Friday, July 20, 2007

Another book review at Small Spiral Notebook, this time about weddings - Altared: Bridezillas, Bewilderment, Big Love, Breakups, and What Women Really Think About Contemporary Weddings.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The zipper was slowly tearing out of one of my favorite dresses (you can always tell whether a dress is well or cheaply made by how the zipper is set). I tried to sew it myself last night, without a machine, and just made it worse. So today I took it to the dry cleaners across the street, figuring they might also do small repairs. The cleaners were relaxing in their imposingly air-conditioned store along with an older woman and a female parking attendant.

The cleaners - two cheerful and ageless women who recognized me from my last cleaning run - explained that they couldn't do any sewing. The older woman piped up and said that she could easily re-set the zipper. Or at least, I thought that's what she said. She spoke rapidly in a sort of heavily accented Mandarin that veered from time to time back to some other dialect. As I understood it, she explained that she (lived? worked?) nearby and could mend the dress. I assumed she was a tailor, and asked where her shop was so I could bring the dress there. This caused some confusion. Where was her shop? Was there a shop? At last I understood that it was her plan to take the dress with her to the shop while I (waited there? came to pick it up later?)

Before I could really understand what I was agreeing to, she had taken the dress, carefully wrapped it in plastic, tucked it into the basket of the bicycle she'd parked outside, climbed up onto the seat, and taken off. Since I didn't know what else to do, I stood there and smiled stupidly at the two cleaners and the parking attendant.

Ten minutes later, she returned with the dress, perfectly mended. I tried to ask for her store's address, or for her card, but one of the cleaners explained that she was an ayi who was finished with her day's work and was just relaxing in the dry cleaners 'store, enjoying the air conditioning. The cleaner mimed ironing as she said "ayi."

I tried to offer the ayi 20 RMB to thank her, but she would only accept 10. "Ten," everyone in the store repeated, nodding, as though that was the right and obvious fee.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

A new artnet piece, featuring Xu Zhen.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From Grant, my favorite provider of literary anecdotes, scintillating links, and a recent agonizing/amusing personal history regarding a Taco Bell uniform.

As told by George Plympton:
"I remember Norman Mailer at one of our July fireworks parties in the Hamptons. He wanted to fire a shell. He had his bourbon drink in a blue glass, really more a vase, the sort of receptacle one usually finds in the back of a kitchen cabinet when everything else in the house, even the plastic cups, has been commandeered. He held the drink in one hand, safe out behind him, and he approached the fuse with the railroad flare in the other. The mortar held a six-inch Japanese shell. I watched him—struck again by the grotesque attitudes that people get into when faced with igniting a shell. In his case, he seemed not unlike a scientist intent on catching a lizard by the back of the neck. The shell came out almost instantaneously. His surprise at the shock of its emergence—a six-inch shell of that type weighs about eight pounds—toppled Norman into a complete backward somersault through the sawgrass. Astonishingly the blue vase remained upright as he pinwheeled around it; not a drop of bourbon splashed out. He got up and took a sip and asked if he could do another. 'Do you have anything slightly larger?'"

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I'm cleaning house today, getting caught up on all sorts of odds and ends before I take a brief hiatus from journalism this summer and work on some fiction and other projects. I've been updating the website, archiving this blog, adding old work to my clips book, etc.

In the process, I noticed that I somehow forgot to post this Small Spiral Notebook review the first time - a review of Alan Bennett's excellent Untold Stories. I'll be ramping up my work for SSN in the future, so stay tuned for more.


my head is spinning with unlikely animal friends

Unlikely animal friends!

And, of course, otters holding hands. I know this YouTube video has been making the rounds in the U.S. already, but I thought I'd include it for any Chinese readers who hadn't gotten the news. Make sure to watch the whole thing, it really picks up at 1:20.


My first magazine cover story, on global warming in China, for that's Shanghai.