February 2009 Archives

Talk time: political punk?

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Clean everything
In a recent post, Elaine Chow at Shanghaiist linked an AFP story that called out Chinese rock as being toothless because it wasn't political.

I felt the article was shallow and had a number of conceits and dodgy premises. It held China to standards not present in The West and falsely imagined a past where China had an independent scene that was political motivated.

My post is buried now but there have been some thoughtful comments which I would like to re-present here. Thanks to those who contributed.

The discussion comes after the jump ... enjoy.

Youtube: Boojii live @ Yuyintang

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I must start this off by saying that the visuals on this video are a complete write off. The set was purposefully dimly lit and my little Cybershot bootleg vid could not handle it. The sound however is good and the track is excellent so please treat it as an audio.

I'm wary of putting these posts out too close to the review itself. If you haven't already seen it, just scroll down one post or click here.

This is a great track from experimental rockers Boojii whose iconic singer San San (who you can't see in the video) cites early Syd Barret as an influence. The set was atmospheric and intense and the band will record later this year. It is well deserved.

Boojii live @ Yuyintang

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shan shan
Experimental night tonight at Yuyintang that featured several artists. Here was the line up:

Triple Smash
Zhong Chi

Boojii, along with Muscle Snog, are at the forefront of Shanghai's experimental indie rock scene. They are the current band of '33' san san (pictured), who also fronted 33 Island. In a parallel universe China these people would be the centre of an infamous Warhol-esque avant garde scene and all of you who bang on about liking bands who are more unique and expressive should be down at the shows.

Boojii are soon, but not yet, to record. In the mean time try these:

Boojii played a great set and by the time the show was rolling there was a good turnout. I've got a clip, watch this space. Triple Smash are Zhong Chi's backing band and they split the set. At first they played three of their new post-rock instrumentals and then Zhong Chi came on to sing three more tracks. The music is recognizable to people who know guitarist Li Xing's earlier work with The Mushrooms. Finally, Wildcat came on to extend the night in a more conventional way, playing J-rock. 

Dan Shapiro was down to check out the bands and put out flyers for Rogue Transmission's upcoming show where they'll be playing new material. Also, the cat is out of the bag for the Hard Queen CD. Posters are up for an upcoming release party at YYT, more info very soon.
Got to love that exclamation mark in the title. Here is a two-part documentary on the Chinese rock scene from Indeep Films. It has great footage from Yugong Yishan, the Max festival in Qingdao and interviews with TooKoo and others. Take it all with a pinch of salt though as it's woven together aimlessly and peppered with some typically condescending commentary. It's worth a watch for the band footage.

Well, you know my policy. Watch it and make your own mind up.

March madness at Yuyintang

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new sign at yuyintang
It's a good time to be living 10 minutes walk from Shanghai's best downtown indie music venue.There's not much room to write in this post so I'll just go straight in, linking headliners where possible.

Oh, better start with this weekend (not March I know)


Fri 27th Boojii, Triple Smash shoegazing, post-rock page here

Sat 28th Frozen Street (Nanjing) page here


Wed 4th Sucker (Xi'an), Dropkicks, Pinkberry ska punk, pop punk page here

Fri 6th October Capricorn, Chaos Mind, Six Shot thrash, nu-metal page here

Sat 7th Reflector (BJ), Pinkberry page here

Sun 8th Female singers night. Many acts but includes Bang Bang Tang, Tianpin Dian and Momo who all give a great live show.

Wed 11th Nightwatcher (Zhengzhou), Fearless thrash, heavy metal page here

Fri 13th Red Banana (Hefei) page here

Sat 14th The Rogue Transmission shanghai rock'n'roll party time page here

Sun 15th Xu Cheng, Ben Hogue, others noise, experimental, avant-garde page here

Fri 20th AK47 (Beijing), Five Pointed Star hardcore, nu-metal  page here

Sat 21st Sound Fragment page here

Mon 23rd Clean Boys (Denmark) page here

Thur 26th The Honeys unplugged night (veteran Shanghai rockers just back from Canada)

Fri 27th Hanging Gardens, Joker, Five Pointed Star, Big Fresh brit pop, indie rock,nu metal

More Chinese indie folk music

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neocha netlabel release
Following up from this weekend's gig by A_Z band, here's a few links.

Adam Schokora has posted up five China indie folk tracks at his 56minus1 blog. Glorious Pharmacy are not really in the same sub-scene but they are great so listen anyway.

Not so long back, Neocha.com released a free compilation of female singers that is mainly indie folk in style with some indie pop. Read about it and DL the whole release here:

Finally, Shanghai indie folk artist Mogu Hong (Red Mushroom) has got a well developed Neocha page with several tracks. Although, from general feedback and from some of the comments at the 56minus1 post, I see that people need reminding that the scene here is fully underground and amateur. 

Youtube: A_Z band play live @ Yuyintang

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It was indie folk night at Yuyintang this weekend although the presence of tables and table people brought it into the mainstream a little. Wu Zhuoling, who also opened for Jose Gonzalez last week, and Asiaeyes have joined forces for a CD and some shows. The name is A_Z band. 

So, sit back and watch a track from the show and enter the world of Shanghai indie folk bands. Check out this review for links to their homepage and MP3s.

A_Z band live @ Yuyintang

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a_z band
Tonight was folk night at Yuyintang. Indie folk artists Asiaeyes and Wu Zhuoling have recently collaborated on a CD and are now playing some joint shows to promote it. Their band name is A_Z Band.

Why not first check out some tracks from the new album here: A_Z Band myspace page

I got a bit of a shock when I walked into the hall and saw that the front half was completely taken up with chairs and tables. That's right - table people!!! Are you a table person? Do you like VIP clubs? You deserve a slow painful death. But anyway, A_Z are a sit down folk band. The big surprise was when the Snot Rockets came on for the 'after-show' and the tables stayed there.

A_Z had three people in the line up and used a complex backing track for each song that included drums, pre-recorded back up vocals, reeds and some distortion guitar playing too. At times, the three performers seemed to be just filling in small parts over the tape. I was especially surprised that the two supporting performers didn't provide any back up vocals in favor of a backing tape.

People who had been to see Jose Gonzalez earlier in the week immediately recognized Wu Zhouling as 'the girl who supported Jose Gonzalez earlier in the week'. A_Z performed a professional two part set of warm sounding acoustic based folk songs. Wu Zhuoling's voice is low and soft and the tracks were laid back. After they finished, about half the locals did a runner into the rain soaked night ... and so did I, not long after. This was a nice show for me to catch after a string of disappointments with indie folk performances lately.

Youtube channel roundup for Feb 2009

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It's that time of the month again. And it's time for the obligatory notice for newbies. Most of the live videos I post here are taken by myself and stored at the blog's Youtube Channel. You can see a link in the sidebar.

Or you can click here to visit.

The top six is ranked by all time views, not month by month. So, after the regulars, I'll be linking a couple of newer vids that are moving up fast. The major story of this post is indie pop band Bang Bang Tang (singer Xiao Bai pictured) who have taken three of the top six places.

Also, a quick note for those who read the posts as they come out. There's something going on with the net here and it's playing with my ability to access my server at normal speeds, hence the quiet few days. 

Right then:

1) The Rogue Transmission live @ Dream Factory: 360 views watch
2) Boys Climbing Ropes live @ Dream factory: 291 views watch
3) Bang Bang Tang live @ Yuyintang (Oct): 287 views watch
4) Bang Bang Tang (Lollipop) older vid: 280 views watch
5) Bang Bang Tang live @ Yuyintang (Nov 2008): 265 views watch
6) Self Party live @ Yuyintang: 260 views watch

And now, the two fastest risers from recent times. One is the DIY music video I made with Pinkberry for Runaway. The others are red hot Shaoxing Brit-poppers The Way. Enjoy.

My rock playlist and article up at Layabozi

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Extensive Shanghai-based music website Layabozi has recently stepped up a gear. They have multiple bloggers now and all are posting. They also have flashy modern features, one of which are their playlists.

Every month they get someone who has involvement in the Shanghai scene, or someone who is coming over that month, and get them to pick ten tracks and talk about why they like them etc. And so, this month ... drum roll .... it's me.

So. My blog does not really give out much info about me, in a direct sense. Here's your chance to see what i'm thinking. Listen to the playlist, read what I have to say about the tracks ... be thoroughly unimpressed, then come back here to the comments and get stuck into me about it. It's the joy of being into music.

It's supposed to be about my past influences but I still threw in a couple of China tracks at the end. That's enough waiting go there now:

Shanghaiist call out fake punks

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shanghaiist twoYou see, it's really easy to write a title or post that is sensational. 

So, when it comes to diversity alt-media site Shanghaiist had all but died an un-PC slasher movie death. But recently they've got a new editor, Elaine Chow, who is writing about local music. 

Before we go on, I'm blogging this article by Elaine Modern Chinese rockers staying far away from politics. And, Elaine herself is blogging this piece from AFP Chinese rockers enjoy revival - without the politics. As always, read the originals before taking my word for things.

The main thrust of the articles is that Chinese rock and punk bands are not overtly political and the implication is that they are therefor missing something. This is one of the big two double standards in scene reporting. The first one is that Chinese bands are better if they are more Chinese, whatever that means. This one is that Chinese punk bands should all be complaining about the government. 

I'd love to give some commentary on the AFP article but I can't really detect any sort of real through point to it. The only interesting thing is that Elaine Chow throws in the line:

So much for actually being punk, eh?

Of course, it's a complete myth that all punk and rock bands in 'The West' are political - that is, singing overtly about about activism and government policy. For every Propagandhi (my faves) there's a Ramones. And how political are the Rolling Stones? What do these writers think political actually means anyway? 

The Subs sing about resisting authority and songs like Ha from We Haven't Entered The 21st Century talk about failed development policy and environmental damage. The music scene in Shanghai is full of bands whose lifestyles, visual styles and music are completely unacceptable by the Xinhua standard for national TV and distribution. The problem here is the AFP source article which is just writing to fulfill a common shallow type or double standard that crops up all the time. Not to mention writing up a commentary basically writing off all Chinese rock and punk bands as being shallow.

Youtube: Qi Ri live at Yuyintang

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Qi Ri (Seventh Day) are one of the tightest bands in Shanghai's melodic death metal scene. They played Yuyintang on Friday night opening for Screaming Christ and Tu Bian (Mutate). Qi Ri have their own spin on the genre as their singer often utilizes operatic vocals. So sit back and enjoy the stylings of tight riffs and gothic organs. 

Death to false metal! Death to Daft Punk fans!

Back 'atcha Louis: indie pop

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bang bang tang octoberOne good turn deserves another. Louis plugged the blog on his college radio show and now it's time to pay him back. Louis is a massive indie pop fan so let's have a look back and listen at one of Shanghai's premier indie pop acts Bang Bang Tang.

Bang Bang Tang (Lollipop) play guitar indie pop that uses mainly slow songs with folk elements. Singer Xiao Bai has a great voice and the band are great musicians. They have some of the all time favorite videos on my channel, like this one and this one. You can also revisit some older posts on them here and here

So have a listen to some of their demos via our friends at Neocha. It's auto play and so after the jump.

Pinkberry, BCR and me on the radio

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Update: It works now

Louis Yu is a PhD student in Canada who has a college radio show about indie music. He recently spent some time in Shanghai interviewing as many scene people as possible and collecting a bunch of CDs to play.

Here is a half-hour section from his University of Victoria show yesterday in which he discusses my blog article and then plays Pinkberry and Boys Climbing Ropes. There's 8 minutes or so of discussion, then some songs then a bit more on BCR. All in English. 

Metal night @ Yuyintang (Feb 2009)

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Death to false metal !!! And death to people who would queue to pay 500 rmb to see Daft Punk in the first place !!!

Yes, tonight's show at Yuyintang was actually called Metal Night. Having been a huge metal fan once upon a time, I appreciate it mightily. The Shanghai metal scene has a few genres. This show was put on by a very specific group that play modern death metal. 

The interesting side of this show, from the scene perspective, is that there is a lot of talent and potential in these bands but magazines, promoters, hipsters and scene-activists tend to think metal doesn't count. Of course, true metal fans know that thrash bands like Slayer were filling arenas and going platinum when top ten pop hits were making the charts based on dubious airplay and high school appearances. We shall conquer! 

The first band on was Qi Ri (Seventh Day) who do not have any online demos that I'm aware of. They had the classic modern death metal line up complete with Gothic-organ keyboard stylings to compliment the melodic riffing breaks. They differ from some of the others in that they employ female opera style vocals. They were tight and they rocked. There's a video here. Next up was Screaming Christ who, unsurprisingly, sing in the Carcass style. They did a crowd pleasing set and you can hear their demos at their Douban page.

Last on were newish band Tu Bian 突变乐队. And here was my diamond in the rough. They were much more ambitious than the other bands and their singer was the stand out talent of the night. She mixed singing, rapping and also gurgling that would make Bill Steer proud. As usual, I hope they stick with it and get tight and confident because the potential is there. No pages or details for them yet though. The name means Mutate.

Yuyintang were handing out surveys all night and Sun Lu mentioned they were tossing the idea of opening a daytime coffee hangout around. It would be upstairs. If it's in the same style and played indie rock in the background then I'm there.

See ya, Abe.

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punk not junk
Sad to say that I recently spoke to Abe Deyo, one of Shanghai's main independent music promoters, and found out that he's leaving Shanghai next week.

Abe has worn many hats in the scene and as well as promoting shows, he is a photographer and writer. He was the music editor at Shanghaiist when I was there posting a bit on Yuyintang shows. He has also written many articles for City Weekend Magazine and he blogs at their website as punknotjunk.

Check the blog here.

As a regular promoter of shows in Shanghai, he also featured heavily in this blog. Check out articles tagged Abe Deyo here

He also gave us one of the hottest gossip stories of 2008 when he complained in print about Beijing band New Pants and their attitude. Revisit the story here: Handbags

Following a boom in general attendances once the Ol*mp*cs were done, Abe got more ambitious and tried to put on larger and/or better quality shows. We had the The Subs at Dream Factory and then The Queers and DOA at Yuyintang. Abe also took the latter two acts on China tours. Unfortunately the attendances were not there this time. Abe will now move on to Wuhan with work. Wuhan has its own scene which is a lot more punk than Shanghai. Perhaps the spark will be ignited one more time.

See ya, Abe.

Douban: quick listens

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I mainly use Neocha and Myspace Music when linking to band's online music so it's time to give Douban a little exposure.

Douban is a web 2.0 social site for people who like arts, books and music. It has a section where you add groups (for example the groups of bands you like) then you get all their news in one aggregated feed. All the Chinese underground and indie bands use it. And here's a buzzword for you, the last time I talked about Douban with Neocha's Sean Leow he described it as "BBS 2.0". This will mean more to you if you are familiar with the Chinese language net world.

So, they have artist pages for the bands there too and I was just having a look around lately. So ... I give you excellent recent demo tracks from four of Shanghai's upcoming bands:

Sonnet "Stupid Baby"  post-pop, brit-pop - listen
Pinkberry "The Pinkberry Song"  pop-punk - listen
Five Pointed Star "Dui Bai"  nu-metal - listen
Muscle Snog "Female Worker Bee"  experimental, post rock - listen

You'll have to open the links in a new tab and press play on the M3 player there (see picture guide).

Youtube: Da Fresh live @ Yuyintang

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After some last minute cancellations and shenanigans, Da Fresh were the only band of real note playing Saturday's 0093 showcase.There was a good turn out and the band played a good set. So come on feel the Brit Pop.

Magazine special: head to head

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xiao youUpdate: the MP3 player for Pinkberry is now 'after the jump' so click into the post to hear the song.

Following the demise of SH Magazine, the up and down form of newly revamped That's Shanghai and well the usual from CW and Talk, the Shanghai mags have been a bit sparse on new information or interesting stories about the music scene. But lucky for us, February has thrown up the first true head-to-head since I've been doing this.

Here's the low down: Two professional writers have covered the same band around the same time with completely opposite takes. And now it's time for you to decide. The band in question is Pinkberry, so before we get going you should check out their music yourselves on the player below and have a gander at singer Xiao You (right).

Personally, I like them. I'm a fan of three cord power pop or punk and their DIY attitude. They are a new band, barely together six months and singer Xiao You is one of the few Shanghainese new artists with true ambition and the potential to realise it. But that's just me. I made a DIY video with them too.

So, ahead of their appearance at the New Year show recently, Dan Shapiro of Rogue Transmission and City Weekend magazine wrote about them at his CW blog:

This show is a great way start to the Chinese New Year Holiday, although, unfortunately, you'll be forced to endure yet another Pink Berry set (seriously, this band has already played like 42 gigs in 2009), but atleast it gives you 30 minutes to run to Kedi for some cheap beer.

Also, in the title of the blog he calls Pinkberry Shanghai's worst band. Ouch. You can read the full post here: Tonight @ Yuyintang: Shanghai's best (and worst).

Over at That's Shanghai meanwhile: Jake Newby filed a feature on Pinkberry titled "The best unsigned band in Shanghai". In the article he documents their success in high profile competitions, their endorsement from The Queers after their show together and Xiao You's voice and quality. Not only did Joe Queer dedicate "She's a firecracker" to Xiao You but also invited them to record at his studio in the states. 

The band themselves are modest about their brief career so far. Time to make your own minds up. Hint: like them or not, they're obviously not the worst band in Shanghai.

0093 showcase #8 @ Yuyintang

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I'm back in the action. Tonight at Yuyintang was the 0093 Studio's eighth showcase gig. A little bird told me that I have just acquired a bunch of new readers so I'll just go over it again. 

0093 are a rehearsal studio in an underground ex-bomb shelter. They hold monthly shows at Yuyintang where new bands on their books get the chance to play at a proper venue. The shows usually feature at least six bands, eight tonight, who are usually backed by one or two experienced bands to keep the crowd in it. Read this for more info.

Here was the line up for tonight:

1.大新鲜乐团 (Da Fresh)
2.The Rovers 
3.静水乐队 (Jing Shui)
4.重结晶 (Zhong Jie Jin)
5.突变乐队 (Tu Bian)
6.My Chilly Hurt 
8.自由数(Ziyou Shu)

The only band there with any kind of reputation and online material are Da Fresh. You can hear a demo right here. Don't worry if you can't read Chinese, you'll spot the MP3 player right of the bat. 

So. I came down primarily to see Jing Shui - who canceled. The turn out was great tonight and it seems that Yuyintang have made a permanent breakthrough with the local audiences. There were chaotic scenes at the door as eight bands worth of close friends tried to walk in nonchalantly without paying. By the time the first band was about to come on the hall was full and ready to go. Except they didn't come on. After another thirty minutes of waiting around, a YYT staff member gingerly took the stage and announced, "has anyone seen Da Fresh? Are they in there?" After another ten minutes or so the same staff member took the stage again and gingerly asked if the second band were there either. Eventually someone played.

With Jing Shui out of the picture I was looking to Da Fresh for the Quality. Both bands play the Brit-Rock style. Da Fresh did eventually come on and played a professional set of catchy Brit-Rock style songs. Video soon to follow. The band have been around a while but the show didn't compare to the energy of recent Brit-Rock shows by knockout groups like The Way and Casino Demon. I had fun hanging with blog reader Neil and talking football with him and YYT part owner Sun Lu, who likes Crystal Palace. This review is lacking a point today as the band with the potential to move on to greater things didn't show.
ultimate warrior
The world is feeling the effects of the financial crash, or meltdown, or whatever term you want to use. Just make sure it sounds like a phenomenon or the work of a few bad eggs and not the system itself. And, in that same vein, it's time to break out the slyly humorous articles about the end of the world as we know it. I was just reading a very funny one by Tanya Gold at the Guardian.

Never mind that it equates a breakdown in the current political and financial models with the end of life as we know it. There are other ways. I say, have no fear. If you've been following the sheer magnitude of extinctions, environmental degradation and unsustainable development then you know that a huge crash is on the way regardless! Tanya says that in movies people usually pick over the ruins of civilization and fight over scraps until it all goes horribly wrong. In real life, she says, she would go to Devon and live off the land. 

So here's the news: In Shanghai, in the case of a mass breakdown, you will not be living off the land in lush and fertile Devon. You will be living the post-apocalypse movie dream - and you'd better know Kung Fu. 

Following along from Tanya's points, the first thing to go in a breakdown would be the national power grid followed by running water. You need that pesky clean drinking water to live more than three days. Question: where in the greater Shanghai region can you find a natural source of clean water that could be drunk after a basic purification routine? Answer: Nowhere. Quick fact: eighty percent of water sources in the country are unfit for human consumption! That's right. You're going to be fighting for remaining stocks of bottled water and the contents of storage tanks in buildings. The same goes for food. 

Now I've seen a lot of post-apocalypse type movies, my favorite is The Ultimate Warrior, and I know that all smart people in these situations are aware of the limited time they have in the urban survival situation. They all have a plan that involves getting out and away to a safe place where you could grow food and survive for the long haul. Tanya Gold adds a bit of spice to this time limit with an often overlooked fact of modern life. Yes. Nuclear power stations. Quick fact: with no running water for cooling or human attention they will eventually overheat and explode. What's that, you say? We have built huge radioactive time bombs that will render entire countries uninhabitable simply by just leaving them alone? Yes! Bonus! Your plan will have to include a boat to New Zealand. 

Now we are getting ahead of ourselves. Back to Shanghai. You are going to have to know Kung Fu. The city has broken down. Most people have tried to flee and died who-knows-where from dehydration. Others have been killed in the riots and fighting. The old, infant and sick are gone or going. You have wisely held your ground and formed a group around a compound of supplies. The city streets are eerily quiet. It's time to go out and get more supplies while you form the grand escape plan. At first you will loot shops and malls, competing with random looters and small teams. Eventually, however, you will have to raid other compounds, the ones based around the Nongfu bottled water depot. Don't forget the more organized groups are going to raid you too. You need to know kung fu. 

Now, I don't mean any martial art either, I mean real kung fu. Not the one focused around competitions where you wear down your opponent then wrestle them into submissions. Not the ones where you score points either. I mean the ones where you learn quick and lethal self defense techniques while fighting in groups on the run. Where falling to the ground means being left behind. You need to train weapons too. Like staffs and swords. Yes, swords. I also don't mean the light floppy ones or wooden ones. No twirling them around while you do the splits either. You need to be in the class that makes you hold a full weight weapon where the forms are made up of solid stances and techniques that resemble stabbing, slashing and hacking. Your teacher needs to be making you do squats and finger push ups, not slow motion bends and yoga stretches. And another thing, you'd better be doing those two man applications that leave bruises on your limbs, not debating Qi power for half an hour then nodding your appreciation. 

You need to know the kung fu that lets you bound effortlessly over beaten up abandoned cars while burying your knife hilt deep into the chest of the baseball bat wielding crazy. You need the kung fu that allows you to destroy six would be unarmed attackers with your fighting staff. You need the kung fu that helps you kick that scavenger senseless while your arms are tied up holding your sack of stolen tinned foods. You need the kung fu that helps you lead your team of scientists and farmers out of the city through the abandoned tunnels and to the promised land. You need the kind of kung fu that helps you escape the clutches of the psychotic ex-soldiers and their fortified country mansion. 

Unfortunately for you, this kind of kung fu is now as scarce in this country as the natural drinking water. I'm not going to help you find it either. It's you against me. I do have some advice. Watch those movies. See you out there.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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