Category Archives: Other Obscura
When you’re in Bombay, a great way to get some context is start in the alleyways of Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world. About a million people live here, crammed into 0.67 square miles.
“It’s like mainlining gratitude for how much we have to be thankful for,” said my old pal Chris.
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We found this strange spiral of stones in the middle of a North Carolina field. “Welcome to Hartleyhenge,” said Scotty.
“I’m not even sure if Hartleyhenge is the real name,” he admitted, “but that’s what we call it around here.” There’s no sign, and no information. A friend of Scotty’s, John Hartley, built it years ago. There were poems by Rumi, Wendell Berry, and Carl Sandberg printed on the rocks. “I go among trees and sit still,” reads one poem, while another urges, “Drink all your passion, and be a disgrace.”
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Curled up, cuddled up, under a coat — that’s the right way to sleep at the Gongti Beilu Starbucks. These aren’t homeless winos, but students, fashionistas, men in suits. And these aren’t all naps.
One woman, below, slept for four hours. People sat down, got janked up, left, and she kept dozing away. “Is she dead,” one man asked. When I left, she was still snoring.
The next day, this fellow was beside me…
And yesterday, this businessman was sprawled out generously…
Over at the Chaoyang Wai Starbucks, this cute couple shared a table for a mid-afternoon kip. But there was something about them that moved me. A sense of exhaustion, sadness, and loss. But still, they were together.
What do you think? Should Starbucks allow this globally? Implement nap lounges? It really would be quite nice…
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen these, but…
In North Korean news, the country’s first dog has officially defected. Guess it’s really bad out there. Starving factory employees are asking their wealthy South Korea bosses, “Can you give us cash instead of these choco pies… please!?!” (Or at least instant noodles.) And NKNews.org, my usual source for DPRK reportage, has some wonderful pictures from a DPRK Hairdresser.
From India, the fake trailer for a new Muppets Bollywood Flick was a terrible tease. I felt cheated. (Especially after all that glee from seeing Vishal Singh’s shrine to Bollywood hero Shahrukh Khan. I vow to build a meta-shrine to his shrine!)
In China, Forester Zander pointed out that that Koala-feast restaurant in Guangzhou isn’t actually selling Koala, just rat. Of course, this is according to the Chinese government. Do we really trust them? (China-censors, go ahead and block me again.) On the flipside, there’s been some awesome broadcasting going on. First, old folks doing a truly bizarre Lady Gaga cover. Second, the Wenzhou billboard that showed hardcore porn at the city’s busiest intersection, for 10 minutes? Poor techie didn’t realize where that computer screen was broadcasting to. Haha.
In Heartbreaking, Vietnam, a lovely young woman aged dramatically overnight. The pix made me sad.
Whereas, back in the West, Amish communities are being attacked by splinter group terrorist hairdressers and John Lennon’s tooth, which was “gifted” to his maid and then sold to Alan “Awesome” McGee, sold for $31,000 to a “celebrity-tooth collecting” dentist. There’s too much weird there. My pal Joanna Ebenstein has a new show, with a great episode about a grave-digging descendant who’s obsessed with bone-filled ossuaries and charnel houses. Don’t miss it.
Finally, according to #TweetsofOld, “The following is the shortest sentence containing all the letters of the alphabet. ‘Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.'” Perfect information to have before I set off to the States in a few days.
Did I miss anything good in the world of weird Asia news? Got something awesome? Share it below…
1. Unexpected Unused Gazebos
2. Miniature Misplaced Gardens
3. Quite Strange Schedule Posters
4. Caves. Deep Wonderful Caves.
5. And then, most of all, this.
Oh, sweet sweet Seoul…
61st 62nd birthday, China! (And happy 39th birthday, me!)
In honor of this grand celebration of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, today we decided to sift through the AsiaObscura archives, and return to our wildest, most popular China stories of 2011! And so, in order of pageviews….
6. The Sick Collector and his 2000 Shoes
What happens when you take one creepy old man, one disgruntled housewife, and a collection of bizarre tiny shoes? After marital discord, that is. This profile of Yang Shaorong and his sick fetish brought together pornography, Polyester, and sweet sick obsession into one strange little story.
5. China’s all-time favorite (and all-time darkest?) comic book: Sanmao
Not many foreigners know about Sanmao, but in China he’s bigger than Disney. He’s Bart Simpson, Richie Rich and Charlie Brown, rolled into one dark comic burrito of bloodshed and poverty. Sanmao is a work of Chinese art, and a seriously weird 1940s comic book.
4. Inspector Black Cat: China’s Gore-Soaked Answer to Tom & Jerry
While our Sanmao story drew big audiences, it was nothing compared to the fans of “Inspector Black Cat”–a 1980s kids cartoon that coupled Tarantino with Hanna-Barbera. Blood splats across the screen, cute baby pandas are gruesomely eaten, and swords slice through innocent diners… on daytime tv.
3. Wonderland: Beijing’s Abandoned Disneyland
Crumbling castle walls and turrets, on the road to the Great Wall of China. We spent a day exploring this gorgeously decrepit amusement park, a onetime challenger for Beijing’s best theme park, and found more than just near-death-trap wells.
2. Relive the Cultural Revolution (aka The Weirdest Dinner Theater in Beijing)
It’s the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, all rolled into one delicious meal. The chance to experience the beatings of teachers and parents, the melting of pots and pans, the years of starvation and decade of torture, and get dessert, too. As part of the same story, don’t miss the video of the dinner show, in which landlords are executed on stage to audience cheers, or the restaurant’s incredibly bad menu. What a night!
1. 19 Incredible Taoist Gods
And of course, the Taoist gods ended up the most popular China story on AsiaObscura this year. Like that’s any surprise? We’ve covered plenty of weird Taoist temples in these pages, but this piece on the amazing bad-ass sculptures really caught some attention. If you like those, don’t miss Terrible Moments from a Taoist Temple, in which the gods slice, dice, and saw their congregation in two. It’s unforgettable.
While those were the China stories that garnered the most pageviews this year, my favorite piece on China didn’t make the top five, or even the top ten…. And since it’s my birthday today, as well as China’s, here’s that one, too:
0. A Postcard from Erenhot
Few views, few shares, and almost no comments, but it’s an AsiaObscura must-read. It’s got smugglers, whores, and dog head for breakfast… and after all, what more could a visitor be looking for?
We haven’t set foot in Bangkok in far too long. Months. But fortunately, AsiaObscura eyes are growing more populous, and reader Matt Smith wrote in with this great pair of electoral campaign posters.
What a smile! What a dog! (Pity about that shit kid he had to deal with.)
You can surely find more Obscurata in Matt’s Thai Diary, from Amazon.
Jim S., one of our favorite resources for Chinese and Thai scoops, writes that the poster translates to “When you need honesty”. He continued that, “Chuvit is not a member of any party, and was elected MP as a protest. He attacks everyone. Interesting person. Lots of educated young Thais in Bangkok voted for him.”
May S. writes that the second poster reads “something about politics being a diaper that needs to be changed when it’s full of shit. Most Thais think of him as a funny straight-forward politician and he finally got his seat this time, although his first day at the parliament was not that good.”
Okay, I know he’s been dead for a long time — 17 years — but since he’s still the official (eternal!) president of North Korea. And he’d be
100 99 today! So here are a handful of cute dear great pictures of the “Great Leader” (수령) from our last trip to the DPRK.
I put this up on YouTube a little while back, but it’s definitely worth putting up here: the illegal border crossing at Mae Sot.
I shot this from the Thai side of the Thai-Burmese border. To get from Mae Sot to Myawaddy, you cross a bridge, pay a toll, and have your passport confiscated for a few hours. (If you’re me, that is.) Or, if you’re Burmese, you could pay a fellow with a fat innertube a few pennies, and be waded across under the bridge. Literally, in the shadow of the legal crossing.
It’s pretty beneficial, really, if you work illegally in a Thai factory for sub-minimum-wage, or a monk on the run…
I’m not sure what’s more disturbing: this doctor’s office interior decor sensibility, or the fact that I still let her dig around in my ear canal. (The camera is pretty exactly vertical.)
I still can’t get over this incredible customs document we had to fill out to enter the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Already, our nerves were on edge… the ancient plane was filled with smoke, we’d heard references to “American imperialist bastards,” and we were about to land in North Korea. But… no killing devices, exciters, phones, or… published materials?
The Chinese know how to lounge. You can often see them hanging about, as documented in www.sleepingchinese.com. Their things are also pretty good at hanging around…
Driving in China is pure madness, so good street signs are really important.
Tianjin clearly has that problem solved. Sof shot these awesome puppies when we were down there last weekend. (Translations unnecessary for most of them.)
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