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What did i buy this week? Shenzhen, China - 2019-10-01 to 2019-10-07
mom walk
amw
(This is my draft post for glimpseatmyday.)

In 2019, the first week of October was a Golden Week. This is when the Chinese government shuffles around weekends to arrange 7 consecutive days off work around an important holiday.

IMG_20191004_154513.jpg

The weather is still pretty good here.

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💃🍜✨

bang bang bang
mom walk
amw
Today, white collar workers came out to protest on their lunch break over the anti-mask law that Carrie Lam was rumored to be enacting without any debate.

At 3pm she made the announcement that the decision had been made and the new regulation would go into force at midnight.

It seems Hongkongers were pretty pissed about that, so they started striking back where they could. Targets for vandalism included Chinese state-owned banks and travel agencies, plus the MTR (metro) which capitulated to the regime in recent weeks by stopping service to aid in police arrests. There were also some scuffles with cops.

Friends, tonight in one of those scuffles a 14-year-old child was shot. The police spent 3 hours pretending like nothing had happened, then the news started to leak out that... well there was a cop, and he did happen to be in the same general vicinity where the kid was shot, and maybe he fired his gun, but you know we can't prove any connection between him maybe shooting his gun and the kid getting shot. And anyway, the magazine was mysteriously lost, so it's not clear how many shots were fired. Or if any shots were fired!

Could you be any more fucking shady?

Meanwhile they released a video of someone throwing a molotov at said cop, presumably to try build a case for why he maybe fired his gun. I mean, how can anyone tell if the molotov came before or after the cop didn't shoot the 14-year-old who got shot? It's chaos out there! Who knows how many people in the neighborhood had guns?

Oh wait, this isn't America. The answer is no one. No one had guns except the cops.

Hey, take this all with a grain of salt. It's after 1am. Reporting is sketchy. The story is developing. The truth won't shake out till tomorrow, if at all. I'm sure the government will sort out their narrative by then. Terrorists on the streets. Anarchy. Just look at all the fires burning. The cops are just trying to protect local business owners.

Oh, hilariously, Li Ka-shing decided to do his part by giving a billion (HK) dollar bail-out to... business owners who have lost revenue from the protests. The bourgeoisie bailing out the bourgeoisie. Is it any wonder people are pissed? What a fucking joke.

In my own personal life today... well i tried to go out and take a stroll along the new river walk and a hike up Tanglang Mountain... and i was interrupted every 20 minutes with a fucking page from work, because i am on-call this week. The last page came in about half an hour ago. So, yeah, haven't exactly had the rest i was looking for.

Also i've been sick since the first day of the holidays, so i am grumpy. Can you tell?
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police brutality continues, news at 11
mom walk
amw
The school kid who was shot in the chest by a police officer on National Day is being charged with one count of rioting and two counts of assault. He is under armed guard and still in the hospital. The shooter is being charged with nothing.

The journalist who got shot in the face by a police officer last week has lost an eye. The police are all like "oh we don't know what happened, coulda been anything, can't even prove it was us". Same police who have been firing rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at journalists every weekend for the last 4 months.

Now the government seems like they are about to enact a ban on masks in public places, which takes away the only protection people have against the clouds of tear gas being shot at them almost every night.

The mainland media and every trash politician in Hong Kong are saying that all the violence is justified. There are no apologies. There is no remorse.

It reminds me of one of the most disgusting televised episodes in recent years, where a bunch of bloodthirsty American cops remote-controlled a fucking IED into a parking garage to murder a suspect. Who's the fucking terrorist here? It's completely out of control. The police are supposed to be better than the criminals. They're supposed to arrest people, not fucking kill them.

On National Day alone the Hong Kong police put over 100 people into the hospital and arrested hundreds more. Meanwhile they share photos on social media of grazed knees and fat lips to drum up pity for their hard work and sacrifice. Jesus Christ, these motherfuckers are wearing body armor and carrying fucking guns, plus they have the full support of an authoritarian regime that controls the world's biggest army. Nah, sorry i'm not going to feel bad if they scraped their knuckles while beating up school children armed with sticks and pool floats.

I just can't escape it, you know. Everywhere i go in the world, the police are utter scumbags. The only way to avoid it is to ignore everything that happens around me, just close my eyes and block my ears and imagine the real world is some kind of cheezy procedural fantasy where cops are actually honorable and decent.

Last night i started watching Anne with an E, aka Anne of Green Gables. Now that's an escapist fantasy if ever there was one. It's charming enough it deserves its own entry, though, so maybe i will write again tomorrow.
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national day update #2
mom walk
amw
Okay, i did leave the house. And now i am glad that i did.

I left for the least Chinese reason possible - i realized that i did not have enough coffee to brew a pot for breakfast tomorrow, so i went on the hunt for an open Starbucks.

Guess what? It seems that to celebrate National Day they finally opened the new mall next to my village. And what is a mall without a Starbucks? (And a Domino's, and a KFC...) So now i can get coffee 5 minutes walk from my house.

The new Starbucks was packed. They also did not have any coffee beans aside from Colombian, so i got on a share bike to the Starbucks at the mall near the polytech.

That's when i saw that they have also finally opened up the river walk! Assuming the river walk is fully open, that means i can bike all the way along the river from my house to the bay, which would make my work commute much faster and less perilous. I will do an investigation later this week.

The other Starbucks was packed too. The only difference between that suburban end of my neighborhood and this village end is that there were a few more Chinese flags hanging along the main road over there. If it wasn't for the revolutionary songs in the supermarket you wouldn't even know it was National Day. Very different to the neighborhood near my work, where all the buildings are festooned with flags and massive banners evangelizing the party and socialism with Chinese characteristics.

I got my coffee, enjoyed the complimentary americano under an umbrella and looked at the sad pictures of polluted-ass Beijing. Life down here in the Pearl River is so much better, man. It's blue skies, sunny and very warm.

Warmer, since i was wearing head-to-toe black in solidarity with the kids over the bay.

But the reason it was good to get out was to see how many people were just doing their usual weekend thing without the slightest nod to politics or nationalism. I counted two people in red patriotic garb, but that was it. I didn't stick out at all in my all black outfit, not that it's really making much a statement up here on the north side. I suspect most people don't ever think about Hong Kong. Or Beijing, for that matter.

I got a bowl of coconut milk, pearl sago and sea coconut before heading home.

Back to watching the news feeds.
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national day update
mom walk
amw
Every time i open a new tab on my browser i get the local Chinese headlines. During normal times of the year, that mostly means tabloid reporting on celebrities, diet trends and miracle cures. But the last week the top tabloid story has been the women soldiers marching in Tiananmen. I cringe every time i see the photos. Why do male soldiers get to look ready for action, but female soldiers parade around in short skirts and lipstick like PLA Barbies? This country has a long way to go on the gender equality front.

Fortunately VPNs are back, albeit very slow and spotty, so i can also read news stories that don't annoy me.

I worked from home Sunday and Monday. Sunday, because that's one of the two weekend days we must work this month to give us seven consecutive days off this week. It's not really five holidays if two of those are in lieu of mandatory weekend work, but that topic has been done to death on Chinese social media. The short answer is that someone in the party decided China should have Golden Weeks, so therefore China has Golden Weeks.

On to the police lockdown around my office.

I posted on the team chat that i would be working from home to avoid the jackbooted thugs and their ban on share bikes. My manager tried to explain: "The situation in Hong Kong is very worrisome. Victoria Harbour always had the privilege of hosting the country's best fireworks, but now it will instead be moved to Shenzhen Bay." He followed that up with a comment about how all his Hong Kong friends have escaped to Shenzhen, and that he hopes there will be no escalation of the conflict.

Of course i had to point out that if there weren't any cops, there wouldn't be any conflict. Well, that's when i discovered just how much of a bootlicker my manager is. "Hong Kong companies don't let their employees work from home, so blocking transit and harrassing the passengers is disrupting their business." I was very disappointed to find that my boss is not only a misinformed party hack but also a capitalist douche canoe. Although i suppose that's two sides of the same coin in modern China.

Meanwhile up here in my little urban village, life is continuing as per normal. I went to the supermarket to get some supplies yesterday and i had to stifle a giggle because it felt so silly to be walking past shelves full of bourgeois frippery to the rousing beat of revolutionary songs. One keen young chap decided to sing along, much to the bemusement of the older women around him. The young girl weighing my bok choy looked bored out of her mind.

I got 拌面 noodles on the way home. Someone came in asking if they'd be open on National Day. The answer from the laoban was yeah, of course, why wouldn't they be?

Good to know. I am going to hide in my room all day following the live feeds as long as the 工信部 lets me. I hope some savvy anarchists in Hong Kong have secretly come up with an outrageous stunt to mark the date. Reclaiming the streets and singing localist songs in shopping malls is fine and all, but it doesn't really advance the narrative. It would be really great to see the kids stage a happening that really rubs it in the nose of the administration, especially if it (briefly) goes viral in the mainland too.

Nationalism is the fucking worst, y'all.
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never been anything else
mom walk
amw
I feel like i am writing quite a few drunk posts lately. But since i no longer get drunk on school nights, it's probably not more than it was back in the good/bad old days when i did not give two shits about calling in sick or rolling into work with a blistering hangover. Perhaps i am just more honest about it now.

So, y'all, i am drunk.

I was watching this BBC show called Scarborough, which is a slice of life thingy about people my age in some northern seaside town. It has that uniquely British characteristic of featuring unattractive stars who speak with unintelligible accents. When you figure out what the fuck they're saying it becomes clear that they are all talking utter nonsense. And i am like, okay, i get this crowd. I hate their fucking shit music. I hate their fucking shit pub. But i still get sitting there with a beer talking about nowt because work sucks and really there isn't anything better to do.

But then i am not in England, i am in China... The fucking country that when i left my office today i emerged into a swarm of armed police and a blanket ban of share bikes for kilometers around. My commuter vehicle is a share bike. Friends, i was absolutely fucking livid. This country is like living in a fucking prison right now, i swear to God.

Anyway, tangent! So i was thinking about how in some ways i really "get" England. And Scotland too, actually. Probably more Scotland. Just that kind of lifestyle. Go to the pub, get drunk, talk rubbish, walk home, yeah i get that. And then i remembered i am in China where there are no pubs like that, so to distract me i hacked my way through the Great Firewall to read the wiki page for Scarborough.

Turns out it really is a small town in northern England, but also it is the former site of Scarborough Fair, as made famous by the song Scarborough Fair (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme). So then i thought about how the whole fucking internet is blocked, but i still have my offline music library from the days when that was still a thing. And i have three Simon & Garfunkel albums ripped. They are in the "folk" category, along with KT Tunstall, Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman.

Oh. Yeah. Wait. Tracy Chapman. My drunk go-to. And, specifically, Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car". It makes me cry every time i hear it. Probably because the only times i've heard it since it was on the radio is when i am in this particular wistful drunken mood.

Friends, i do not have a working class background. As much as i hope to earn some working class cred by not being a total fucking wanker, i grew up pretty comfortably middle class. But this song speaks to me, oh lordy how it speaks to me. It's not just about the struggle of living on the poverty line, it's also about the naïve dream that moving somewhere else will be the solution to your problems.

And, yanno, that is the story of my life. Getting into relationships and hoping my partner would save me. Moving cities because i thought it would make a difference. Moving countries to find a better life. Spoiler: i never found it. Dear God, i'm almost 40. I'm still me. I've grown in some ways - hey, i'm not drunk on school nights any more - but in most ways i am as much a fuck-up as i was as a teen. Didn't grow. Don't think i really want to.

When i listen to Tracy Chapman i remember why for a very long time i thought that moving to America would be the answer to everything. I was so in love with America. I knew i had to move there, because in my heart i knew that was the country my dreams could come true.

They could, i suppose. Maybe they did. Those years with T were magical. But they were also "first love" years, so what else could they be?

I still authentically love the Californian central valley. My latest California porn show is Mayans M.C. Every shot that lingers on those barren hills makes me miss America with all the tiny pieces of my broken heart. When i am old i still hope to be able to snowbird in Nevada. Just sit there in some wasteland trailer park with only a cactus and tumbleweed for friends.

But America is also that shit country where sick and injured people literally go bankrupt because basic health care is not considered a human right. It's the country where not only government-sponsored thugs but also everyday people carry around guns like it ain't no thing. Children too young to drink or vote are expected to operate massive internal combustion vehicles traveling at a hundred miles an hour. America is fucking fucked.

And yet... there are aspects of America that i "get" better than anywhere in England or Scotland. I suppose even in this fascist shithole of a country that is China, there are also aspects of the lifestyle that i "get" better than anywhere in the west.

That's why i keep moving now, i think. I never really feel at home anywhere, because everywhere has things that suck. I'm always an alien. I pine for something that feels like it should be "home", but when i go there it turns out it's not really what i hoped, because of all the other things that i don't get.

I wonder if people who grew up in one place all their lives really have the sense that that place is truly "home"? When they see these shows or listen to these songs that describe the archetypical experience of a place, then they not only pine for it but can go back and slot in effortlessly. People who are never aliens, never outsiders.

Must be nice.

Nah.

I "get" a lot of different things. But i know what i don't "get", and that's going home.

Home is bullshit.

I'll never go home. Don't have one. Never will. My happy place is not having a place.

blinded
mom walk
amw
Hello my name is amw. I have absolutely no idea what is happening in the world. Why? Because a bunch of fascists decided that one week ahead of National Day, nobody in China should get any news from anywhere else in the world, period. Not only is a huge chunk of the internet blocked, but VPNs are blocked too. Everything is blocked. The internet is barely an internet. It's barely even a tiny slice of internet. It's a nanonet. It's a piconet. I am so fucking pissed off.

One amusing thing i saw a couple of days ago, but i cannot share with you because the entire fucking internet is blocked, was a YouTube recording of a CCTV program where some bootlickers showed a graph of GDP sitting at zero from 1949 till the Deng era when it started edging up. Then it explodes in the Xi era. Some unknown woman called in and spent 18 minutes (!) giving the host an earful about what kind of nonsense it was to imply that China had zero development through the Mao era. I only heard 3 minutes of the diatribe before the tyrannical despots shut down my VPN for good, but it sounded like the host had no idea how to deal with someone bluntly calling out the sycophancy of erasing every national achievement that came before Xi.

Yes, plenty of Chinese also think the current regime is ridiculous.

I am so angry at the utter fucking trash fire that is the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. This latest censorship push is so heavy-handed that even domestic journalists complained about it. The formal response was basically: "fuck you, personal VPNs are illegal anyway". No, 工信部, fuck you. If this is some attempt to try to get people to 爱国 (love country) ahead of National Day, it failed.

If i could get on the real internet, i would link to the article from about a month ago when the government decided to ban all entertaining shows for 100 days. Oh wait, here it is: https://www.msn.com/en-sg/news/other/beijing-pulls-overly-entertaining-tv-shows-ahead-of-national-day/ar-AAFbL0b

I guess this rant has at least led me to discover that MSN is not blocked. Not that i would really call tabloid syndication "news", but beggars can't be choosers.

Anyone who wonders why the kids in Hong Kong are still burning the Five Star Red Flag, yeah this is why. Amongst other things, they understandably don't want to have to go through this sort of nonsense every time the cadres start feeling a little insecure.

Can't wait for this garbage fucking holiday to be over.
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desert winds
mom walk
amw
When you live in a sub-tropical climate, you get used to humidity. It's never particularly comfortable - for at least 6 months of the year you will be covered in a sheen of sweat - but it is what it is. You will have mold and cockroaches in your house. You will get dumped on by a sudden storm. It will be just as hot at midnight as it was at high noon. Wearing clothes is miserable. There might be a typhoon. Life goes on.

I can't remember if this happened when i lived in a similar climate in Brisbane, but here in Shenzhen something changes around October. Somewhere after mid-autumn festival it's like a switch gets clicked and suddenly the place feels brisk.

It's still 30 degrees, mind you. It's just that the humidity drops below 50% and there is slight chill when it blows. I haven't even gone outside this weekend, but just with the window open my skin feels dehydrated.

Walking over to the bathroom feels like a trek through the Sahara.

When i lived in Melbourne the weather was hot and dry. Berlin too, although Berlin has a lot more cold days than Melbourne. In those places i didn't notice the desert winds, i noticed the sultry days.

I like it when the weather changes. It's one reason why i avoid air conditioning and central heating. Sealing yourself into a hermetic cube of blandness feels like it takes away one of the things that can make life under capitalism interesting. Office work is tedious and exhausting. Same shit every day. Can't go anywhere because have to be back in the office on Monday. Can't even move to a different neighborhood in the same city because rental contracts have minimum periods. But the one moment of novelty we all get for free is that moment when the weather changes. Until we get used the new normal. But - for a brief moment - life isn't a bore.

i feel like a guitar nerd
mom walk
amw
Except i am not a guitar nerd.

I first learned how to play guitar at like... age 8? 9? Young. I remember being very disappointed that my first guitar teacher could not teach me Guns'n'Roses. My second guitar teacher tried to teach me Joe Satriani, which was amazing because Joe Satriani is the bestest best guitarist of all time, but i was a lazy child who could not be assed to do scales so it was more of a listening experience than an inspiration.

Yeah, then i discovered techno. That genre of music where you do not need to become a virtuoso to write awesome tunes. Because techno is all about composition. Who cares if you can't play 64th notes? The computer can play 64th notes. Obviously, if you want to be a good techno musician, you still need to decide which 64 notes don't sound like shit.

Mike Cullen (a Brit who shares a name with my late godfather - no relation) is a great techno musician. He is a wizard of the 303. The 303 is a short name for the Roland TB-303 Bassline synthesizer that came out some time in the early 80s and utterly failed as a bass guitar synthesizer. Instead, a handful of hip-hop guys and a metric shit-ton of techno guys discovered it and created acid music and house music and a whole bunch of musics that i love.

PS i am drunk.

PPS it's not really a PS because i am still typing.

Anyway, the TB-303 is far and away the greatest synthesizer that was ever created. Whether by accident or deliberately, it has strange behaviors that for decades were very difficult to emulate.

For example, there is an "accent" feature that should just make a note louder. But it also adds a bit more punch to the note, not just volume-wise but brightness-wise. And that punch doesn't just happen once, it sort of slurs up and down in time with the music. So if you accent twice in a row then the punch gets higher each time, like a screaming child. And it doesn't sting like a jab, it lifts like an uppercut. Musically, that means you get a "wah" effect.

A second cool thing about the 303 is that it always slides to the next note in the same amount of time. So whether you are sliding from a C to a C# or from a C to a G or from a C to, like, 2 octaves up of a C, it will still take equally as long. This lets composers move from lazy-sounding grooves around the same octave to wacky lines that jump octaves in ways that no human ever could, or at least never so perfectly.

For decades people tried to replicate this sound, because the original run of TB-303s was in the few thousands and due to their desirability in the rave scene they became prohibitively expensive.

In the late 90s and early 2000s a lot of clones came out that were kinda sorta okay. Nowadays computers have advanced to the point that 303s can be emulated in software, no sweat, but back in the day being able to clone a 303 in a way that would fool the anoraks was a Big Fucking Deal.

Here is a great song that i am not even sure if it's a pure 303, but such is the mystery of the machine. It for sure has the 303 style sequencing. You can hear that the accents shoot higher when there are two in a row. The slides are without question 100% 303. But the basic sound feels not quite right. The 303 only had a sawtooth and square wave. This song is using the sawtooth, but it somehow feels thinner and more piercing than the average 303 song. It's probably just a low resonance setting plus EQ, but still...


Chimera - The Future Is Upon Us

Ladies and gents and neither folks, this stuff keeps me up at night.

This is why i feel like a guitar nerd.

And yet. I played guitar longer than any other instrument in my life, but i will never understand these people who say that one plank of wood with strings sounds different to another plank of wood with strings. Who cares? They are all going to go through a dozen effects pedals anyway. What a waste of money!

But the 303. The 303 is holy. For sure it can be emulated in software these days, but i will defend to my deathbed that this thing is unique (emulated or not). Every time i hear a song that has even a hint of 303 i will instantly melt. There is nothing that sounds quite like it. No musical instrument that will ever be so subtle, so expressive, so utterly perfect.

I ♥ 303.

the clown car rides again
mom walk
amw
Yesterday was Mid Autumn Festival aka Mooncake Day in China. I had the day off work, and when i woke up the Democratic Party primary debate was happening so i decided to tune in.

I only caught the end of a fairly long session. It was tedious. Warren came across well to me. She's smart and humble. I agree with a lot of what Sanders says, but the way he says it grates with me. Like many of the other candidates, he comes across as arrogant and not very mindful of context. Biden rambles almost as bad as Trump, i have no idea what anyone sees in him.

I think i could sit down and have a beer with Warren. We would get drunk and talk about how we would save the world. She seems authentic in a way the other candidates do not. Then again, i thought i could sit down and have a beer with Clinton too, whereas a significant chunk of America bought the idea that she was a big ol' fake, so perhaps i am living in a bubble.

It was after the debate ended that i realized exactly what kind of bubbles were floating around out there.

I left the ABC News stream going in the background while i did some other stuff online and Lord almighty, television news is the absolute worst. I forget because i so rarely watch it, but they treat the viewers like utter morons. They repeat the same vapid talking points over and over and over. It seems like the whole mechanism for communication is 5 minutes of advertisements, then 5 minutes of sensationalist headlines, then 5 minutes of opinionated fluff, then 5 minutes of advertisements again. It's kind of hypnotic, but it makes you dumber the longer you listen to it. Nothing is ever discussed in depth, and they never talk to anyone who has a serious background in whatever the topic is, it's all hot takes. I can't imagine anyone watching this stuff comes away more informed than they were before they switched on the TV.

Although, come to think of it, i feel the same way about most podcasts and vloggers too. It's like the sum total of what they have to say on a topic is about one sentence long, but they take the longest possible route to spit it out. Hours of people's lives get hoovered up by these witless punks who leisurely recap the opening paragraphs of wiki pages without ever reading through to the end. It's such an inefficient way to communicate.

Maybe it is me in the bubble, though, since everyone i know swears by podcasts and constantly shares links to "informative" videos. I tend to file them away, then never get around to them because it feels like too much time investment for too little gain. Meanwhile i keep reading the papers and wiki pages (all the way to the bottom) and occasionally even ye olde blogge.

Also i watch professional wrestling, which is clearly an excellent use of my free time.
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