Thursday, May 31, 2012


Our friend Nick came for dinner last night. He works for Anglo-German lawyers Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. He used to work in their Beijing office (his & our children went to the same school) but returned to London a year ago; he's back here for a business trip so we're catching up. 
Freshfields are the legal providers to the London Olympics, appointed 5 years ago. It's a huge job, and get this, they do it for free! (or pro bono as they say in the business. What does that mean? 'For the good'? They're in favour of U2?). Anyway, aside from the big stuff (buildings contracts, sponsorship deals, health & safety etc etc), they've been involved in the following procurement and contractrual activities:  
- saving more than 2,000 endangered newts, including arranging their removal, safehousing and return to the pool after construction of the Velopark site; 
- design, engineering and manufacturing contracts for 10,000 Olympic Torches;
- hiring 100,000 portaloos;
- procuring 90 training dolls for wrestling;
- agreements for 4,500 medals produced by the Royal Mint, using just under 3000kg of gold, silver and bronze, plus arranging their safekeeping in the Tower of London vault;
- contracts with artists such as Tracey Emin for the Olympic posters (wot we're showing in China);
- pretending to be a horse, while driving a golf buggy. All in the course of checking safety procedures for equestrian events;
- white-water rafting: riding the rapids to test the course.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sold, to the Man in the Baseball Cap & Sneakers

I have never been to an auction. My brother Patrick goes regularly. And I know my mum went because I once saw her on the BBC's evening news coming out of one in London ("That's my mum!"). Perhaps she was selling the family jewels? One day I'll go, if not to buy something then just for the experience. 
This afternoon the Ambassador and I met some people from a top UK auction house. You can probably guess which one, it's either X or Y. They're in the process of 'getting into China', a long haul, spiked with regulatory headaches, local protectionist interests and mafia-like bidding wars. (At a recent Beijing auction, one successful bidder was roughed up by his defeated, leather-jacket-with-shades opponent in full sight of everyone). 
There's certainly money to be made. China's art market bubble may have burst a few years ago but it's back to normal, non-inflated, almost sensible levels now. And of course there's other commodities: apparently rare wines are the in-thing now. A bottle of 1869 Chateau Lafite sold at auction in Hong Kong last year for $233,973. Presumably one doesn't actually drink it?
Funny story as we were saying our goodbyes about Leonardo DiCaprio. He's got an eye for buying art but not great at maintaining anonymity. His ploy is to dress down which, in a room full of suited bidders, backfires stupendously.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Moment

Jill & Jane dropped by the office this afternoon to discuss the onward Rockarchive tour. They brought gifts, one of which was a nice coffee-table book from a while back called The Moment, capturing 25 years of Jill's photography through to the mid-90s.  The design looked uncannily familiar... until I realised it looks exactly like a box of Ilford photographic paper. Anyway, I read it from cover-to-cover this evening. She did lots, including tons with The Face which I'd forgotten about. It ends with Oasis, with whom Jill would be closely associated for the next 10 years. At the time, however, their future was not so secure: "They'll never last", she wrote.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Depicting Cash

Today I had a good look at my money. Not my bank balance, but what's printed on Chinese bank notes. Mao's on the front of each one (he wasn't always; it used to be various leaders & workers), and on the backs are different, rather beautiful landscapes: the People's Congress Hall in Beijing (100RMB), the Potala Palace in Lhasa (50), the Li River in Guilin (20), the Qutang Gorge on the Yangtze River (10), Mt Tai in Shandong province (5) and West Lake in Hangzhou (1). You can go on a tour of them all - see here
Also on the back, top right, are the words Zhongguo Renmin Yinhang (People's Bank of China), written in Mandarin pinyin, Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur and Zhuang.
I just checked to see what's on the back of British notes - honestly, I didn't know! So let's hear it for Matthew Boulton & James Watt with their steam engine (£50), Adam Smith with an illustration of The division of labour in pin manufacturing (!?) (£20), Charles Darwin with a hummingbird & The Beagle (£10), and Elizabeth Fry reading to prisoners in Newgate Prison (£5). Am I alone in thinking this a fairly odd selection?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rockarchive Slightly Delayed

The truck carrying our Rockarchive exhibition finally made it to Beijing last night but we couldn't access its precious cargo till this morning. So it didn't actually get delivered to the gallery until 1pm, giving us six hours to install it ahead of the rescheduled opening party. 
But no time to worry about that, as photographer Jill Furmanovsky gave a talk to a large, young and mainly female audience upstairs. Her first assignment was photographing Yes at The Rainbow in 1972, aged 18, and since then she's shot just about everyone. All very nostalgic for me and new for the audience, whose questions afterwards were passionate & plentiful.
By the time we came down to the gallery the exhibition was hung, lit and captioned - amazing! And in the end the opening was well-attended and good fun. I'd recorded a 5-hour compilation of five decades of Brit rock which on shuffle made for an interesting evening where The Beatles followed Bomb The Bass followed Blur followed Bowie. But what really made the evening special was Liz and the girls being there, the latter sitting cross-legged on the floor as Jill and I delivered our speeches. Naomi was particularly happy that the Pet Shop Boys were in. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Null points

While England scraped a 1:0 victory in the footie against Norway today, they were hammered by Sweden 372:12 in the Eurovsion song contest. Engelbert Humperdink may not have been the oldest contestant - that particular acolade went to Buranovskiye Babushki, the six-strong group of pensioners nicknamed The Russian Grannies - but at 76 one has to wonder what the selection committee was thinking. I've never really understood why we don't simply send Robbie Williams or Adele or even Radiohead. I suppose if they didn't win it would finish their careers. Still, we didn't finish last. That honour went to Norway. So, bad day all round for them - as if they cared.    

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rock Bottom

A truck, somewhere in China
Well, I always knew the festival would be a rollercoaster ride, and today we had our first low point. The truck carrying our Rockarchive exhibition from Chengdu to Beijing was supposed to arrive first thing this morning, but for reasons that are still unclear (breakdown, accident, traffic, wrong turning?), it is stuck in Shaanxi province  Cue rest of the day frantically trying to contact the 150+ people who said they'd be coming for tonight's opening, figuring out what day would be safe to reschedule, and giving the transport company hell. 

Fresh off the plane at lunchtime, photographer Jill Furmanovsky took it well (better than I did...) and we went ahead with interviews in the gallery with blank walls providing a forlorn backdrop. Still, everyone's being sanguine about it, 'these things happen', 'not the end of the world' etc. We've rescheduled for Sunday evening. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Liz and I went to a music event tonight that wasn't part of UK Now: an hour-long recital featuring 5-10 year-olds, including our two girls. They're learning the piano, as their mum did before them, and performed their two pieces (When the Saints... and When We Grow Up) with aplomb. Other standouts were two boys trumpeting the Theme from Titanic and another two on drums & guitar playing Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here of all things.
I never learnt an instrument. There were half-hearted attempts on the recorder (the world's most boring instrument?). I would have liked guitar or piano lessons but for some reason it never happened. Ironic, then, that I formed a 'band', but thanks to punk's Just-Do-It ethos, that's what so many teenagers did in the late 70s. And playing 'experimental' music covered a multitude of sins...
We don't push our two too much (unlike some), but recently they've really got into it and will wander over to the piano - which we're lucky to have - to tickle the ivories. Or plastic in our case.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Retro gadgets

Fantastic Google Doodle today: an interactive Moog synth on which you can play not only notes, but control the tone, the VCOs, VCFs, and envelope. They even show you how to play  Kraftwerk's Autobahn riff. Whatever will they think of next? 

And let's hear it for another retro gadget, the Flash-matic - the first TV remote, whose inventor Eugene Polley died on Sunday. He worked at Chicago's Zenith Electronics for 47 years and came up with the Flash-matic in 1955.  Looking like a cross-between a sci-fi gun and a hair-dryer, it 'fired' a visible beam of light at the TV set, initially just controlling on/off and changing channels. Couch-potatoes of the world, you owe him a pint in the afterworld.   

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Talking of 70s has-beens, my friend Wolfgang sent me this ad for an upcoming Tangerine Dream concert at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, as part of the appallingly named Electric Manderine [sic] tour 2012. Funnily enough, that's where I last saw them, I think some 15 years ago. Even then they were 'diversifying' into AOR short tracks, none of which registered, apart from a version of The House of the Rising Sun of all things.
So now TD look like The Eagles. One has to admire Edgar Froese's stamina. He will be 68 in a fortnight. That's him in the hat. In a way, he's come full circle, having started out with a rock band called The Ones in the mid 60s. It's a million miles from Phaedra...

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Death of Disco

RIP not only Donna Summer late last week but also the Bee Gees' Robin Gibb yesterday, aged 63 & 62 respectively, both from cancer. They are not extensively represented in my record collection, but while immersed in late 70s new wave, krautrock and prog, I could still find time for these two peerless proponents of disco. 
Donna Summer's I Feel Love was, of course, A Very Important Record. I still have the original 7" from 1977 and the later Gary Cowley remixed 12". Interestingly, it came out during the recording of Low, and Bowie is on record as saying: "One day in Berlin ... Eno came running in and said, 'I have heard the sound of the future.' ... he puts on 'I Feel Love'... He said, 'This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.' Which was more or less right". Of course it was mainly Moroder, but without Summer's orgasmic tones (taken to extremes on Down Deep Inside), it would probably have amounted to nothing.
Perhaps I wouldn't have admitted it at the time (a guilty pleasure), but the the Bee Gees' tight-trousered falsettos were almost as compelling, especially circa Saturday Night Fever in 1978, the soundtrack to some clumsy forays onto the dance floor for anyone of my generation. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Outsider Art

Much of the day spent with the Stegers in 798, but not work for once - just strolling around the galleries and shops, and finally got to see the last day of the Gu Dexin's retrospective exhibition at UCCA. Interesting guy: no formal training, my age so grew up in the Cultural Revolution, after which he started producing weird, 'outsider art' drawings & paintings of many-breasted humanoids. He then got into repetition and large installations of fruit, meat and plastic before giving up art altogether in 2009 and returning to lead a 'normal life' in the same residential Beijing compound he grew up in. 
Anyway, interesting show . The large steamroller-with-apples installation (see pic) has decomposed and now stinks to high heaven. 
Talking of squash, Markus and I had a game - my first for a year - when we got home.   

Saturday, May 19, 2012


This morning I met Peter Aspden, a journalist from the FT, over breakfast. He's going to write a piece on UK Now, so we're briefing him and showing him around. But aside from that, it's my first free weekend since the festival began. Meanwhile Marcus & Caroline are doing a 10km run along the Great Wall. The question is, will Marcus and I manage to watch the Bayern-Chelsea Euro Final tonight at 4am or whenever. I doubt it...

Friday, May 18, 2012

They're back

From an empty home, our flat is all of a sudden full of people. Alyssa & Naomi are home from their school trips, Liz is back from Shanghai (refreshed), and the Steger family are visiting - all arriving at about the same time. Lovely to see everybody. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Party time

Eight weeks into the festival, we finally got around to having a launch party this evening at the Ambassador's residence. We'd had small 'regional' launches in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Chengdu, but this was the big one. 700+ people packed into HMA's house and garden with performers on stilts, the inevitable string quartet, a jazz band, DJ Goldierocks, VJ Noise of Art, fish & chips, caterers with groovy UK Now aprons... 
It was a heck of a job organizing, but I've got to say it went fantastically well. Good mix of Chinese & Brits, Important People (Jeremy Browne MP, Minister for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, dropped by on his way back from Korea), Beijing's arts set, sponsors, media... Really good atmosphere and thank you God for the weather. The security guards at the gate said it was the biggest thing that had ever been done there, and they're the ones who really know. Afterwards a dozen of us headed to the nearest bar, commandeered a table on the street outside and drank till 2am. Relief.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Water into Wood

Naomi's turn to go on her residential - to Wulingshan, north-east of Beijing; as excited as her big sister. And Liz is off as well, to Shanghai for a couple of nights. So I'm on my tod for a bit.
But no peace for the wicked. Amongst everything else today, we had Michael Craig-Martin in town. He's judging the special UK-China John Moores Paintng Prize in Shanghai but has popped up to Beijing in connection with our Olympic Posters exhibition, interviews and I did a talk wth him at UCCA. Nice guy. He's best known for teaching Damien Hirst and the YBA set at Goldsmiths, but of course has a large body of his own work behind him, starting off with An Oak Tree, which comprises a glass of water on a shelf and some text below - the latter 'proving' that the glass of water is in fact an oak tree. The rest of his work is rather less austere and a whole lot more colourful. One thing I didn't know, however, is the fact that he's quarter-Chinese through his grandmother or great grandmother, I forget which.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


So Naomi is 8 years old today. A low-key affair really as she had her party last Saturday and Alyssa's not here. But she opened prezzies this morning over breakfast, Liz took cupcakes into school for the class and we took her out for dinner at a restaurant of her choice. "I'd like to eat Thai". Then Thai it shall be.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mancini Woah

Completely missed all the Premier League excitement yesterday (which took place around midnight China time). I miss all that. Anyway, glad City won through - makes a change. I bet Fergie's fuming. I gather there's a Mancini chant which goes something like this: 
Mancini Woah 
Mancini Woah   
He come from Italy  
To manage Man City
Mancini Woah
Mancini Woah...
Perhaps there'll be a single, to join the ranks of Leeds Leeds Leeds and Ossie's Dream (both of which I have).
On an equally thrilling note, Alyssa went off on a week-long school residential this morning - to Xi'an, lucky girl. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

DJ Culture

A morning and afternoon of welcome domesticity - or at least taking the girls to & from dance classes - then back to 798. This time for a talk between Samantha Hall (otherwise known as DJ Goldierocks) and Zhang Youdai, also a DJ but, more importantly, one of the key movers & shakers in China's rock scene (see post a few days ago). But I got the time wrong and arrived just as it was ending. Not a disaster -  luckily my colleague Yuxi introduced it - and actually I caught some Q&A and a Chinese electronic duo by the name of Nova Heart who Youdai had brought along.
Afterwards Youdai invited a bunch of us to dinner at a place called China Lounge. Cue incredulous expressions as they got in their cars and I got on my bike for the 4-mile journey back into town. 
Sam's an interesting character. She's the compere for Selector, the radio show that the British Council franchises around the world - 30 countries and counting. In China it's broadcast in Beijing, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Wuhan. Apparently the Guinness Book of Records have got in touch as it may be the world's most widely broadcast radio programme? She's got incredibly eclectic taste, mixing all sorts in a weekly one-hour show. Nice evening, though awkward moment at the end as we wondered who was picking up the tab. I did.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Olympic Dancing Birthday Party

Hectic day trying to combine Naomi's 8th birthday party with three UK Now events. Luckily, Naomi wanted to bring her friends to this great pottery shop-cum-gallery in 798 where you can paint mugs & pots & ceramics puppies, followed by food & cake at a cafe just round the corner - and just round another corner were two of my events. Perfect! So, that went well, followed by... 

...A talk by Akram Khan's producer, Farooq Chaudhry, on the Business of Dance. Interesting guy. Pakistani family, raised in London, tearaway, car-stealer, did time, reformed, enrolled at Sussex University (while I was there but I didn't know him), danced for 12 years or so, much of which was in Belgium for Rosas (pretty much my favourite dance company), retired, did an MA in Arts Management at City University (again while I was there but we didn't meet), met Akram Khan, persuaded him that he needed a producer and the rest is history. Great story.
... Followed by the opening of our Olympic Posters exhibition at Red Star Gallery. Not a big affair: a dozen prints by a dozen artists - all top notch: Tracey Emin, Martin Creed, Rachel Whiteread, Howard Hodgkin, Bridget Riley, Michael Craig-Martin, Chris Ofili etc. The artists were asked to give their visual interpretation of what the Olympic and Paralympic Games meant to them, which inevitably results in a mix of beautiful, weird, conceptual, simple, incomprehensible etc which I'm sure the UK media has batted around at length. 

...And finally Liz and I got to see Akram Khan Dance Company perform Vertical Road at the NCPA (where else?). Brilliant stuff, even with an injured dancer. Deep, primitive, challenging, in a very different way to the above - and with Nitin Sawhney's great music booming out of the speakers.  About 400 of the audience stayed for the after-show talk. A long art-filled day, even by normal standards.   

Friday, May 11, 2012

Half Time Hiccough

End of the week, but the start of a busy weekend. Accompanied the Ambassador to a concert by the Scottish Ensemble this evening at Beijing Concert Hall. They're a strings-only group of 14 musicians and (apart fron the double bass and two cellos) play standing, which gives them a nice, casual style. Interesting programme of Grieg, Tavener, Tchaikovsky and (best of all) Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony, enthusiastically received by - somewhat to my surprise - a full house. But a badly behaved full house nonetheless: constant fidgeting, coughing, talking, children going to the toilet midway through pieces, the constant clunk of an annoying photographer right in front of us, the rustling of sweet wrappers and at one stage someone having what sounded like a fit. But the Scottish Ensemble scored an own goal too. At interval time, their artistic director Jonathan Morton said a few words in English while the rest of the musicians left the stage for what we thought would be a normal, say, 15 minute break, but at the end of his speech it became clear that it was only for 5 mins. It was then translated, but too late, half the audience had gone. The musicians came back, started up again, and the audience filtered back in during Tavener's Tears of the Angels. So, a draw. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cassette Culture

This morning I received a cassette in the post. I know vinyl is making a comeback (of sorts), but cassettes? Apart from fogeys like me, who has cassette-players these days?  They take me back... to Boots, BASF and TDK Ds which were pretty lo-fi. Memorex (with their fancy cases and Pete Murphy ads) were OK, but my staple was a good old TDK AD C90, an album a side.
I don't think I ever have had a proper cassette release of a major album (except, bizarrely, PFM's Photos of Ghosts which my sister bought back from Italy). But in the early 80s DIY cassette labels (including my own, YHR) were all over the place, pushing out the weird & the wonderful and the wretched. And then there were the compilations and mix tapes which joined football and beer as top bloke hobby. I still have boxes of the stuff in storage somewhere; in fact I even have a caseful here in Beijing.
And what was the cassette I received today? Wicked Messenger's very dark & dreamy Infinite Presence - which sits nicely next to a TG Live at the Architectural Association and Conrad Schnitzler's Black Cassette.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Super Mario

OK, strategising over, so leave the hotel and go straight to a meeting about more imminent things - in this case a Mario Testino exhibition. We'd known about the prospect of this for several months but it was all hanging in the balance. Now all systems go with a frighteningly soon opening date, just 4 weeks away at Beijing's Today Art Museum. OK, he's Peruvian, but has lived and worked out of London for years, so we're claiming him, and His People are keen for the show to be part of UK Now. I met him once, 10 years ago, when his big Portraits exhibition came to Tokyo. For all the bling and model friends, he seemed a nice chap.    

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Two days away from my desk, 15 of us in a downtown hotel, figuring out BC China's next three years. I get jittery thinking of all the emails piling up and stuff that needs doing back in the office. But it's been good, pretty focused, and actually quite refreshing to Be Somewhere Else, and to talk about long term things instead of organizing an event next week. And I've got to say, the hotel does a great buffet lunch.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Short History of Chinese Rock

Cui Jian, flagging
Following the talk on Chinese rock music (yao gun) by Jonathan Campbell (see 17 March post), I got around to reading the book. It's good. Hard to imagine what it was like in the early 80s when, despite things opening up, there was simply no pop or rock anywhere in China, nothing, zero. Even when Wham! visited in 1985 it was a Major Event. Things like electric guitars and electronic keyboards and computerised lighting systems and big PAs and high production values were simply unknown. And they sang about regular things like you and me, and waking you up before you go-go.
The first rock band in China was apparently Wan Li Ma Wang. They did covers (nothing so unusual about that - The Stones were pretty much the same when they started out). The first influential artist was Teresa Teng, a pop singer, and she was from Taiwan. Nothing exceptional, but she struck a chord with many on the mainland. The first real bona fide mainland rock star, however, was Cui Jan who had a hit with the (fairly controversial) song 'Nothing to my Name'. Then, for some reason, Heavy Metal took over, with bands like Tang Dynasty, Black Panther etc. China loves HM.
In the 80s and even into the 90s, there were very few places to play, hardly any record labels (the main ones were in Taiwan and Hong Kong - and in any case most people heard stuff on cassette compilations), no management, no magazines... In the early 90s a young guy calling himself Youdai - which means "have cassettes"! - started a series of radio shows in Beijing which became incredibly influential. He was the only one, for example, allowed to play Cui Jian. (I've met him: nice chap). In Shanghai Sun Mengjin did a similar thing. Festivals started happening, management came in, even indie labels.
The Chinese rock scene is now pretty developed. There is alt and grunge and dance and experimental. More western bands come in, and some Chinese bands get to play abroad and generally things are fairly relaxed. But, like elsewhere in the world now, it's getting increasingly hard to sell records, so a lot of the scene is a live scene. To be honest, I barely know it. It takes a lot of perseverance (and a fair bit of language know-how) to throw yourself into it. I'm just inching into it.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

St Paul's

Alyssa and I built a teriffic model of St Paul's Cathedral today. Dead fiddly but substantial and satisfying. I told her how my friend Andrew and I once made meticulous plans to cover the real thing in bread & butter, and tested it out - with one slice - exactly 25 years ago. It stuck. But unfortunately left a stain... which is still there last time I looked. Bad daddy.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Spies and Bicycles

Never mind running a festival, Alyssa's 10th birthday party put UK Now into the shade. Days of preparation finally resulted in a complex spy-themed afternoon of fun and intrigue for 12 girls. Liz did the lion's share and a great job she did too. Exhausting...
Afterwards we slumped on the sofa to watch Beijing Bicycle... finally. It's been comical; we've been trying to watch it for a year. The first DVD we bought ended up Chinese only despite boasting English subtitles on the package. The second simply didn't work. The third was in German (fine for Liz if not for me). We then tried to see it at MOMA art-house cinema but got the wrong day. But finally we watched it. And it was disappointing. It's a sort of re-make of the classic Italian The Bicycle Thieves from 1948, but transplanted to Beijing. It was well acted and the tension between the naieve young migrant and more knowing urban teen was OK, but it just went round & round in circles, much like the wheels of the eponymous bicycle.   

Friday, May 4, 2012

A light read

Two books on the go, both about China, but very little time to read these days. One is Colin Thubron's Behind the Wall, an acknowledged classic from the 80s as China was opening up. It's beautifully written (perhaps overly so) and has that certain thoroughness of approach which characterizes all his books - like learning Chinese in advance of the trip. The other is J Maarten Troost's Lost on Planet China which is from the Vonnegut-Bryson School of Writing. I love Kurt Vonnegut for his humorous, surreal fiction of short sentences, shorter words and unsophisticated grammar; and I love Bryson for how he introduced humour into travel writing. There must have been witty travelogues before him but I can't think of any. Anyway, Troost combines pithy with witty, and right now it's about all my addled brain can cope with.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Liz's birthday

Liz's birthday. Presents over breakfast, an intensive morning in the office, then took the afternoon off to... look at computers. Romantic huh? Along with the rest of the world, we are considering going Apple. But which one? iMac, Powerbook, Air, iPad... 500GB or 1 TB? a 17" screen or 21.5"? So sleek, so seductive, so expensive. In the evening we went to our local Vietnamese, children in tow. So not much romance there either!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Agricultural Potato Scam

Just across the road from my office is a large assortment of buildings dating from 1959  collectively called the Agricultural Exhibition Centre. Contrary to its name, it's not limited to farming stuff (though interestingly there's a slight whiff of it): this afternoon Liz & I popped in to see the annual Art Beijing Fair.  We met a Brit exhibitor with a small stand who said she'd been approached by some sort of business consortium for a very large order for work, requesting her to come to their hotel as they were too busy to do the deal at the Fair. It had all the makings of a scam, so she didn't go.
On a lighter note, I received an email today with the subject header: Potato Storage - Top Urgent!  Ironically, this was not a scam, though I have left it to others to decide where to store Tony Cragg's Potato Heads in between Beijing and Chengdu showings. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tianjin tat

A public holiday today, so we stayed on in Tianjin and explored a bit. There are still pockets of European Concession architecture, like the 1860s Astor Hotel here, a long street lined with imposing, columned British, French, Japanese, Russian etc banks, and some fine 1930s houses in another part. And yet, and yet... it was all a bit sterile. Possibly because it was a public holiday, but then you'd expect more people out & about? Worse was Ancient Culture Street which turned out to be Brand New Tat Street: a soulless, gentrified, cobbled quarter of tacky tourist trash. Depressing. So that's Tianjin ticked off, as we whistled home on the intercity train at 300kph.  
PS. Talking of tat, there's going to be a huge Chinese-US film production complex built on the edge of Tianjin called - wait for it - Chinawood.