Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Winter began Monday, according to one of my teachers, even though the heat doesn't get turned on in most buildings until Nov. 15. The bathroom heater has begun to make odd noises but otherwise I need two quilts at night. One teacher says she's started to wear long underwear. Another continues to wear shorts and boots to work. Most people are rooting for high winds because they blow the pollution away.

At birthday drinks for a Reuters reporter, in a cosy bar on a stone boat on a pond in a park with locked gates that you have to slip through, I met the co-founder of the Beijing Cheese Club. He's Chinese-American and used to work at Daniel in New York. You have to RSVP to the cheese tastings right away because they sell out in 24 hours. Wonder whether local Chinese attend (traditionally not big cheese eaters).

Went to a God-awful Chinese film with English subtitles about a bunch of aimless, alcoholic, masturbating artists. This by a filmaker whose previous effort was an equally happy documentary about the Chinese addiction to gambling. I ought to buy Chinese DVDs of children's movies so I can practice listening comprehension with a pause button.

Got good marks on my last character tests but have started a tougher book, so progress is slower. Used to be able to finish a lesson each day but now have more characters per lesson. They often have the same radical, so they're easier to mix up. As I memorize the new ones, I can feel the old characters fall out of my right ear and land on the floor.

Met a Time Out staffer who said the magazine is run by someone with very good connections: a woman whose mother was an interpreter or translator for Mao and whose stepfather worked in Mao's Foreign Ministry. The magazine is still heavily censored but apparently gets away with more than other publications. For example, they have the first (only?) gay and lesbian page.

Vogue magazine launched in China in September, bringing their own international advertisers and billboard signage announcing something like "the ultimate fashion trends to look forward to." But the ads for Elle magazine speak more eloquently for the new class of monied Chinese: Ying You Jin You, or "To have everything that one should have, that one could wish for or one expects to find."