262 stories up, and too cheap to pay the extra 50rmb to go all the way to the top. Pretty good view already though. Like looking at an animating Google Maps page.
At the Oriental Pearl TV Tower31 May 2005
Xiangyang Market, 1 hour later.31 May 2005
Ok, im pretty beat. I keep fucking up this whole haggling thing for some reason. Ive gotten 40 to 50% off on everything Ive bought, but I have a bad feeling I couldve gotten it even cheaper if I was a bit more patient. As it stands Ive spent a little less than 700 rmb on 6 different bags for my friends. Didnt seem like much when it was dribbling out of my wallet, but its actually pretty significant when you convert it back to pesos. Blah. Knew i shoulda memorized my conversion tables before jumping in.
Xiangyiang market31 May 2005
My haggling skillz are still pretty noob. Just bought a fakey Prada laptop briefcase that was originally 350 rmb and got it for 160. Shopgirl was a cutie though.
Phone-blogging My Trip to Electronics City30 May 2005
Spent half an hour haggling with this non-english-speaking dude for a pair of 512mb Sandisk Cruzer Micros. Eventualy got them for 350 rmb each, although our haggling was mostly just alot of shrugging, frowning and vigorous chin-stroking. Shopping is hard.
Test post from mobile30 May 2005
This should work, in theory.
Shanghai, Day Two30 May 2005
30 May 2005
Spent most of last night wandering around along Nanjing Lu Road, a pedestrian-only avenue flanked on both sides by malls, hotels and restaurants for a good 2.5 kilometers. They have this cute mock-locomotive shuttle service that takes you from end to end for 2 RMB (or about 14PhP). This strip has 4 McDonald’s and 2 KFC’s as far as I can tell, and I spotted at least 2 BreadTalks and 3 big Haagen Dazs outlets as well.
There’s a crackling kind of energy here that’s hard to describe. People come at you from all directions and it’s hard to maintain a conversation when you’re constantly sidestepping runners, cyclists and other pedestrians. I’ve gotten propositioned once already, while dodging cabs and electric buses. Two local girls came up to me and asked me if I was alone, and if I wanted to hang out with them. I guess that must happen a lot here.
Can’t really imagine what it’s like to be living in a city that has new buildings the way most gardens get weeds. None of the buildings along Nanjing look older than a few years. One of the malls, The Shanghai Landmark, has a relatively small footprint but has over 10 floors of shopping.
Being a high-end kind of district means most of the stuff you see along Nanjing Lu could be found cheaper elsewhere, but the place is still packed with people. It’s more surprising when you consider that the minimum wage is only 800 RMB per month, but it also explains why most of the workforce has to make a daily hour-long commute from their residences in the city’s outlying areas.
I’m at the Jade Exhibition Center getting my ass sold piles of overpriced jewelry.
Out on the street, 10-year-old kids throw little cardboard flyers in your face while you walk, or into your car as you drive by. Street vendors are on you as soon as you glance down at their wares. It’s the land of the Hard-Sell, and it scares the living crap out of me. These people could probably sell the proverbial ice block to an Eskimo.
It’s a different shopping culture altogether; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place that lets you haggle for up to 50% off of the sticker price, let alone an entire city.
I only gave myself a 500RMB allowance today, ended up spending most of it at the Exhibition, and it’s not even lunchtime yet.
Shanghai, Day One29 May 2005
Manila to Shanghai
29 May 2005
Our Airbus has been in the air for a little less than 20 minutes. 3 more hours worth of watching cloud forms crawl by before we land at Pudong Airport in Shanghai City. (The in-flight movie is Joel Schumacher’s Phantom of the Opera, so apart from writing this entry there isn’t really much going on for me right now.)
Did a bit of research last night, hitting the obvious travel sites like www.lonelyplanet.com and Gawker Media’s www.gridskipper.com. Shanghai sounds a lot like Makati City from the various descriptions I’ve come across — high-tech commerce-centric locale with little in the way of cultural attractions, the sort-of urban travel destination that tend to bring out the geek in me. I suppose it’ll be a lot like Singapore, except that the English-speaking population will be A LOT less than Singapore’s quoted 90%.
Some of the must-visits include Nanjing Road, The Bund and Yunnan Road, all three of which involve either shopping, food or both. The Bund in particular sounds like Shanghai’s version of Singapore’s Orchard Road, which has first-class malls and hotels side-by-side for its entire length.
Watching Emmy Rossum gasp and titter her way through Phantom without my headphones reminded me that I saw Jet Li’s Unleashed (released as "Danny the Dog" in most other countries) last night.
If you’ve seen the trailer to Unleashed you’ll probably already know the basic plot, i.e., Jet Li plays an enforcer who kills for his small-time gangster boss (played by Bob Hoskins). Removing Danny’s collar sends him into a killing frenzy, so you have to keep his collar on if you want to control him, hence the "dog" reference.
As you can imagine, the concept is extremely limiting, as the only plot you can play out with a character that one-dimensional is the "self-discovery" story, wherein Danny recognizes that he is more than just a killing machine. This is exactly what happens of course, and the entire second act is devoted to Danny bunking in with a blind piano tuner played by Morgan Freeman.
Unfortunately, Luc Besson’s take on Danny’s spiritual journey is painful to watch and a real chore to sit through. There are stupid, shallow scenes where Danny learns to shop for fruit, eat vanilla ice cream or play a few notes on the piano, all of which are about as humanizing as teaching your dog to fetch you the newspaper in the morning. It’s all so boring in fact that they had to slip in a thread involving a mixed-martial-arts-type tournament that Danny is forced to enter, just to wake the audience up. The tournament ends up being totally irrelevant to the plot, as is the final battle between Danny and some random dude in a gi.
I’m not entirely sure why Besson insists on infusing his scripts with these silly attempts at depth (the last film I saw from him, The Fifth Element, had similar problems). Whatever the reason, his work always seems half-baked and under-developed, and Unleashed is no exception.
About the only thing this movie has going for it is the brutish fight choreography by Yuen Wu Ping; there’s a really good bit toward the end between Jet Li and the random gi guy in a tiny bathroom cubicle. It’s a shame because the fight sequences seem more like after-thoughts, when they should really be the centerpiece of this film. The "dog" concept is too simple to be much more than that, and Besson’s attempt at a digression on independent-thought is just forcing this movie into a mold that it wasn’t built to fill.
Off to China. Back on Wednesday.28 May 2005
Not to Beijing and the Great Wall though, which is where I really wanted to go (I’m sure I’m not the only idiot who’s aspired at some point in their life to pee against the Great Wall) — just to Shanghai, where pirated goods are in generous supply.
I’ll be lugging my tablet around with me so if there’s Wi-Fi available I may actually be able to update this blog. If there isn’t then I’ll probably have to publish my travelog in a series when I get back in four days. Either way, some cool Chinese-flavored content coming up soon.
O’Brien’s Future of Television26 May 2005
Conan O’Brien writes about the future of the TV industry in this outrageous Newsweek article.
TiVo, the digital recorder with a brain, will continue to evolve with alarming speed. Super-TiVos will arrange marriages between like-minded viewers and will persuade mismatched couples to throw in the towel and start seeing other people.
Spielberg’s War of the Worlds25 May 2005
There’s a really eye-opening article over at Wired about Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, and the technology that’s going into having it made. The fact that a movie this effects-laden is being thrown together in just 10 months without sacrificing quality (to hit the all-important 4th of July opening date) is a darned significant feat:
"I’ve never prepped a movie this quickly, and I’ve never gone so fast in post [ ...] But it works, and it works without sacrificing quality. That’s the amazing thing - we’re not giving anything up. This movie wouldn’t be 5 percent better if I had six more months."
Spielberg used a lot of pre-visualization (recreating shoot locations in wireframe 3D to plan shot angles and sequences) to make sure everything worked even before the crew actually went to the site. And on the post-production side of things, Industrial Light & Magic debuted its in-house software package Zeno which streamlines animation, lighting, explosions and compositing into one single application.
The big advantage is speed: Now the person who creates the aliens can light them as well. It also means fewer bottlenecks and fewer opportunities for information to get lost or misunderstood in transmittal from one animator to the next. And because the software used for, say, creature development employs the same algorithms as the software that simulates explosions, compositors can marry creatures and explosions without spending extra hours adjusting for those minor mathematical discrepancies that can shatter the illusion of reality. All that was great - but it also meant that, aside from dealing with the computer crashes that come with any new software system, the artists had to learn a whole new way of working.
Great read for any movie or tech buff.
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