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Siamese fighting fish Uncategorized 

Siamese fighting fish

We’re still deep in the trenches at the taxidermy school outside Beijing, but I thought I’d take a moment to remember some living animals we came across, recently:  Cambodian fighting fish. The males of the species will live for 2 or 3 years, it’s said, and maybe even 7 or 9 if fed right… but if you stick them together, whoa. Cut that approximate down to a few minutes.

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If Amy Chua was mother to us all, maybe we could do this too… Uncategorized 

If Amy Chua was mother to us all, maybe we could do this too…

The young kids in this video practiced for the entire year, or longer, to get the show right… and it’s just remarkable. They’re just six or seven years old, if I understood correctly. The whole effort, the Mass Games, is devoted to the Dear Leader (who turned 69 this week) and the Great Leader (who died in 1994, but remains North Korea’s standing President). I only regretted that we were so far from the wildly choreographed 150,000-performer show, and didn’t have ringside seats. But this video I shot will give…

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My Sleeping Co-workers Uncategorized 

My Sleeping Co-workers

I hadn’t heard of www.sleepingchinese.com before The WooLand Hotel mentioned it the other day, but it reminded me of a small collection of photos I took over the span of just a week or two.  This wasn’t a particularly rough week — no late nights or anything — and yet… LJ. Echo. Ginger. I worked beside this girl for an entire year and never knew her name. Actually, this one’s not a coworker.  (She’s the security guard at the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall. But she fit in well, no?) I’ve…

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Mystery, Intrigue, Trans-Siberian Express Uncategorized 

Mystery, Intrigue, Trans-Siberian Express

To get from Beijing to Mongolia, you have a few choices.  A flight takes just over an hour.  The Trans-Siberian Express, meanwhile, offers a rugged thirty-hour ride through cities, towns, barren landscapes, desert, and finally the capital of Chingghis Khan. It's a famously hard ride.  I pictured drunk Russians and fiery Mongols and live chickens and illegal cargo.  Border police and bribes and human trafficking.  Vodka and filterless smokes and mystery and intrigue.  So, dressed in a t-shirt with red hearts and the huge word "KITTENS," I climbed aboard, ready…

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Old Pirate Ships in Old Japan Uncategorized 

Old Pirate Ships in Old Japan

After the insanity of Tokyo, I really needed a break. So, on the advice of a teenage stranger at a sushi bar, I bought a 3-day pass to Hakone.  And what a break it is. A mountain town, there’s almost nothing to do here. No madness, no crowds, and certainly no stress. Just groups of old ladies in hats, taking a midweek break from the city. But there is a pirate ship.

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Eating Diaphram in Tokyo Uncategorized 

Eating Diaphram in Tokyo

Another of Tokyo’s “best meal” contenders was Toraji Param, a Korean hormone restaurant on the 500-something-th floor of some fancy Tokyo building. As the elevator flew up the 5000 flights, my ears popped. At our table, floor-to-ceiling windows showed off all of Tokyo. It was jaw-dropping, to put it mildly. And then the food came. And my jaw dropped again. Before this meal, I’d never heard of “hormone restaurants,” but it’s a new Tokyo fad where every part of the animal is offered on the menu. You want to try…

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Hayao Miyazaki’s Breathtakingly Awesome Ghibli Museum, Tokyo Uncategorized 

Hayao Miyazaki’s Breathtakingly Awesome Ghibli Museum, Tokyo

To be honest, I came to Tokyo for only three reasons. Each had been percolating in my mind, independently, for years. Each seemed to be something I needed to do. Each of these demanded a pilgrimage. And each of these would be difficult. I first read about The Ghibli Museum in a New Yorker profile on Hayao Miyazaki, one of my favorite filmmakers. A legend in Japan, he’s created a number of gorgeous, meditative animated masterpieces — Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo are my three favorites. They’re slow,…

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50-foot Shaq, Towering Over Beijing Uncategorized 

50-foot Shaq, Towering Over Beijing

On the east side of Beijing’s Chaoyang Park, you’ll find some weird stuff. A dog park, for starters. Filled with statues of Santa Claus. For dogs to ride on. This is weird. But what really blew my mind was this 50-foot tall statue of Shaq, which towers over trees in the entrance parking lot. It’s in the middle of nowhere. What the-?According to assorted news stories, he signed a major deal with Li-Ning — China’s answer to Nike and Adidas — a sponsor of the park. Glorious!

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