Sunday, December 13, 2009

New blog

Since Blogspot is blocked in the Mainland, there is a new blog I opened:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Preying on the mantis

A praying mantis visited our modest abode the other day. In my kung fu practice I naturally have heard about the praying mantis as a style, and even did some taolu of the abovementioned style, but never in my life had I seen a representative of the species in the immediate proximity. And this hour has come. (gong-g-g-g-g)

The critter was huge at close-up. About 5 inches long, flying around the room like a noisy locust. An amazing sight. My wife says they are nothing special, pretty obvious inhabitants of these areas, and that if you squash their bellies, a stinky gooey goo comes out and it's better not to squash them. Like I would think about it.

The visitor flew around the room for a while, perched on the roof of a wardrobe observing the interior, and made a beeline to the water dispenser. I just looked on, giving in to those momentary flashes of fantasies that it could be my half-tamed house pet, living behind the water bottle and from time to tome giving me an insight into some tricky martial arts movements. I didn’t even come closer to have a better look, building up that invisible bond at a distance.

The climax came deep in the night. I was exiting the kitchen with a glass of water in my hand when I noticed our visitor against the whiteness of the wall. The mantis sat in its full greenness on top of the tipped water bottle, rocking slowly and graciously from side to side. Ever so slowly it raised one of its front legs and put it on the wall, its body still wafting, then its other front limb let go of the surface of the bottle and the mantis stood up on those other many legs that were left, performing exactly that stance that makes this kung fu style stand out form amongst all the others. You know, that praying mantis position, with the palms like hooks, sitting low on the hind leg, the other lightly touching the ground in front of you, rocking gently like a charged spring? That one. I was spellbound and looked it in what I think were the eyes. My head started bobbing up and down to the rhythm of the insect’s movements. I felt like a recluse somewhere in a bamboo grove of the Wu Dang mountains, standing on all fours and drinking in the movements of the praying mantis on a moss-covered path, wanting it to teach me all its moves, wanting to create an invincible style of fight, repeating all the stances.

My wife came by and in the silence of the night started sharing the moment. I love the way she smiles sometimes at me, understandingly, her head a little atilt, an eyebrow raised daintily. She shared the moment a little longer and asked: “Whatever are you doing?”

I felt like saying “May I keep it?”, but the man in me translated this message into a more virile “What will we do with it?”

Turned out it was better if we got rid of it and sent it flying from the balcony into the freedom of the night. Lisa kept looking at me and I started to feel she was expecting something. I looked right back at her with innocent eyes of a Green Peace activist. She raised the other eyebrow, shook her head, sighed out my name and took a napkin. As her fearless hand was nearing the mantis, in a swift move the warrior insect flew up and hung a semi-circle around me. The maneuver worthy of a great fighter. An instant later, as I was turning my head to see where it landed, something shattered my peaceful reality jerking me out of the bamboo grove. A sneaky hand from the outside treacherously crashed the tender walls of the idyllic word and grabbed my leg with its hairy tentacles. I momentarily looked down, saw the mantis who must have erroneously took me for an enemy and, in a jiffy assessing the situation, valiantly shook my leg, gave out a brave yawl meant to scare the adversary, and jumping back into a more advantageous position, caught the glass of water in mid-air, masterfully managing to save the whole half of it. The mistaken mantis landed on the floor not far away from me.

My wife was looking at me in an astonished way, and this time both her eyebrows were showing unreserved awe. She wanted to ask me something along the lines of 'Serge, how could you...', but the doughty mantis was hopping away towards the shoe rack, and the question about my bravery went unfinished. My wife performed the catching of the mantis in an ok way, as far as her female aptness allowed her; but again, it’s hard not to give in to a human in an unequal fight unless you are a cartoon.

The mantis flew on its way from the balcony to be eaten by a female of its species. Or, possibly, to eat a male. And my wife, returning from the balcony, happily laughed, looking at me, this time her eyebrows at a normal level, now that under my directions a worthy but possibly misled combatant was launched into the night.
* photo of a real mantis by stormahawk


World through a pinhole

You know, I am short-sighted. Ophthalmologically speaking. My eyes started to lose the grasp in the 4th grade. Back then I was too shy to wear them eye-crutches (somehow the silly juvenile gregariousness told me to stay away from the dangers of being called four-eyes), so the myopia progressed and when in high school I finally dared to put the glasses onto my nose and look the world in the face, beautiful images with multiple details revealed themselves to me, enthralling me and shattering the almost established (fuzzy) picture of the world, sharpening the edges and adding delicate and fine pieces to the now miraculously finished jigsaw puzzle of the universe. Ah, that’s how it’s supposed to be, now...

Since then (and reluctantly back before that) I tried to find the cure. My mom made me do exercises that bored me witless, I read brochures of laser clinics, and I slowed my gait at the windows of the stores selling those glasses with holes drilled in their black plastic lenses. For some reason for about 10 years that those glasses were in the market I only wanted to try them out, but never actually got around to buying them.

But now life hung a twist and, like greatness to some folks, thrust a pair of pin-hole eyeglasses into my greedy sweaty hands. Now, I was not looking for easy ways, and I laughed at the opportunity to fidget with such specs in a drug store in a country where I presently was located. Being in China, I chose to mail-order them from abroad – a certain respect to special-ordered goods, plus I didn’t have to make up my mind and drag my feet anywhere – everything was managed right from the couch in my living room.

I ordered the device from The package arrived to China from Italy very quickly, but I could lay my hands on it only a couple of months later as I had been traveling in Russia. The parcel covered the way from Italy to Beijing and then via my friend to Zhuhai. I always liked things made in Italy. I had a frame by Giorgio Armani, and I liked it tremendously, so it was an additional incentive to don the shades.

That’s how the pinhole glasses look on the snout of a bottle at 20:55.
The amazing but simple theory behind the use of pinhole glasses can be found here and here.

The world through pinholes is a little different and may be not unlike what a dragonfly may see with all those cells or what has it – at least the effect is such that every object comes through the hole at a slightly different angle and as I move my head each object acquires that je ne sais quoi kaleidoscopic quality overlapping with another image of itself.

Something like this.
I have not used these glasses for a long time yet, but I can say that they make the eyes work a little, sharpening the world a bit (as compared to the de-spectacled variant of the latter). The good thing is that the exercises are being done without much conscientious effort, and it’s of course not a bad thing at all.

My better half showed a lot of excitement and wears those glasses just for the fun of it several times a day, looking at the new image of world, at the same time – hopefully – improving her eyesight. Thus far, the pinhole glasses showed themselves from only the positive side, and if it is not only my imagination, they produce a tangible effect.

That is apart from the heartwarming fact that, as it turns out, Eskimos were the first to use the philosophy behind pinholes, wearing wooden specs with narrow slits to escape the glare form the immaculately white snow (for which they have several dozen names), and you cannot beat Eskimos to that. Because even though I don't know much about the Eskimos, they seem like really cool and wise folks; take for example their maxim 'do not eat yellow snow' and there you have it, knowing they won't use what's not good for you.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Time out of joint?

We are in Russia, watching the Olympics on TV, many people are amazed somebody could leave China to watch the Chinese Olympics via the tube, but just thinking about the throngs and the security measures taken, I just shudder and shift into a more comfortable position on the couch.

The opening was overrated - just good work of engineers and PR specialists. On the other hand though these games for the Chinese people are not what it may seem to the rest of the world. The hopes of national pride are pretty high, actually hard to grasp...

Just to let know of a friendly site about Beijing Olympics -

On a sadder note, it is really weird to see the Olympics on one channel, and the next button shows what's happening in South Ossetia. A mockery of human beliefs in peaceful games, and a terrible display of political trickery.

I talked to some people in Georgia over ICQ, and heard inside Georgia rumors are that Ossetia and Russia attacked Georgian peacekeepers first, and then they just answered. Media coverage is a pretty strong device.

Yeah, Georgia is a pretty small country and may seem as a victim of a cruel barbarian Russia, but so far the facts (I know) are that Georgia made the first attack, and knowing the possible implications, for sure would never have done that had it not been backed up by a more powerful ally.

But now it is not about that. The world as I have known it somehow warped up and tumbled down. On the international scale there are Olympic games, and on the same international scale there are political discussions over Ossetia and this mix really seems to be out of joint.

Hope the Olympic Games will see the beginning of the peace process.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Mangoes for Wisdom

As the need arose to send tropical mangoes to chillier climates, here they are, hanging over sidewalks, tempting people, absorbing the nutritious sap from the week-long endless downpours, under the low leaden clouds which are pressing the sultry air close to the ground. They huddle together to the accompaniment of sky-splitting peals of thunder, and get illuminated from time to time by either lightings or camera flashes. The rain season in all its swelteringly soggy beauty. And this year it is especially unbelievably refreshing.

May also serve as the illustration for this.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The gears of time are slowly churning

I wouldn't want to even say that it was only yesterday that I watched Friends.

It wasn't yesterday and it doesn't even feel that way.

Quite a few things have happened between me watching Friends and now.

But it sure as life on Earth feels like I did it only the day before yesterday and not a minute further.

I am the same me, I got the same old habits and mores, and I can just turn and see Joey freaking out because he was about to turn 30, and in this respect I didn't think much of it, the usual flow of events, even September of 2001 blended into this flow, because it was just a fact of life, and life is ours...

But yesterday I just faced the fact that Jennifer Aniston is 40 next year, and lo and behold, a decade swooshed by, and it is not that nothing much was accomplished, it is just that the time does go on, and even though I thought that the moving on and in and out of times is quite a malleable matter, actually the transparent wall that grows in the wake of you breezing through life is transmogrifying into this concrete-like consistency, like a thick glass against which we press our faces and flatten noses, warming the wall and pretending that it is all still here, just push the hand through the ever jelling past...

Not that I mourn the times gone by, I just guess it is an incentive to drink in the moment as it is flowing through you (and you through it) at this very second, this very day. Nothing new, but what is? After all, a revelation is such only in relation to the one who receives the afflatus, not whether it was known to somebody else, huh?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Been in Guangzhou today, we have

We've been in Guangzhou today - and still warm form the oven of my memories - here are the details of our trip.

Right after you get off the bus, Guangzhou subway sends you a message hinting at the necessity not to overstay the welcome. Probably a necessary precaution with the overpopulation and stuff.

I am not sure what happened at this Bank of China branch office, but the sign hangs over the doors advertising lingerie (which naturally lead to the stores selling lingerie), and there is no sign of the teller windows or neatly dressed bankers or what else have you in your ordinary decent bank. I guess it is more profitable nowadays to deal in bras than in brass (yes, I agree, this pun sucks, but it seemed like a funny choice under the circumstances).

A moon-lighting store... I guess it's their day job though... so it's gotta be a moon shining store then.

I had to get my camera out and take a shot of this sweet but stern notice.

And in the spirit of internationalism, the speakers of Russian will sure appreciate this little gem of a linguistic wonder.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Pinguo Lost in Be!j!ng

Just watched the movie L0st in Be!j!ng ('Pinguo' in Chinese domestic distribution, which means 'Apple', at the same time being the name of the main character), and boy, did them times in massage parlors come back in Technicolor and even in the tactile memories of the texture of those armchairs, and passing acquaintance with Laobans (bosses) of some massage places, and philosophic debates with friends about the very existence of such.

The lives of the characters in that movie spin out of control and just lead me to think how eddy currents of sin suck one in, with just a finger touching the outskirts of the vortex. Don't know about the others, or even the director's vision of the message, but that's what surfaced in my mind. The Shakespearean dramas weaving through the reality reveal a lot, giving birth to the despondency of such situations, especially here in China, and it is hard to grasp the precise descriptive attributes that relate to the sorry 'heroes', but the movie might be an eye-opener. Sadly, for many who are already on the inside of the vortex. Oh well, this longing to un-weave this scarring yarn.

Besides artistic values of the flick (including the jarred editing of the scenes - broken shots from a single position without much combing), the value of the movie might be in that it calls up lots of allusions and is totally not bad. And that it is about China.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Chinese Drive-In

Taking a stroll around campus tonight I was intrigued by the sounds of what seemed to be a movie trailing off into the humid emptiness between the balding mountains surrounding our school. I approached a square and indeed saw a large screen stretched between two poles and a projector on a school desk shimmering away with a Hong Kong gangster flick. Scattered in front of the screen, against the backdrop of the languorously dark and voluptuously wet subtropical night, were the silhouettes of riders on the bikes, casting amorphic shadows in the flickering light of that makeshift drive-in Chinese way. The teenaged students jauntily straddling a-bike reminded vaguely of the long-gone images of the US drive-ins, eating take-away food and sharing comments; some girls were stretching their barely clad - for the weather - legs near their iron wheeled horses, who in turn kept their peace and did not even give out a neigh as they usually do in that unoiled metallic screeching voice of theirs when the riders are not paying attention.

It's a nice ending of a Saturday night - with a head massage at the barber's on campus, calm half an hour by the lake to the sound of the fish splashing around in the shallow waters, and a walk back home in anticipation of an easy movie with a bottle of Chinese Tsingdao beer and pistachios. Strangely, not very often that I've been noticing those little pleasant moments lately.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Chinese brands red hot for the Russian market

Russian inside

Осторожно, ненормативные... ассоциации.

Если не играет, попробуйте здесь или тут.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wedding Chinese Way

An excellent wedding party of one of my colleagues - a beautiful event, nice people, an interesting look into the fusion of traditions. It was a great evening, and since not everybody has a chance to experience such wonderful and special cultural gatherings, here is a short video I made.

If the video doesn't open from this page - try here.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year

The Year of the Shu

My gift-video:

If my gift-video doesn't seem to play in your browser, your work-place or your country, try watching it here

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Stranded in Guangzhou

Many people asked me if I was ok with the snowstorms and a million of people stuck at the Guangzhou train station:
Well, first off, there is no snow here in the south of Guangdong, but due to snow up north, the trains are not running (the winter has taken the transportation system by surprise, global warming playing tricks, no less). So all the migrant workers who flocked to the well-developed province, as usual this time of the year have to go back home and reunite with the families, - the yearly exodus has started. As they say it is the time when half of China take off and leave for the other end of the country while the rest of the people on the other hand take off and leave for the opposite end. I am sorry for the children who have to endure all this trial of the character, but again, it is a whole lotta tempering for the rugrats, they'll grow to be strong little citizens.To add insult to injury, the weather turned, well, wintry, and for the lack of habit of warming buildings inside down here in the south, those folks are in for a really hard time - the weather is brightening their stay with 45 degrees F (7C), strong wind and that incessant pesky rain. I am freezing my @$$ inside of the house, and it gives me the creeps to just think of the situation at the GZ station.
But we are staying home, trying that slow family housekeeping life for a change (my times of obligatory rough traveling - especially during the Chinese New Year - most fun! - seem to wane).
Mobile phone service providers send off messages warning people that the train station in Guangzhou stopped selling tickets until all who are waiting there take their trains and clear the premises.

But people are people, and the internet is full of topical humor.

Knowing the love of the Chinese towards gambling, this joke wandering around instant messengers (read: QQ) is kinda funny:

To alleviate the situation at the Guangzhou railway station the authorities ordered 20,000 packs of playing cards and 10,000 mahjong sets distributed among the stranded aspiring passengers. Now the situation has cooled down and the people are now reluctant to leave when their trains are ready to board since they got everything they need right here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

He was a #10

Heck of a name for a soccer player.

"Hey, I scored one. Oops, own goal. Lemme turn my back t'y'all"

Monday, January 21, 2008

Preserving the moment

Today we were (actually still are) making strawberry preserves. The recipe was carefully memorized from the time we visited with my mom last summer, and finally strawberries ripened up in our neighborhood (mid-January is about the right time for that). We first kept the strawberries sprinkled with sugar for 6 hours (so that them red berries give out the juice) and just the look of it made me want to keep that image as a little memorabilia for the times when the taste buds will have forgotten the lingering flavor of the actual thing.

And - here is the yummy result:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Another reason to be proud

The source of pride is running dry? - the answer lies in the Orient.
Try resorting to the chopsticks.

Just remember the basic precautions:

Monday, January 14, 2008

To call a spade...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Quite a nice site. Witty inscriptions dat autha wrotes.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Economic implications of ophthalmology and Ho Art from Zhuhai

I often get this thing when I am switching over to new spectacles, - the world suddenly acquires a certain unexpected twist – things seem smaller, the perspective shrinks, and when I attempt to pick up a cup I'm only grabbing the air near the actual thingy. On the other hand, my shoes begin to look frightfully large - perhaps because the earth now seems to be closer due to the shriveled reality, bringing my huge paws right under my nose. Good old things I used to take for granted are no longer the same.

But, amusingly, this seems to work with economy as well. For example, today we went to that Japanese supermarket, Jusco, and all the things I was used to, have contracted - amazing what new specs could do to you! The 5.50 bread became smaller, though the price tag stayed the same. The way pizza slices look also kinda shrunk, though check this out - the weird thing is that the size contraction is somehow selective - earlier when I bought two slices of pizza they used to stick out of the individual package box like two happy overflowing symbols of cornucopia, held in place by the plastic wrap, daring me to eat them while they were still hot and throbbing with baked cheese, and it warmed my heart to just hold so much tasty food. But today - who could have believed! - the pieces snugly fitted into that plastic container, nothing bulging over the edges, and the packages no longer sang the silent song of plenty - my question is then, did they start using larger containers, since the price stayed the same?!

And hey, what's up with the frozen salmon? - a hearty chunk of the tasty fish flesh used to cost about 20 yuan, and now smaller-looking sorry pieces go for 30. Oh the danger of changing your specs...

At the end I will enlighten your holiday spirit with the picture of a store here in Zhuhai. It's either the first jingle of Santa is coming to town, or one of the two.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Subliminal ads

This subliminal message is sent out to the unsuspecting public in one of Zhuhai malls.
No photoshop, no nothing, just the live shot. Holiday decorations covered a part of the ad. But still, they hit the bullseye.
In the meantime I am in continuous battle trying to go against their subconscious command...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Who's dat man?

The thing left to determine is whether you will be as joyful as that saliva-splashing star with crazed eyes after sipping your drink from the cup one used.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Caved kids

Something amazing and thought-provoking came to my attention via a great Russian-language blog about China called 马-Gazeta. The English story may be seen at the Reuters page.

It's a story about a little school in a Miao village, somewhere in China's Guizhou province. I should say that I came in touch with the Miao people on Hainan island, and apart from the cool sounding name for this nationality, I began to entertain a certain attachment to the Miao's fair ... let's say 'gender' to avoid a possible pun, and as a dabbling polyglot learned a few phrases in Miao (which have happily fallen into oblivion for the absence of practical usage)...

But it's not the story - here I'll tell y'all a thing that could make recurrent bitching about how much the stuff we have doesn't work right or doesn't satisfy or breaks at the wrong time seem like overreacting and actually abusing those gifts which life has given us to have but for some time, something which I myself tend to forget pretty often. On the second thought in the same idea-basket falls the guess that all those cool possessions and gadgets are not what should be making us truly happy. Well, same old actually, nothing new under this sun.

Anyhow - long story short - here is the Dongzhong school.

It is located under the soaring dome inside a huge hangar-size cave, which houses all the amenities and teaching facilities. All I am saying I am sure those kids are simply happy to be going to any school or throw the ball into a makeshift hoop, but here I sit letting the thought that I don't have a faster computer or a better phone make me not enjoy the things I have right now. I am sure those little people are amazed at the magic of a TV show in a kind of a different way than myself in the solitude of my apartment on a couch.

After re-reading my post (more a note to self) it's not even a juvenile claim to go change the world, but rather of a reminder not to be so attention stingy towards the gifts which are already falling out of the handfuls.