Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy birthday to my blog. We're two years old now and going strong. It has become quite a project to maintain every week, but I keep finding time to update regularly enough and I continue to enjoy doing it. Responses have been friendly and traffic continues to grow. I promise to keep adding content if you promise to check in occasionally. Send me ideas, questions, worries!

The past year, in particular, was very good in terms of culling a wider audience. It's not just my family and friends reading anymore, but complete strangers are finding the site and commenting on it. Some people I have never met read my site with even greater regularity than some of my loved ones. A testament to my ever-expanding efforts to produce content and content that transcends the interpersonal. A job in itself.

Statistically, it was a good year, as well. In June, I was mentioned in a post on Ron Silliman's Blog after writing a letter to him, and my hits jumped dramatically. Thanks, Ron! There was a big drop-off in July, when I went on vacation for two weeks and added nothing, but August and September were even higher than June, without the benefit of a blurb, and that's good news. I also had two e-books released in the past two months, which has continued to drive traffic to my site.

I averaged about five posts per month in the first year, but averaged about eight posts a month in year two. If you only look at the last six months, my average goes up to more than ten posts per month. Lastly, around the end of May of this year, I had my 1,000th visitor and now, at the end of October, I'm well into the 2,000s. So in four months, I've nearly doubled the amount of traffic that I'd had in the 18 previous months. Not bad.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Managed to attend a Halloween birthday party on Friday night. Most of us dressed up, although I was merely wearing a funny hat, which is a kind of lavender-colored faux-fur fez. I was saving my real costume for the Halloween carnival at school.

We met the guest of honor, Annie, and her entourage at a Japanese restaurant. Fourteen of us, in total. The food wasn't so nice, but the conversation was exceptional and, after almost three hours, we left to karaoke. I'm not a big fan of karaoke, but it was the finest, most spacious and well attended karaoke joint I'd been in. Giant, lighted marble tables, ample and lush seatingUnfortunately, there were almost no English songs and we just ended up freestyling for a while over songs we didn't know, which was mildly entertaining. After we'd exhausted all of our improvisational wherewithal, we moved to a cappella, which was nice and seemed to let more people really take the stage. Eventually, disappointed that we didn't fulfill our karaoke fix, the party moved on to a dance club to hear some real music. Angela and me bowed out citing early plans on Saturday and returned to our apartment. We arrived home about 1:30AM.

Antique Market - Angela, Marco & SimonaSaturday came and, as the travel agency was closed, we couldn't change the date on our return tickets to Italy. The office was no longer open on weekends. We lazed around for a few hours and then went out to get some lunch at a Western restaurant we'd been wanting to try for many months: Steak & Eggs. We had a great relaxing and lengthy breakfast, still working off our grogginess from the previous evening's debauchery. In the late afternoon, we met Marco and Simona, a couple we'd met in Japan who'd recently relocated to Beijing, to check out an antique market and had a fun time window shopping. Here's a picture of the three of them haggling. Maybe we'll go back and look for some Christmas presents in a few weeks...

Just in time for Halloween, I have a new poem appearing in the premier issue of Tales from the Moonlit Path, which is a horror genre publication. I have another poem in a new magazine from England called Parameter. It's a print journal, but my poem is featured on the website here. Take a look and let me know how you liked them or didn't!

Friday, October 28, 2005

I've been quite busy recently and, as a result, I've been less consistent with my posts. One more entry should appear this month, though, as I'm nearing the end of my second full year in this location and I want to assess my position in cyberspace as I move into the third year.

There's not much to write about aside from the weather, which has taken a chillier turn, but seems to be in a kind of flip-floppy phase as the season changes: one day it's foggy, one day it's nearly raining and overcast, one day it's gorgeously clear and sunny. Variety is the spice with weather as with all things. Today it is clear and brightly sunny. I can hear the wind clamoring at the window and, looking down to the street, see all of the trees swaying and shaking. Fortunately, it hasn't turned so cold that we've needed to break out our long underwear, yet.

No special plans this weekend, although we need to make reservations for a return trip to Italy in January during the Winter holiday. It is the Halloween weekend (Halloween's on a crummy Monday this year), but we haven't looked around for anything special to do. Hard to get excited about Halloween while living in China as they simply don't celebrate it. The Chinese always want to scare off spirits with a grip of firecrackers during weddings or funerals or the new year. Nonetheless, I will go to work in costume on Monday, as we're hosting a Halloween carnival at our school, and hope to post some nice pictures from that event, so stay tuned...

Monday, October 24, 2005

I heard that Wikipedia, a site I had been beginning to reference with more regularity, was blocked in China as of yesterday. It is one of the many great resources on the internet, maintained by users. It was a little difficult for me to locate tangible evidence about the block, aside from obscure IT and other technology sites, but I wouldn't consider myself a masterful internet user. Apparently, this is the second time Wikipedia has been blocked here. It seems strange that it would have been blocked at one time, later unblocked, and then blocked again, but that's just me. The more common blogsites have also been blocked in China for some time, as have sites with other sensitive content, not just the loose-cannon opinions of the masses.

Despite this kind of restriction, blogs continue to get more and more popular in places like China and elsewhere, which, for someone who condones proliferation for the sake of it, is a good thing. It's good on a basic level because it lets people write what they want to write. It's a writing revival! On other levels, the more creative among us have nurtured communities in which complete strangers can get involved and contribute to projects. Then all of the nooks-and-crannies people can dig around on the internet for it. The endless cyber-treasure hunt. Gen-X marks the spot.

One thing I don't like about blogs is the redundancy of information. Everyone wants to be the first kid on their block with the scoop. It's not unusual, I suppose, as bloggers strive for content just as news services do, but blogging allows for so much more. If your blog is just going to serve as a news service, I'm not going to read it.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Hosted a poker game on Friday evening which stretched far into the early morning. Spent yesterday on the couch watching DVDs. Listening to the World Series on the internet right now as I write this. It looks like a nice day outside, but it was quite cold yesterday and we turned our heater on for the first time. After cleaning the apartment and eating lunch, we're going shopping.

Received this message in an e-mail recently and thought I would add it to my mix here. I didn't really do any research to verify this information.
Typoglycemia

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid Aoccdrnig to rscheearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Such a cdonition is
arppoiately cllaed Typoglycemia :)-

Amzanig huh? Yaeh and yuo awlyas thought slpeling was ipmorantt.
If you want to take a closer look at this, click here. Just another one of the fun things I bring you.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

This site is certified 31% EVIL by the GematriculatorI found something called The Gematriculator. I'll leave it up to you to conduct your own investigations about it, but this is a website which hosts a mechanism for measuring the percentage of good or evil in a given text. The site claims to use a Finnish alphabet, in which Y is a vowel, but I don't know if that's true or not. It may also be that Finnish people are simply more or less good or evil than other people. I'm part Finnish, though, and just wanted to throw in that bit.

Naturally, I filtered my own blog and came up with this. Nearly one-third evil! The site also automatically generates this handy code for passersby, like myself and, conveniently, comes in two flavors: good and evil. In addition, after scouring your data, you can pour of the consequential details, such as the recurrences of certain words or the particular poignancy of others.

Monday, October 17, 2005

E-mail spam is nothing new to most of us. Mysterious folks have been sending out unwanted trash to unsuspecting inboxes for many years, and still continue to do so. In fact, some of our less savvy users are notorious for passing the trash unbeknownst to them. Recently, though, I've noticed a new trend in spam.

I'm always happy to find out that random people have stumbled across my blog, and even happier when they have posted a comment or sent me an e-mail about what they've read. In recent weeks, I've received some strange messages from people who have posted responses to my blog. Every time someone posts a comment, an e-mail is delivered to my account. Unfortunately, the messages don't seem to be responses to my posts at all. Someone has taken the time to, after having initiated some keyword search, go to my website and post some information about a related site or three, including links.

For example, I recently received a message from a guy who had a couple scar sites! I had mentioned in a blog post about one year ago that I had unsuspectingly earned a cold sore and, after an unsuccessful fight, became the proud owner of a new scar on the corner of my mouth. In another message, some guy in France wanted to let me know about his confectionery websites and that, in particular, in France, chocolate is spelled without the final e at the end so it's just chocolat. I received one message which was complete gibberish. They were spamming my blog!

Friday, October 14, 2005

The open mic at The Bookworm went well, as usual, and, those of us who stuck around moved to the rooftop and tried our hand at some spontaneous rapping or rhyming. It was fun as we played off of one another, sharing cigarettes and beer as the rain slowly spit down.

On the way home, around midnight, I got into a taxi and, as I was closing the door, it was hit by a three-wheeled bicycle cart after which the door would not shut. The driver immediately got out of the car and began arguing with the bicyclist. I tried to bang it shut a few times with no luck. Then, I got out of the car, also, and moved to the curb. Speaking no Chinese, I really had no idea what the two men were talking about so I thought I would wait or catch another cab thinking that I was without fault. The bicyclist pedaled off and the driver insisted that I get in the car, which I eventually did, assuming fearfully that he was taking me somewhere to destroy me. He chased down the bicyclist and cut him off in his cab, grabbed a large bolt-cutter from underneath his seat, and jumped out of the car shouting. I felt trapped in the car and thought it best to take some steps to get out of this situation. I called Angela.

She talked to the driver for a few minutes and then told me that she was on her way. So then we waited. At one point, while the two men were having another heated argument, I picked up my bag and slinked off only to be tracked down by the driver. In retrospect I should have started running as soon as I was out of sight and I don't really know why I didn't. After a while, perhaps 30 minutes, they tried to get me, from what I could understand, to give them some money. They were asking for five with some Chinese characters behind it, but I couldn't understand. I didn't really want to give them any money, especially as I thought it wasn't my fault, but I insisted on waiting. Angela, Marco and Simona eventually showed up (I had given them the wrong directions), and Angela, after speaking with the men and examining the car door, thought it best to call the police. It was around 1AM and we were looking at a much longer night. All of us had to work the next morning. The driver said he would be happy if we gave him 50 RMB, which we did, and then went home ourselves. On the way home, Angela received a call back from the police asking where we were and she told them that we had taken care of it. Who knows how long we would have been there had we waited for the police to sort things out. We may have even had to take a little trip somewhere.

It's cold and sunny today. It has been getting progressively colder over the past week. No more lounging around out-of-doors, sitting at curbside bars and restaurants or in parks, now that it's a little uncomfortable. We also had a few days of spitting rain last week, but nothing that made us run for cover. Winter is coming, though, and, in a way, I'm looking forward to it. I'm not sure why. Deep down inside I'm a home body and, I suppose, the possibility of staying at home, out of the cold, watching movies and reading books, is promising.

At school, we're getting ready for our annual Halloween carnival. Me and some of my coworkers took a trip to a nearby market to track down some Halloween essentials, but left empty handed aside from a few feather masks. Mainly, we were hoping to drum up some Halloween decorations. We went to a Chinese market to search, which was a mistake, and we really need to hit an ex-pat grocery store to get what we need. Personally, I'm hoping to find some makeup so I can put on a nice skull face.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

On the poetry front, I had another e-book released last week at Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry. It's called Hungry Flowers and it is a sample of some poems from a larger collection I've put together called A Kind of Weathervane. I'm hoping to get it published soon. Hint, hint. Click here to download Hungry Flowers or use the handy link in the list on the left side of this page.

In other news, publications in journals has been slow lately. I've tapered off the submissions somewhat, mostly due to a busier personal world, but there's work out there. I'm sprinkling the poems around a little less often, but still continuing to do so. I'm addicted. Sometimes, though, the poems go out and are never heard from again, but that's just the nature of the beast.

Finally, my gig at The Bookworm has been growing steadily and we're coming off our best show last week. There were over 30 onlookers and about 15 or so participants which made for well over one hour of literary entertainment. Everyone seemed to bring out their best work and the highlight of the show, in my mind, was my coworker, Hooyia, who sang a beautiful poem in Chinese which brought down the house. Zhou, a Chinese writer who has become a Wednesday night regular, recorded the event on his little digital jobber and I hope to release that soon in some form so y'all can catch a little whiff of this word jam session. Assuming that works without a hitch, I'll try to begin streaming these things live in the near future!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Back to work today, Saturday, which serves as payback for having all of last week off. The day went relatively smoothly and now I'm back in the real world again and out of the personal world wherein I had hidden out for a few days playing a computer game and smoking too many cigarettes. People don't look at you funny if you tell them you stayed home all day watching movies and eating junk food on your day off. Well, most people. I haven't played a computer game in about 18 months, which is impressive considering how much I used to play them. At one period in my life, I spent every possible moment outside my job in a computer game. Very unproductive, evil, little time-killers which give you odd dreams and make your eyes feel funny. A demanding lifestyle.

Went to the final night of the MIDI Music Festival with Angela. Immediately began slurping down 5 RMB Yanjings. We met Zhou (sounds like: Joe), Josh and a woman from Josh's work and her friend. The final band of the night was a Chinese death metal band. I'm not sure if death metal is the right term for it, but you get the idea. They sounded good and it was a nice change from the previous, more pop-ish, groups. We noticed a naked Chinese guy crowd-surfing, which seemed unusual. First, he was wearing his jacket and had his pants around his ankles while eager crowd members lifted him around. Then he disappeared. I wanted to go into the pit, and did just that, but it wasn't nearly as violent as what I had come to expect from such things in America. It was more like an elementary school game in which people lined up along one edge of the circle holding hands (I couldn't help thinking "red rover, red rover"), and then the hand-holding line of dudes would charge across the pit. It made me feel like a tough guy to storm around in there pretending to be a badass.

Went back to my group and Angela said she wanted to go into the pit, seeing that I had survived unscathed and smiling, and we barged back through the crowd to the front of the stage. There was a nice strong smell of sweat and something else and we were safe in a kind of buffer zone between the pit and the people getting smashed into the retaining wall in front of the stage. "There's a naked guy!" Angela shouted at me. "Yeah," I said, and we watched him for a few minutes, dangling around above us as people shuffled him to and fro. His clothes had been completely stripped and now he was really naked. He disappeared, again and people seemed to swarm around the place where he'd down. The pocket collapsed briefly and then expanded suddenly, and we could easily see the reason for the sudden change. Naked Chinese man had started peeing out in the crowd for all of us to watch, which was our cue to return to the more civilized extremities of the audience, and where the rest of our small group was watching.

The show ended and we stood around talking for a while. Josh's coworker and her friend left only to be replaced by another couple of girls Josh had met through Asian Friend Finder and had been at the concert for a few hours looking for him. We took our group down to Wudaoko and stopped to get something to eat. Angela had to work the next day, and was going home after eating, but the rest of us were going to another club to continue to feed our desire to see even more live Chinese rock music. Seth and Cory were waiting for us having engineered the continuation of our evening. After a couple more beers at the club and a little impromptu dance to some reggae music in between acts, I split.

Monday, October 03, 2005

On Sunday mornings, our neighbors usually break out the karaoke machine and sing loudly for hours over the equally loud music. If you're in your house singing, do you really need a microphone? I suppose you do, especially if you want to hear yourself at a high volume over the high volume of the music. We usually drown it out with some of our own music, which our neighbors probably find equally disturbing. They stopped about an hour ago. As I write this, someone is taking a beating nearby. I can hear the slaps, the shouting and the screaming. An enraged Chinese man is obviously doing the dirty work, but I can't tell if it's a child or a woman on the receiving end. I guess those things happen everywhere. The sobering beginning of my afternoon...

The Chinese seem to do almost everything in a loud manner. There are actually advertisements on buses, TV commercials (that's right, TV on the buses, although, surprisingly, I can never hear them) which remind citizens to refrain from excessively loud behavior in public places, such as talking on the phone on trains or rambunctious dining. When I first arrived, almost fourteen months ago, and began to notice how Chinese people communicated with each other, I thought they were always arguing, but I've since learned that they're just very animated when they interact. It takes a little while to get used to it.

It's not only people, but other things, as well, which are done at a high volume. I've mentioned car-horn honking before, which is a regular serenade of impatience, but there's more. At 7:30AM every morning, I can hear a song blaring from the school across the street from our apartment. My coworker, Seth, who lives in the building next to ours, tells me that it's a Carpenter's song, but I'm not familiar enough with their music to say with certainty. Then, at 8:00AM, if anyone missed the first song, The Blue Danube waltzes the neighborhood awake. At my own school, Hickory Dickory Dock reminds us that class is either beginning or finishing.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Recent days have become a blur. It's hard to sit back and remember what I'd done only a few days ago. Quite a change from last year at this time when Angela and me were dying to meet other people. Now, with added responsibilities at our jobs and an increasingly expansive social circle, it seems like we hardly have a free night anymore. Be careful what you wish for. I'm only half-complaining, though. The excitement is nice and it really makes time fly.

Last night, we met two other couples (Marianna & Seth, and Cory & Katie) and, after eating together, hopped into cabs to find the Midi Music Festival. An event planned by The Beijing Midi School of Music featuring 45 Chinese punk and rock bands, the festival lasts over four consecutive days. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to enter on the opening day of the festival, but we planned to return on Monday to see the band Hang on the Box among the other acts. While looking for a bathroom, we unwittingly found ourselves inside the park, purchased beers and sat down behind the stage to enjoy the final songs of the last act. I don't think any of us were disappointed, even though we thought there would be music until midnight.

After the show ended, we made our way to the street and discovered that there was nary a cab to be had. A bus was waiting to take whoever wanted to go to the Nameless Highland Bar for more live music. We paid 40 RMB to enter the bar, which had a rustic wood interior and wooden tables, a large stage, old communist pictures and posters on the walls, and an upper level with booths around the stage. I was impressed.

The first band was fantastic, as well as surprising: World on a String from Denmark. The group featured an acoustic guitarist, an upright bassist, an electronic violinist and a tabla player. The musicians were quite accomplished and the combinations of those instruments was unique. I was captivated and clearly showed my appreciation by hooting and cheering periodically during their performance. The second band was Amores Perros SWE from Sweden and they were much more of a typical pop-rock band. After being blown away by the first band, we weren't nearly as impressed with the second, but stayed for the rest of their set and returned home around 12:30AM. All things considered, we'd had a great time.