Friday, July 28, 2006

Beijing Part 1 (repost)

Reposted from the China trip in May.


China trip, part 1

Being the photographic record of my first week in the Far East. (well, since 1989) Images as before are huge and should be opened in new tabs.

01: The dinosaur skeleton replica in O'Hare. This was as close as I got to the Chicago Field Museum in my approximately 15 minutes between planes.

02: Looking up Nathan Road in Kowloon. This is the wide/establishing shot of Hong Kong.

03: Skyscraper and cultural building, Hong Kong. This was shot from the base of Nathan Road, looking out into the bay.

04: Another modern skyscraper, over the greenery of Kowloon Park -- which is not uniformly this green.

05: Ducks in a pond in Kowloon Park. This is a fanservice shot for a certain someone, and to that effect, the signs warning against contact with the ducks on account of avian flu have been omitted.

06: Looking across Kowloon Park to the east; this catches a good bit of the "real Hong Kong", and also accurately shows what a lot of Kowloon Park is like.

07: Old signboard detail. The building this is on just has so, so much character, and I couldn't capture it no matter how I tried.

08: Context; this is about half of the fronting of the building in question. Note the contrast against the newer building to the right.

09: "Beware of Unreal Things" -- another old building on Nathan Road.

10: Close in shot of the signboard above. This is one of the few signs that the building it's on isn't totally abandoned and free for squatting.

11: Awkward shot of a well-known skyscraper. This building is kind of a "symbol point" for Hong Kong, but I couldn't get around to get a better shot of it in the time that I had. This is more authentic, though; postcards and stock shots never have to work around obstacles and barely get stuff in frame.

12: Engrish in the evellator. Concentrate on the orange square-thing.

13: Wouldn't be HK without it... though these are not bootleg, but the real deal, mostly printed for the Taiwan market. I did pick up a four-dollar DVD, but it was live-action and may actually have been an official release. These are from Comics Focus in the Haiphong Road, which should be on your itinerary of Hong Kong points if you've got a taste for Japanese cartoon junk, spare HKDs, and a fair bit of space in your luggage.

14: Beijing Economic Development District, from the tenth floor of the Jin Jiang Fu Yuan. Note the smog, the huge buildings without surrounding infrastructure, and the clear-chopped ground. I haven't been to either place, but the best impression I can give is what it'd be like if Houston ran Silicon Valley.

15: Art pieces in my room. Some "workers' paradise"; this room was huge and crazily well-appointed, but actually the less luxurious of the two hotel rooms I've lived in in mainland China.

16: Another shot of the local foliage. It's nice to see that they're putting trees back in, but it's also entirely necessary to hold the soil in. I missed the dust storm at the end of last week, but the soil just goes to powder around here.

17: Identical houses in the BJEDD, again from the hotel. The sky-scraping projects of Hong Kong struck me as a deliberate crushing blow to the human spirit, but this sort of development is only subtler in its effect.The explicit binning of human beings into giant people-containers is not there, but the sense of "unit" rather than "person" is still inescapable.

18: Sun over the projects, Beijing suburbs. In this part of China, you can usually look directly into the sun without pain or injury. The dust and smoke in the air forms a polarizing filter that makes it look like a dull lightbulb.

19: Room at the Marriott Palm Springs Executive Residence. I got in the door and thought immediately, "What the hell is a mook like me doing in a palace like this?" It is an extreme psychic disconnect to live in such surroundings, especially with the squalor of Beijing's poor immediately below.

20: Looking down from the 31st floor of the Palm Springs. The buildings here are older, built of brick, and in some of those in the lower left, there are stones on the roof to hold the corrugated steel on. The street faces a couple major construction sites, so half of the little shops facing the road sell power tools; no idea where the families running them get them, whether from the government or from people ripping them off other sites. Going to China without walking down a street like this is, to a certain degree, deliberate ignorance; the economic boom is not lifting all boats equally.

22: Shot into the smog. The air quality isn't so bad after a while; humans can adjust to anything. Living here I can't stop thinking about Nausicaa, and the eventual realization in there that the humans of the postapocalyptic world have acclimated and adapted to the poisons in the environment -- and about the "shifting horizons" concept in those Cousteau Foundation commercials. We could survive as a species in a world like Beijing, but I doubt that anyone would really want to.

23: A clearer shot of the same buildings. Visibility still drops off rapidly after 200-300 meters, as seen further back.

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