August 2012 Archives

Procrastination spasms

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Picture by Ren Hang

According to Wikipedia, Procrastination is: In psychology, procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time. 

While talking with my casual friend journalist Patrick Alleyn today, I said out loud one of my most perplexing habits. I imagine a quick check would find others who do it and even an official medical term. It's pretty weird though. 

He was quizzing me about the writing process for novels and I was telling him how I broke down the targets by word count and overall time into how many words per session I needed to reach. Like if you want 500 pages, at 250 words per page standard average, that's 125 000 words. So if you wrote four times a week and did 500 words a session ... you'd need a year and two months just to get a first draft in. The thought of that defeats me mentally before I even start trying. As does the idea that you realistically need to double up that output, at least.

We then talked over pre-planning and mapping the novel first, all that stuff, then he asked me what was the hardest part of writing and two things immediately came to mind. The first is that the hardest part for me is the ten seconds between sitting down to start typing proper prose in a draft and the moment I start to type. That is where hardcore procrastination attacks. I may have easily and enjoyably done a month of planning, inventing and preparing but those ten seconds are killer and I may find anything else to do.

The second thing is what I can only describe as procrastination spasms. I sit down, I look at the screen ... then, I stand up and walk off to another part of the flat - for no fucking reason. After a few seconds of walking, I realise that I'd had no reason to get up and walk away - it was a subconscious involuntary physical act. My subconscious actually takes over, stands me up and marches me off, hoping I'll bump into another task I presume. It's not the same as being in those ten seconds and thinking, wait, I'll just get a cup of tea before I start, then getting up - it's a physical spasm and it is not proceeded by identifying another task.


Liveblogging Ballard's Crash Chapter Seven

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crashcoverTo access the whole series of posts just click on the tag crash at the bottom.

Now that Vaughan is haunting the margins of Ballard's post-crash life, things start to accelerate with immediate results.

James gets round to buying a new car and much to the horror of his wife and her companion it is exactly the same make and model as the one he crashed. He has even chosen all the same optional fittings down to custom wing mirrors. Relieved of most of his work duties due to his fragile temperament, Ballard drives the new car down to ... ... the yard where the wreck of the old one is impounded.

Here's the clincher, while he is examining the wreck, who should come along but Helen Remington, the other crash survivor and widow of the man killed in their accident. Ballard can't believe it, but it seems she has been going through the same experiences as he has. He offers to drive her to her office by the airport and things really kick off to the next level.

First they are stuck in heavy traffic and the atmosphere is tense and surreal:

'Do you want a cigarette?' Her strong fingers tore away the cellophane. 'I started to smoke at Ashford - it's rather stupid of me.'
'Look at all this traffic - I need every sedative I can get my hands on.'
'It's much worse now - you noticed that did you? The day I left Ashford I had the extraordinary feeling that all these cars were gathering for some special reason I didn't understand. There seemed to be ten times as much traffic.'
'Are we imagining it?'
She pointed to the interior of the car with her cigarette. 'You've bought yourself exactly the same car again. It's the same shape and colour.'
And then ... ... yes, he drives them to the exact spot of the crash and piles down the off ramp at full speed, losing control, bouncing off the centre island and careening out of control through the traffic circle at the bottom. Miraculously, all the other cars swerve out of the way. During this, his erect penis rubs up against the steering wheel and he cums in his pants. 

Helen doesn't mind. She has her hand on his shoulder and they drive off into the night, drifting through the featureless new housing estates, coming down from their sexual experience. 

Video: Duck Fight Goose Glass Walls

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Duck Fight Goose have just posted up their new video for the track Glass Walls. Check it out.

Pic: Livebar 7 year anniversary party

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Shanghai's Live Bar had its seventh birthday party on Saturday night. Xiao Zhong from Pairs took this photo from the stage for posterity.

Live Bar crowd

Video: Hedgehog The Burning Sun in the Morning

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Here is a new video from Beijing's Hedgehog. Hedgehog started off as a grunge inspired power trio and have had an interesting journey adding many influences via legendary live shows. I also ran into them at the NYL Vinyl release the other week which was a bit of a fanboy moment for me having been to all the Shanghai shows since Happy Idle Kid.

Liveblogging Ballard's Crash Chapter Six

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crashcoverTo access the whole series of posts just click on the tag crash at the bottom

Ballard, it has been established, works for a TV studio that makes commercials. He uses their regular car rental service to try out all kinds of cars now. Then he drives around the various highways of the airport zone, taking in the flyovers, bland hotels, 24 hour supermarkets, traffic islands and new apartments. The cars seem alive to him with the previous drivers.

Like the other cars I had hired, this one was covered with scratches and heel marks, cigarette burns and scuffings, translated through the glamorous dimension of Detroit design. On the pink vinyl seat was a deep tear large enough to take a flagstaff or, conceivably, a penis.
Driving about the surreal artificial landscape by night, and experiencing the traffic around his crash site, proves too much. Ballard picks up an airport prostitute - who waits on a traffic island of all places - and takes her to the deserted open roof of a multi-storey carpark.

His blowjob is suddenly interrupted by a flash of light and then a noise and commotion below. An airport bus has rear-ended a taxi and the bloodied driver is being pulled out by the light of police headlamps. But Ballard turns to see the original flash was in fact from a camera. Vaughan has been stalking him again. This time he recognizes him as the famous TV scientist.

As he reached the balcony his face was lit by the headlamps of the police car. I realized that I had seen his pock-marked face many times before, projected from a dozen forgotten television programmes and news magazine profiles - this was Vaughan, Dr Robert Vaughan, a one-time computer specialist. As one of the first of the new-style TV scientists, Vaughan had combined a high degree of personal glamour - heavy black hair over a scarred face, an American combat jacket - with an aggressive lecture theatre manner and complete conviction in his subject matter, the application of computerized techniques to the control of all traffic systems. In the first programmes of his series three years earlier Vaughan had projected a potent image, almost that of the scientist as hoodlum.
Now it is Ballard's turn to follow him deeper down the rabbit hole.

Logo remembrances: Mahanadan

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I just posted on the closure of Logo bar, as reported by Adam at Luwan Rock.

In the post I admitted to my ramblings being patchy and not based on any official statements from the owners. I asked if anyone could send me in their own memories. Boom! Right off the bat, it's Mahanadan. His take is remarkable in that reading it kinda feels like the experience of being at Logo. Everything Below this line is him:

... I never really liked Logo that much. The layout was shit and of course it sounded like elephants gargling candy camel dicks. No one ever stopped moaning about the sound. It was pretty bad, though.

However, Logo was instrumental in the formation of our band, Friend or Foe. Our first show ever was there. We had no bassist at all and decided to play the show with bass lines loaded onto Rabshaka's iphone. This was awesome until someone wondered, "what happens if you get a call in the middle of the set?" We were stumped, but soon figured out we could just put it on airplane mode. After that shitty set, the future Bill came up to us and asked if we needed a bassist. The rest is history.

We also had a crazy show there Halloween night 2010. This all had to happen after the Yuyintang show so it got started about 2 or thereabouts. The place was packed and we were all dressed up like bao an. People were dancing on the stage while we played and it was an all-in-all rock star moment. We went on to party like said rock stars 'til the sun came up, at which point I realized I had lost my phone. It was real fun slinking home to my wife and mother-in-law who were skeptical (at best) at my disheveled state. On top of all that, I had to go to the China Mobile office in that condition to get a new sim card, plus then to Cloud Nine to pick out a shitty new phone. Good times.

I think the funniest show ever was the Steely Heart show, though. The lead singer was doing his best Joyside impression and stumbled/sat down/momentarily passed out right into the kit. I remember thinking they were a pretty good band, like a drunker Strokes, but now they just churn out ridiculous synth pop.

Anyways, I liked the new Logo (we killed Bill there, as chronicled on Shanghaiist), although it was far away from my place and I had two bikes stolen there. It's funny how people complained that Mao was never in the center of town until it moved (right where the new Logo is/was.) and then they still don't support it. Shanghai music was pretty much made for the f-visa ghetto I think is the lesson there.

Lune pretty much always sucked, due to the equipment and the fact that the speakers in the back only pumped out the mics' output and nothing else ... I had to anchor the bass drum in place with a fire extinguisher so it didn't wander into the crowd. I did play in my winter thermal pants and nothing else there one time, so there's that.

Ah, memory lane.

The Halloween show at Logo
fof cops

Logo Bar closed / under construction

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logo bar
Picture: 'old' Logo

Warning! Extensive ramblings from personal experience. Read the last paragraph. If you have any good Logo stories, show remembrances or updates to this news - mail them in and they'll go straight up. 

Adam over at Luwan Rock is reporting that Logo Bar, a venue on the music scene, is now closed and under construction. He has photos. No official word on if it's done or if it's moving yet.

Keep an eye on the comments there for updates.

When I first got here, this thread of local music history hadn't started yet. Then Zhang Du (Zooma), a 90s generation Shanghai scene guy, opened up a music bar called Tang Hui in the location that would become the first Logo. It was an instant success with the party crowd but not really an active scene venue in the way that Harley's was, for example. Zooma then upgraded to Tang Hui VIP and Logo soon appeared in the old venue. Tai Bei was the owner and Maxime Lenik organised the music side. 

Side note: Tang Hui ran into trouble and Zooma returned to the Xingfu Lu strip with Anar, also now defunct. 

So Logo was a big hit, mainly as a hang out for music scene people away from the venues. Sketchy shows were put on too, a few live on as memorable events. I saw Cassette give a great performance there and they overcame the famously shitty sound set up for the benefit of about 20 people who knew who they were and had any real interest. The problem there was its own supporters. Die hard fans of the place did most of the drinking directly out front with beers bought at the store next door. Also, they got continuous trouble from noise complaints because of said revelers out front. No one made any kind of effort to reign in any of this to any kind of degree. The party ended, the venue moved and none of them made any lasting effort to support the new Sinan Road venue to the same level.

There was a gap between the old and new Logo opening, which was filled with their lounge bar venture Lune. Despite many attempts, it never gained any significance with the majority local scene. It really ended there (new Logo) when Maxime moved on to greener pastures earlier this year.

When I think back to great Logo moments, I think always of old Logo and of a scene and events propped up by the international community here. The Fucked Up show was legendary, and also displayed the worst self destructive tendencies, crowds on the street causing a disturbance and buying their drinks anywhere but from the bar itself. Hedgehog had a good early one, as did Snapline. Abe Deyo and R3/STD probably had a hand in most of these, right?

Can anyone think of a good show there that did not feature the hand of an ex-pat in promoting it? I guess it was a scene to itself. These are just ramblings: if anyone has a good retrospective they want to write, or has a favourite show they want to review - mail them in to me and I'll post them all. 

New tracks from Next Year's Love

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Thumbnail image for nyl390
I recently posted about the Next Year's Love 7" vinyl release show. It was also part of a new bar opening 390 Shanghai. Here's the post:

The band made two new recordings for the release. Smash the Pink Bugs is an older song and usually the live show opener while True Love Song is newer. Both sound excellent and are now available for listening at the band's Douban page:

Right under those tracks you can also hear, and get free downloads of, their self-titled four track EP. 

Liveblogging Ballard's Crash Chapter Five

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crashcoverTo access the whole series of posts just click on the tag crash at the bottom

The chapter starts with Ballard home after his discharge from hospital and ends with him driving again for the first time. He has become hyper-aware of psychogeography. He sits on the veranda of his house contemplating the motorway, the flyovers and the airport.

I realised that the human inhabitants of this technological landscape no longer provided its sharpest pointers, its keys to the borderzones of identity. The amiable saunter of Francis Waring, bored wife of my partner, through the turnstiles of the local supermarket, the domestic wrangles of our well to do neighbours in our apartment house, all the hopes and fantasies of this placid suburban enclave, drenched in a thousand infidelities, faltered before the solid reality of the motorway embankments, with their constant and unswerving geometry, and before the finite areas of the car-park aprons.
He returns to his office and orders a rental car. After a brief and distracting meeting he takes his coworker Renata out for a drive. They clearly have had regular sexual encounters in the past. This time he drives back to the site of his accident, parks and starts to initiate the sex. Someone has been following them and taking photos. It is Vaughan.

At my feet lay a litter of dead leaves, cigarette cartons and glass crystals. These fragments of broken safety glass, brushed to one side by generations of ambulance attendants, lay in a small drift. I stared down at this dusty necklace, the debris of a thousand automobile accidents. Within fifty years, as more and more cars collided here, the glass fragments would form a sizable bar, within thirty years a beach of sharp crystal. A new race of beachcombers might appear, squatting on these heaps of fractured windshields, sifting them for cigarette butts, spent condoms and loose coins. Buried beneath this new geological layer laid down by the age of the automobile accident would be my own small death, as anonymous as a vitrified scar on a fossil tree.
Cometh the autogeddon.

Video: Full live set from Fuzzy Mood

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Beijing based band Fuzzy Mood play a mix of styles falling somewhere in the range of dream pop, post rock and shoegaze ... I dunno. They are good anyway, and liked. A cheer goes up when the first vocals begin. 

They are nice enough to have put up a whole set from this month. Enjoy.

Blogosphere: Chris B and Jon Campbell

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chris b
Photo cribbed directly from the SH247 article that is linked below.

Chris B, overlord of The Underground, works tirelessly to foster the HK underground scene. She came to Shanghai a while back when organising the China heats of the Global Battle of the Bands. Shanghai 247 bring us a feature on her and also an intro/gateway into the HK scene:

Elsewhere, Jonathan Campbell, author of Red Rock and Beijing scene veteran, muses on the Pussy Riot trial and contemplates the political impact of rock in Asia. Interestingly, he pulls up Pangu. Pangu are the Nanchang band who went overtly anti-gov and ended up fleeing the country. Read all about it here:

Liveblogging Ballard's Crash Chapter Four

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crashcoverTo access the whole series of posts just click on the tag crash at the bottom.

Spurred into action by his first erection since the crash, James starts to get focused and active about recovery and by the end of the chapter he has left the hospital.

His mental awakening continues.

The crash was the only real experience I had been through for years. For the first time I was in physical confrontation with my own body, an inexhaustible encyclopedia of pains and discharges, with the hostile gaze of other people, and with the fact of the dead man. After being bombarded endlessly by road-safety propaganda it was almost a relief to find myself in an actual accident.
As he makes himself useful around the hospital he sees who we assume is Vaughan. A youngish looking man in a white doctor's coat going around the building confidently, consulting with staff and patients alike. There are some tell-tale details: he is bare chested under the coat, his face is criss-crossed with scar tissue and he carries a briefcase of photographs. Ballard imagines he is pedaling pornographic x-rays, or maybe he is one of the new doctors who is fashionably aggressive to his patients.

James briefly meets the widowed Helen Remington, whose husband was killed in the crash, and, of course, fantasizes about her. Finally, the saga of the erectile awakening closes when Catherine, his wife, masturbates him in the ward.

Did Catherine respond to the image of these which had been caught, like a photographic plate or a still from a newsreel, in the dark bruises of my body and the physical outline of the steering wheel? In my left knee the scars above my fractured patella exactly replicated the protruding switches of the windshield wipers and parking lights. As I moved towards my orgasm she began to soap her hand every ten seconds, her cigarette forgotten, concentrating her attention on this orifice of my body like the nurses who attended me in the first hours after my accident.

Next Year's Love live @ 390

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390 Shanghai is a new bar that has opened on Panyu Lu (yes, number 390) kinda opposite where Wills Gym is, just up from Fa Hua Zhen Lu.

One of the people behind the project is DJ Sacco, also of Uptown fame.

Last night, there was a warm up show. It was the Next Year's Love vinyl release show. Featuring:

The bar has a dedicated back room with sound equipment and a band / dance area. It's cozy and like an upmarket Logo of sorts. The bands sounded pretty good, if not as loud as the other, pure rock, venues. I see lots of fun nights in the future featuring electro-clash, alternative dance and two piece acts. 

Oh, and there's a video screen behind the men's pissoir so guys get to urinate onto famous movie stars. Bonus.

Liveblogging Ballard's Crash Chapter Three

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crashcoverTo access the whole series of posts just click on the tag crash at the bottom.

Now James Ballard is recovering in a hospital ward next to the airport. In a wonderful turn of detail, it is a special ward kept open for the survivors of airplane crashes and he is the only resident. 

Every detail is filtered through the juxtaposition of sexuality and death, violence ... the crash. We also meet his wife Catherine and learn about their complex sexual and emotional relationship. In another satisfying Ballardian turn, we discover that James works in television commercials. This is also how he comes across Elizabeth Taylor.

Ballard is mesmerized by the new landscape of his body. His injuries map out both the physical interior of the car, the action of the crash and the symbolic meaning of the event. Even what he thought of as the complex, perverse and dark games he played with his wife pale before his new reality. After musing on dreams where her breasts shoot out faecal matter, he finds all other matters to be trivial and annoying.

I stared pointedly at the clock over the door, hoping that she would soon leave. This bogus commiseration over the dead man irritated me, merely an excuse for an exercise in moral gymnastics. The brusqueness of the young nurses was part of the same pantomime of regret. I had thought for hours about the dead man, visualising the effects of his death on his wife and family. I had thought of his last moments alive, frantic milliseconds of pain and violence in which he had been catapulted from a pleasant domestic interlude into a concertina of metalized death. These feeling existed within my relationship with the dead man, within the reality of the wounds on my chest and legs, and within the unforgettable collision between my own body and the interior of my car. By comparison, Catherine's mock grief was a mere stylization of a gesture - I waited for her to break into song, tap her forehead, touch every second temperature chart around the ward, switch on every fourth set of radio headphones.
Finally, he is spurred into recovery and motivation by the rumbling of his first erection since the accident.

Picture: Villa on Columbia Road

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The time I met Rick McGrath and the subsequent work we did for his Ballard site is still bringing all kinds of contact from people around the world. I recently met with some Ballard family members to tour about the sites here in Shanghai and this week there's some interest in the photos on the site for a book. 

Looking through, I really like this shot of the villa nearby/opposite-ish the Hudec House on Columbia Road (now Panyu Lu). I took it from the apartment block in front. It's around where Panyu Lu meets Pingwu Lu. This was originally in the grounds of the Columbia Country Club.

Hudec House

Liveblogging Ballard's Crash Chapter Two

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crashcoverTo access the whole series of posts just click on the tag crash at the bottom.

I think my psyche is bruising.

I began to understand the real excitements of the car crash after my first meeting with Vaughan. Propelled on a pair of scarred and uneven legs repeatedly injured in one or other vehicle collision, the harsh and unsettling figure of this hoodlum scientist came into my life at a time when his obsessions were self-evidently those of a madman.
Chapter two is taken up wholly by James Ballard describing a car accident he had in great detail. 

He skids in the rain, blows out a tyre and then goes hurtling the wrong way up an off-ramp at sixty miles per hour. He hits the third oncoming car head on. The other driver is thrown through the windshield and half through Ballard's too - and killed, splattering Ballard with blood. Ballard and the other man's wife are partially injured and left staring at each other.

As he witnesses the bizarre ritual of the crowds and the rescue, in a daze, he can't help but focus on details such as the woman's thighs and the fact she is involuntarily urinating. His mind muses that the ambulance man could take out his penis and jam it into his bloody armpit and it wouldn't seem out of place in this headlight soaked surreal scene.

I sat there, dressed in another man's blood while the urine of his young widow formed rainbows around my rescuers' feet. By this same nightmare logic the firemen racing towards the burning wrecks of crashed airliners might trace obscene or humorous slogans on the scalding concrete with their carbon dioxide sprays, executioners could dress their victims in grotesque costumes. In return, victims would stylize the entrances to their deaths with ironic gestures ...
Ballard has seen the horrific and surreal inside of the crash and he won't look upon the world the same way again. 

Last Call for Friday night

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I already blogged about the opening of new bar Shanghai 390 here. Shanghai band Next Year's Love will release their vinyl at the show.

Meanwhile, across the way at Yuyintang, Stegosaurus? are releasing their album Purple Pachyderm.

Both shows are tomorrow, Friday 17th. Here are the flyers:

Here's what they say:

The time has come once again for a crazy, fun filled, stomach filled CD release show from Stegosaurus?! Named after Les Claypool's famous wine, Purple Pachyderm will see the light of YYT after two painful years of delivery and labor. Come for the FREE CD, FREE New York Style pizza and maybe a hint of Purple Pachyderm wine. Come early for the refreshments. Wine and Pizza will go quick! Support from Dragon Pizza. 40 Yuan.
So make your choice and head on out.

Liveblogging Ballard's Crash Chapter One

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crashcoverTo access the whole series of posts just click on the tag crash at the bottom.

Where can I begin? Chapter one introduces Vaughan and his obsession with the intersection of sexual pleasure and car crashes. Every paragraph is brutal poetry and every sentence burrowed its way into my mind. It is even more explicit than the hyperbolic reports suggest.

the retired prostitute crashing into a concrete motorway parapet, her overweight body propelled through the fractured windshield, menopausal loins torn on the chromium bonnet mascot.
Vaughan and Ballard cruise the highways around London Airport at night photographing accidents, imbibing all the details. Then Vaughan walks erect around his apartment going over over the videos and photos as he imagines and creates myriad violent and sexual possibilities. It is only when recounting the details of his planned death with Taylor that Vaughan can achieve calm.

Vaughan was obsessed by many wounds and impacts - by the dying chromium and collapsing bulkheads of their two cars meeting head-on in complex collisions endlessly repeated in slow motion films, by the identical wounds inflicted on their bodies, by the image of windshield glass frosting around her face as she broke its tinted surface like a death-born Aphrodite, by the compound fractures of their thighs impacted against their handbrake mountings and above all by the wounds to their genitalia, her uterus pierced by the heraldic beak of the manufacturer's medallion, his semen emptying across the luminescent dials that registered for ever the last temperature and fuel levels of the engine.
Hail, the dark poet of the autogeddon.

By the way, you may want to do a brief check into the stats for car accidents, injuries and deaths in countries like the U.K. and the U.S.A. to remind yourself how it is basically a 'fact of life.'

Liveblogging Ballard's Crash Intro

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Crash is J. G. Ballard's landmark novel published in 1973. In it, he looks at our worship of technology through the sexual fetishisation of cars. He does this brutally and without flinching, combining sexual fetish with death and injury in car accidents. 

The result is to uncover some harsh truths about ourselves and our deep psychology and to get at the often absurd and destructive meanings in our society. It famously led one reader at his publisher to note "This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do Not Publish!"

I'm going to push out a post after every chapter. There's 24 chapters. This is the intro so lets start at the beginning:

Vaughan died yesterday in his last car crash. During our friendship he had rehearsed his death in many crashes, but this was his only true accident. Driven on a collision course towards the limousine of the film actress, his car jumped the rails of the London Airport flyover and plunged through the roof of a bus filled with airline passengers. The crushed bodies of package tourists, like a haemorrhage of the sun, still lay across the vinyl seats when I pushed my way through the police engineers an hour later. Holding the arm of her chauffeur, the film actress Elizabeth Taylor, with whom Vaughan had dreamed of dying for so many months, stood alone under the revolving ambulance lights. As I knelt over Vaughan's body she placed a gloved hand to her throat.
The narrator, a fictionalized version of the author called James Ballard is going to recount his friendship with Vaughan, whose ultimate fantasy was to die in a head on car crash with Elizabeth Taylor. See you after chapter one.

Fen Ran Punk Festival interview (600th post)

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Thumbnail image for Xu Qi
Pic: Xu Qi of Dragon Pizza

Pop! Bang! Whizz! Ooohhh .. ahhhh. It's the 600th post in shanghai music scene

Anyway ...

I recently posted on the upcoming Shanghai Punk Festival show here:

Now, SH247 have run a supporting interview with Frank Fen Ran, the organiser. Frank used to have the premier old school punk act in town, The Mortal Fools, and spends most of his time out in the suburb of Zhu Jia Jiao. As well as being a tip-tip bloke, he's always up to something in the world of punk. 

So, support the show on Sunday and check out the interview here:

Blake's 7 introduction

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Blake's 7 was a British sci-fi TV show first broadcast from 1978 and 1981 during which it ran for four thirteen-episode seasons. It was the creation of Terry Nation.

I watched the last two seasons as they came out. I was only nine years old and used to beg my dad to let me stay up after A Question Of Sport to watch it. I recently rewatched it and realised how formative they were to my tastes and worldview. I also saw how ahead of its time it was.

In 1978, it had a consistent universe with continuity. Things that changed stayed changed and characters developed. Each season had a proper arc as well as standalone missions. The action was as much driven and shaped by the characters as it was by the arc. Also, no one was safe. The seven change across the story and name roles are killed off. When I first watched the later seasons as a kid a big part of the arc was that Blake was gone/lost and they were searching for him, a journey that eventually leads to their downfall in one of the bleakest endings in TV history up to and including today. 

It was made on a micro-budget and many modern viewers will find that too distracting, but I found myself once more compelled by the excellent story and central characters. 

Earth is home to the Terran Federation whose trading and diplomacy empire spreads through the known galaxy. Those who do not wish to join in are then faced with the federation's authoritarian regime who use brutal troops, brainwashing and drugs to suppress opposition. Blake is a dissident leader who was brainwashed and turned into a model citizen. At the start, a rebel group extract him and wake his memories. They are caught and massacred and Blake is sent off to a penal colony on another planet, the regime still wary to martyr a popular figure.

On the journey he meets other criminals and prisoners. Jenna is a pilot arrested for smuggling, Vila a cowardly thief who is too good at his job, Avon is a sardonic computer genius arrested for taking five million credits from a fed account and Gan is a strongman who has been fitted with a restraining chip in his brain. The prison ship stops to investigate an abandoned ship of alien design and this perfect rogue team take the opportunity to escape and steal it. Renaming it The Liberator, they are now armed with the fastest ship in the known galaxy with remarkable technology including a teleport system - that no one else in the galaxy has yet perfected. 

Under Blake's impassioned and often reckless leadership they set about waging a guerrilla war on the federation. This leads them on many encounters that often ask more questions than they answer, show up the characters' complicated motivations and conflicting moral ideas, and are rewardingly adult in theme.

Robert Westall's Futuretrack5

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Robert Westall was a British author most famous for his story The Machine Gunners. I knew his name after seeing the BBC adaptation of that book on T.V. That was in 1983. To quote the Wiki entry, "Many of his novels aimed at a teenage audience deal with complex, dark and adult themes." Futuretrack 5 was published the same year, I probably came across it a year or two after that, when I was around thirteen or fourteen. 

Despite being a teenager, I consciously avoided what is now known as YA or Young Adult fiction. I found the whole concept insulting. I was getting to grips with Elric of Melnibone and Nancy Drew didn't bear well by comparison. But I was browsing my local library in Neston, Wirral, one day and Futuretrack 5 caught my eye as I was ironically scanning the YA section and feeling all pompous and superior.

What I found was a thoughtful and bleak dystopian vision that pulled no punches and asked more questions than it answered. And, as with all the classics of the genre, no matter how some parts get dated the key concepts are icily familiar today. Strange that I should revisit it it now, the action is dated by the hospital death certificate of dystopia architect Charles Scott-Asbury - 26th September 2012 - who they "had missed him by four days."

The story follows Henry Kitson a young British lad coming out of the education system at twenty. To his knowledge, the country is split into two parts now, the unnems and the ests. The unnems are an underclass who live in large city-based fenced ghettos and are placated by entertainment complexes called Futuretracks that naturally attract then destroy leader types. The ests are a perpetual yuppie class enjoying the best of everything. The problem is that the ests breed too fast in their prosperity so come exam day, any students failing the tough tests are sent 'behind the wire' to the ghettos, on that very day.

Video: Nova Heart vs. Pairs

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The China scene has some amazing diversity. The first video is from Nova Heart and shot in Beijing. Singer Helen Feng is formerly of Free The Birds and Pet Conspiracy and is one of the biggest names in independent pop music.

The second video is Shanghai's Pairs playing Mao last year. The drums wipe some of the song out in the middle, but it's all good stuff. Pairs are IMHO the leading exponent here of a Lofi DIY aesthetic.

Top Floor Circus 0093 Revisited

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0093 revisited cover
Shanghai's most beloved band are Top Floor Circus 顶楼的马戏团 (dinglou de maxi tuan), shortened to Dingma. 

They are a punk band who started out influenced by G.G.Allin but were most notable for singing in Shanghainese and frontman Lu Chen's ability to connect with local fans on a cultural level. These days they fill Mao Livehouse when they put on a special show and were also banned for the duration of the Expo after a song making fun of it went viral on Youku.

In 2006 they released the album 0093 Revisited (蒂米重访零陵路93号 Dimi chongfan linglingjiusan hao lit. Timmy returns to 0093).

The album is both punk rock in the traditional sense and imbued with the band's own local identity as Shanghainese-Chinese. This is done without the single pluck of an Erhu or any kind of conforming to orientalist stereotypes. The insert is done in Shanghainese with Mandarin and English translations and lengthy explanations of the jokes and cultural references. 

Fan Gallery of Shanghai themed album covers (for their 2010 release) a hilarious insight into local Shanghainese culture and humour.

The opening track Heaven Here We Come 天堂,我们来了 (tiantang women laile) is a manifesto that stands for the whole album. The Punk riffs start and Lu Chen's voice kicks in with a glorious Shanghainese drawl. They spell it all out, nothing is working, the equipment is going to shit but never mind they're going to push on til the end anyway. The hilarious DIY video for the track has since been removed from Youku. 

The Douban page has a 115 link for free download of their entire discography but that FTP service has just last week been shut down by the man. Watch this space for more. Meanwhile, check out 0093 Revisited here on Xiami.

Video: Da Bang cut cut cut

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Beijing band Da Bang, previously also known as Bigger Bang, have posted up this official music video to their track Cut Cut Cut. 

Picture flashback: Little Punk cover

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On 1st August 2010 me and some friends put on a show at Yuyintang. For that show, we brought down Beijing based photographer Ren Hang. While he was down we organised some shoots including this one which produced the cover for Little Punk's solo album Hey guy, you are big time alright. Free from Bandcamp.

This is the original image from which the cover was made. Click for larger.

LP cover

Blog comments, yeah, I know.

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Picture: Ren Hang (Flickr)

I'm sure this seems more than a little self-important to casual readers. It is in response to inquires though, and we did used to have quite a bit of fun on the comments. 

It may seem a bit off, putting up discursive and provocative posts like this one:

... and then having the comments turned off on the blog. Actually, I love to get comments, love to talk about stuff and used to always put longer comments and rebuttals into new posts for further discussion.

Here's the sad truth. I am just one guy doing this blog with limited resources. Once me and Jake's writing got over a certain amount of traffic, the spam-o-pocalypse began. And at one time, it completely crashed the blog. I don't have the resources or the willpower to go up a level to what needs to be done to deal with it. So they stay off.


The blog has a mail that I check often: andy(at)kungfuology(dot)com 

If you really think something here warrants response, agreeing or disagreeing, or adding - then either send me an e-mail or write your own blog post and send me the link. If it's substantial enough I'll get it up as a new post.

Hint: "You're wrong," or "No, it isn't," are not substantial. Also, I don't tend to take anonymous stuff seriously at all. If you want to protect your privacy and stay out of public life - then stay out of public life and accept what that means. 

What does selling out mean?

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station agent
Update: Brad F has a response here where he takes issue with my logic and adds some new points on the topic.

Dinklage sez: I sort of learned not to accept those roles, where I'm playing a sight gag ... 

We, as organisms, have the ability to reflect on our world and lives and express ourselves. It's a natural state, it just happens. Art represents the many ways we communicate these ideas to others.

Once we were living in large enough communities, several issues came up. One biggie is art in the service of power. Like propaganda. Some fellow coined the phrase the pen is mightier than the sword. Another issue is art used to sell things, or the intersection of art and commerce. This is especially relevant today as we live in a global consumer age and the people who run it have the power. What effect does all this have on music and the cultural communities around it?

This is nothing new or controversial. Talking about these issues shouldn't bring up shock, panic or defensive behavior. But, I find that when I bring this idea up, especially in relation to the actions of PR and advertising companies in arts communities, it causes a lot of fuss - predictably, from people within the advertising/PR community themselves.

One rebuttal I often hear is that selling out is a dated concept and there's nothing wrong with making money from your work. 

(5/5) D&D Theory - zen gameplay vs. menu play

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Picture: Tavern scene. From The Temple of Elemental Evil (TSR) I can't identify the artist and five were used on the book.

Part one, the overview, is here. But if you're not into D&D then what's the point. Credits repeated at the end.

I first felt the need to define the original game mechanic after playing V3.5 and then 4th edition rules, both WotC games. Player characters now had so many skills, stats and powers that whenever they wanted to do something in the game, they looked at their list to choose an action. I felt this was odd and I call it menu play.

I got around this by drawing my group's attention to the idea of the DM having DM's discretion and being able to make their own calls at times. But, those systems really push into menu play. When deciding to go back to TSR, I wanted to clearly define what menu play was not.

(4/5) D&D Theory - the toolbox

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the inner sphere
Picture: The inner sphere. From The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (TSR) by Jeff Easley.

Part one, the overview, is here. But if you're not into D&D then what's the point. Credits repeated at the end.

This post is the most theoretical and throws up more questions than it answers. When comparing old school play with the linear story drive of the Dragon Lance series, we then ask what constitutes a good adventure? But we are talking about pre-written adventures. So first real question: if we like the old school play, do we need pre-written adventures at all?

Old school gamer and blogger James Maliszewki really likes TSR's The Lost City.

I played that early on too. What he likes about it is how the dungeon crawl, the suggested expansions and the minimal but idea laden background form a kind of toolbox.

Next Year's Love vinyl release @ 390

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Shanghai band Next Year's Love have made a new recording and are releasing it on vinyl.

Yeah, the vinyl thing is in the China scene now. There's a whole label for it in Beijing: Genjing Records. There's also a flagship store for vinyl and players in Shanghai: Uptown. All good stuff.

The release show will be on 17th of this month and feature:

The Macaronians

The show is also notable for being at the bar/venue Shanghai 390. It's new.

The bar is just opening and is at 390 Panyu (Fanyu) Lu. That's just around the corner from where old Logo was and thus not so far from Dada Bar either. Looking at the flyer, you get the 7" for free. Nice.

(3/5) D&D Theory - the Hickman revolution

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Picture: In your face, Total Recall. From Palace of the Silver Princess (TSR) by Erol Otus

Part one, the overview, is here. But if you're not into D&D then what's the point. Credits repeated at the end.

The Hickman revolution was a sea change in D&D gameplay that husband and wife team Tracy and Laura Hickman brought about with their Dragonlance series. It also had a series of novelizations and products that saw the game step up commercially. Some see it as a reaction against the Gauntlet play in favor of story driven play. That's a tough one as the old style has story too. 

Maybe it's best to let them speak for themselves. When writing for an earlier series called Nightventure, they outlined four key points:

The following are word for word quotes:

1) A player objective more worthwhile than simply pillaging and killing.
2) An intriguing story that is intricately woven into the play itself.
3) Dungeons with some form of architectural sense.
4) An attainable and honorable end within one or two sessions playing time.

(2/5) D&D Theory - the eternal dungeon

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Picture: Storoper entry from Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords (TSR) by Bill Willingham

Part One, the overview, is here. But if you're not into D&D then what's the difference. Credits at the end.

The first model is what I think of as The Eternal Dungeon or Gauntlet Play (after the old arcade game.) I realise these titles have negative connotations.

These are the features of original D&D (OD&D) and the early TSR games like 1st edition AD&D and Basic/Red Box. They are also the features embraced by old school D&D gamers.

- sandbox principle
- level one of dungeon : level one encounters principle
- high player freedom / participation
- OD&D door principle
- heavy use of random generation / tables
- luck element of game embraced

The fact that this idea of gameplay is usually positioned against the story-based Hickman ideas doesn't mean that it has no story. Me and my brother sometimes laid out the map of Greyhawk, took the travel times and random tables then just played a journey with no DM or preamble at all. As we went, we just improvised bits of story and built on that.

How to find 0093 rehearsal space

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0093 shanghai door
0093 is a legendary rehearsal space in Shanghai that was responsible for a boom in the scene with its super cheap fully equipped rooms.

After a brief enforced move shutdown during the Expo, they came back and have been vital again.

The biggest issue, however - is how to find the front door.

The regular rooms are 35 Yuan an hour (which you then split between the band) and the larger ones are 50. Here's the official address:

Qu Xi Lu (near Da Pu Lu) 1228

Tel: 6416 4645

It is notoriously hard to find the first time. So, look at the picture, opening it up if necessary. The shop on the corner is called Gua Gua Gong Zi and the street number is partially hidden below its sign. Then the door to 0093 is the one I have door-matted in bright green.

When you step through, it will look like you have entered the filthy back of a shitty restaurant complete with leaking fridges - you have! Turn immediately to your left and follow the fridges, then left again to find the top of the stairs - then go down and follow the passage until you come out to the studios.

Click for larger. 
Shows Gua Gua Gongzi in relation to the Line 4 Luban Lu Station.


I'm in Shanghai Talk this month

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parkour girl detail
Pic: Parkour Girl detail. From my novel Parkour Girl and Yellow Fish Car.

Shanghai Talk magazine have a 'summer reads' feature this month. They selected four authors to give their advice on what to read in Shanghai when the heat drives you inside ... and also let them plug their own books.

Editor Kerry Allen was nice enough to include me as one of the four authors.

If you can find the print version it looks great and is very well laid out. For the basic text and photo version, it can be found online here:

I give shout outs to 2000 A.D. and J.G. Ballard. Lets face it, either Shanghai or Guangzhou is going to be Mega City in the not too distant future.

(1/5) D&D Theory - overview

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Picture: Blackrazor from White Plume Mountain (TSR) by Bill Willingham

I recently blogged about the history of D&D here. I have played the game since I was around eleven including all its versions and incarnations.

I recently decided to go back to the TSR era for my next game and was thinking a lot about what I liked about the game, why the newer editions bothered me and how to approach writing for the new games. It turns out that a lot of other people are having the same thoughts and many of them are cerebral and good writers. 

So, I'm going to present four models of play or theories of the game that help to illustrate the issues I've been thinking on. They don't represent absolutes and there are many in-betweens.

Youtube: Early Androsace video

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Continuing with the theme of regular bands in Shanghai that are breaking up or changing, here's an older but cool looking video of Androsace. This is from when they supported White Eyes in 2010. 

They have recently had to stop all activities and refit after first losing the original bass player and then their Guitar player / songwriter Sasha. 

Xu Qi
Yuki, the bassist for Shanghai punk-metal-core band Dragon Pizza, just reminded me that their show on the 19th will be their last one ever.

That sucks. Dragon Pizza are one of the best live acts in town. They are great musicians, play a tight set and entertain too.

I bought my Shanghai guitar, the black Ibanez, from Xu Qi (pictured) when he worked at Blue Hand seven years ago, maybe more. 

The show is the Shanghai Punk Festival on Sunday 19th August at Yuyintang. Full details here. It features bands all day including the legends Top Floor Circus and Nanjing's Angry Jerks.
Here is a kind of diary video posted on Tudou by Shanghai based noise artist Arrebato. Arrebato does solo material under the name lllllllllllHH and has also performed regularly with Mai Mai and Torturing Nurse

Shanghai's noise scene is world famous, mainly down to the tireless output of Junky and Xu Cheng with Torturing Nurse.Their monthly showcases are under the moniker NOIShanghai.


My novel reviewed at China Rhyming

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book amazon.jpgMy novel Parkour Girl And Yellow Fish Car is starting to spread around a bit.

If you've not checked it out go to the lovely professional standalone site for it here if only for a quick peek.

Enter an underground world of Chinese vigilantes and heroes.

It has just been reviewed over at the blog China Rhyming which is written by Paul French. Paul is a prolific and respected author, especially on all things China, and his latest book is Midnight In Peking. 

Go here to find a list of his stuff.

Sea Change

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sea change
Photo by Ren Hang


I'm blogging again. That's the news.

But there will be a big change in the blog content. Things are changing and slowly moving for me, behind the scenes, and my needs for this space have changed.

More selfish needs, sorry.

Previously: this blog was a space to write about the Shanghai music scene. It had the following rough rules:

Try to post three times a week
95% of content about the shanghai music scene
Show diverse cross section regardless of tastes

Now the purpose has changed. Here is the new rough guidline to this blog:

Record, promote and discuss the range of my activities and interests

That will include the music scene, my own music, film, table top games, writing, my novels and screenplays, thoughts on DIY culture and Shanghai. So, if you want to only see vids and links about China music, just click the shanghai music scene category to filter all the other stuff out. If you don't know about the categories and the tags in blogs by now, there's not much else I can tell you. 

This also implies that I'm free from my perceived need to be uncritical about bands here. Well, I actually have a general belief that it's fairly pointless anyway, and that if you can link over and hear the music, I needn't describe or critique it much. So all that's probably going to stay the same. 

And follow me on Twitter if you do that (at)andybest72

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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