Farmer Wang was Busy Today

Last night, round about midnight, I heard one loud boom (like a crack of thunder). Shortly thereafter, it rained. Hmmm. Farmer Wang must have been out shooting at the clouds with his rain gun.
This morning we awoke to cooler temps, lower humidity, clean air, and gorgeous views of the mountains. Nice to know that they are still there!  The same thing happened again mid-morning.  Boom, then a shower! Farmer Wang doing his bit to serve the motherland.

It rained in Beijing today, and lo, all the people were glad!

UPDATE:  It’s nice to know that I’m not the only who noticed the mysterious things that went BOOM in the night. Others in Beijing were noticing as well.

Behind the Headlines

The AP today has another story on the tug-of-war going on behind the scenes between the government and broadcasters as the countdown to August 8 draws closer.  Promises of free and unfettered access for foreign media given at the time of the bid are being rescinded, either directly or by red tape and the issuing of ‘new regulations.’

The Beijing Olympics may not look much different from previous games on TV. Behind
the studio sets, however, world broadcasters have been squaring off for
months with Chinese officials over censorship. Among the issues: what
they’ll be allowed to get on video, where they can work and whether
they can broadcast live. They’ve faced red tape, intimidation and
restrictions on coverage, which might make it difficult to cover
unexpected events away from the venues……Despite gleaming venues and 70,000 smiling volunteers, the image of
Beijing Olympics may become that of police waving their hands in front
of cameras, hoping to block photos. This happened several weeks ago
when a reporter for German TV ZDF — a rights holder — had a live
interview stopped on the Great Wall of China. Police walked in front of
the camera and showed their open palms to the lens.Correspondent
Johannes Hano said he had the correct permits, and permission from
countless authorities. He was told to stop his interview because the
on-camera expert on the Great Wall was an American who was not licensed
to speak about the iconic monument. “They can always seem to find a reason,” Hano said.

Since the beginning of this Olympic journey for China, I have always thought that this would be one of the more interesting things to watch on the sidelines — how the authorities would handle thousands of foreign reporters running around reporting on whatever they want.  Despite having promised just that, there’s no way in the end then can do it.  And that, in and of itself, I predict, will become one of the big stories to emerge in the next month.

In case you’re interested…..

Today was day 4 of the automobile restrictions and factory shutdowns in Beijing, and it was as smoggy as ever.  In fact, each day has been smoggier than the last.  Today it reached the level of eye-burning and throat-scratching.  But somehow still managed to fall in what the government calls a ‘blue sky day.”  I didn’t see no blue sky! 

Of Fungus and Laser Tag

Ok folks, this is a quiz. Answer the following question: what do fungus and laser tag have in common? You have five seconds to answer…..BZZZZZ. TIME’S UP! If you answered NOTHING–ANY IGNORAMOUS KNOWS THAT FUNGUS AND LASER TAG HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON, then you are wrong. If, however, you answered THE 2008 BEIJING OLYMPICS then you are correct—you get to win the grand prize of 2 tickets to the Opening Ceremonies of the Games, which you will not be able to actually use since you will most likely not be able to get a visa come here.  And so it goes….

Oh wait…..the connection between fungus and laser tag.  I almost forgot! It’s like this.  A friend went to the hospital last week for some treatment of fungus on his feet.  He was told that the medicine was not available —because of the Olympics.  They’re having a hard time getting liquid medicines into town due to a ban on mailing or shipping liquids and gels. (kind of a scary thought, really).  The next day he tried to take his kids to a park to play laser tag, but was told that the laser tag facility was ordered closed for the duration of the Games.  I guess foreign kids running around with toy guns is just too much of a security risk.

Smoggy, As Usual

Well, the driving restrictions and factory closures didn’t suddenly make the skies all happy and clear today. I’m not surprised. When all the cars are out and the factories are running, we still get smoggy days and clear days. That won’t change. It’s just that the way this has all been portrayed, one sort of expected to see it all magically disappear.
It was very smoggy today. Probably only slightly or moderately smoggy by Beijing standards, but I tell you this: if it were this smoggy in the Twin Cities the sirens would be blaring and the local newscasters would be doing live round-the-clock coverage warning people to hide under their beds. But here it’s just another smoggy day.  Let the Games begin.  Cough cough.

My Acupuncture Points

Yesterday afternoon a friend and I decided to go to the movies.  We wanted to see Red Cliff, the new epic film that is sweeping the Chinese box office.  It is based on the story of a famous battle in Chinese history, so the plot was familiar to every single person in the theater except for this dumb foreigner.  It’s a classic story with weak emperors, prime ministers plotting overthrows, warlords allying with warlords to fight other warlords, and the two women–one who just wants wars to end and the other who figures she’s smart enough to be a general as well.  She was my favorite and her actions triggered a scene in which was uttered what I hope will become a classic movie line.

At one point in the story her brother (or cousin…I never got that figured out) was trying to arrange a marriage between her and one of the generals.  Her response was to walk up to the general and give him a sharp jab on the side of his neck with her knuckle, whereupon he crumpled to the ground paralyzed and unconscious (she had pulled this move on a horse in an earlier scene).  As she turns and marches out of the room (I guess we know what she thought of that idea) the general’s aides rush to his side, and one looks up and with a pained expression on his face says, HIS ACUPUNCTURE POINTS ARE BLOCKED. I, the lone foreigner in the theater, nearly fell out of my chair laughing, while everyone else in the audience
 “hmmm-ed” in understanding—“oh yes, that makes sense.” 

At any rate, I now have a new favorite excuse for any future dumb or wrong-headed thing I do.  I’ll just say “sorry about that, my acupuncture points are blocked!”  And hey, if I could learn how to do that with my knuckles, even better! 

This is the day, This is the day…

…that the government has decreed (it can do that here):

  • half the cars get off the road (odd-numbered plates on odd-numbered days, etc.).
  • 3 new subway lines are to open.  (Zhongguancun to Guomao; 2nd RR to the Olympic Village; and an express train to the airport)
  • factories are to be shut down.
  • all construction halts and sites close down (and I guess the workers go home).

Will the skies suddenly clear? Maybe, maybe not. It actually depends mostly on the wind. At any rate, it’s a day I’ve been looking forward to. Bye bye traffic jams!