got it from, i actually have no clue where to keep it in the apartment.

The lamp contains two rotating films inside its clear plastic encasing. the inner one depicts the pre 9/11 skyline of the southern tip of Manhattan, NYC complete with the statue of liberty and the twin towers. The faster moving outer film has images of hot-air balloons, sailboats, helicopters, para-gliders and a passenger jet on a transparent background. when lit, this creates the impression of the crafts on the outer film moving in front of the skyline in the back.

As the two films move with different speeds the relative position between the individual crafts and buildings changes all the time. every two minutes or so the lamp displays an eerie little re-enactment of 9/11 as the passenger jet seems to crash into the top section of the south tower of the world trade tower:

More pictures in this flickr set.

update: a Google search for the supplier reveals that it is produced by Zhejiang Ninghai Shengfa Electrical Appliance Co. Ltd. As they have the lamp listed in their new products section one can more or less assume that the lamp was designed post 9-11 and that the macabre connotation was somehow lost on its makers, who chose to market it by the name of ‘Seabed Lamp’

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: