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Wakeboard Championships (and huge party) in Dongguan this weekend

Posted: 04/30/2011 8:00 am

We told you there would be more outdoor mayhem this summer.

Dongguan is playing host to the largest wakeboard competition ever held in China this weekend. It’s called the SF Express Cup Houjie Wakeboard Championships, and is drawing competitors from all across Asia.

Time Out magazine in Hong Kong has the deets:

Terry Tang, one of the main organisers and a rider himself, has been counting his lucky stars since they found their venue at Hau Jie, around 40 minutes by train from the Lo Wu border. “It’s a better environment, the water is cleaner, and there’s more space,” explains Tang. That space has allowed them to install ramps and sliders (think skateboarding) for more advanced riders to showcase their gravity-defying aerial tricks. Competitors will also be able to ride head-to-head against each other, a format not usually adopted in local wakeboarding events due to time constraints. Much like tennis, competitors at this championship are seeded, which guarantees the cream of the crop will only clash at the finals. Audience members will also have the chance to predict the winner for a chance of winning cash coupons and t-shirts sponsored by Quiksilver and Roxy.

To ensure an unforgettable weekend, the organisers have gone all out with a line up of live music, dancers, and fresh tunes courtesy of Skullcandy DJs. For the hardcore wakeboarders, there is also talk of pro demonstrations for new boarding gear. As for everyone else, well, there are always the bikini girls…

For RMB150 at the door, you get two lunches and a dinner over the two day event, and all the beer you can drink (seriously). So even if wakeboarding isn’t your thing, surely sitting outside with free food and beer is?

Details are on their Facebook event page. You’ll obviously need a VPN to access it.



Explosions In The Sky – “Take Care, Take Care, Take Care”

Posted: 04/29/2011 8:07 am

Explosions In The Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

4.1 out of 5

Austin, Texas’ Explosions In The Sky is one of those bands that hit you like a ton of emotional bricks. Their rapturous crescendos and diminuendos are often accompanied with an emotional gravitas sorely lacking in contemporary music. The fact that Explosions achieves this feat in the general absence of vocals is all the more impressive. Broadly branded as “post-rock”, a label the band continues to vehemently reject, Explosions has been tossed among similar artists of the genre. And though there are obvious similarities, most notably the loud/soft dynamic and instrumental nature, to my ear, Explosions has always operated on another playing field; not necessarily “better”, but undoubtedly unique. Explosions has never sought to play harder and louder than their contemporaries (see Mogwai), to be overtly political (see Godspeed), or to be avant garde (see Do Make Say Think), rather, Explosions has taken the middle ground, appealing to an emotional warmth and richness often absent from their peers’ work.

Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is the band’s fifth proper LP, and first since 2007’s All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. Though Take Care is largely business as usual, the four-year break between records has brought a renewed sense of focus and direction missing from their last LP. Moreover, the band has taken a decidedly different approach in the album’s arrangements. In a recent interview with Spin magazine, members Michael James and Munaf Rayani stated that on past Explosions records the goal had been to strictly write songs that could be performed live: “recording an album is basically just making a document of these songs as we play them live. [For Take Care]… we wanted to make the songs as they sounded in our head, as opposed to how we could make them sound onstage.” This change of approach has resulted most notably in additional overdubs, and though it’s a welcome development in the band’s sound, it’s hardly a paradigm shift.

The opening track, “Last Known Surroundings”, easily bests the majority of All of a Sudden. Opening with droning, e-bow laden guitars, and what sounds like a rather ill ticking clock, the band quickly announces that despite a discography stretching back to 2000, there’s still plenty of fuel left in the tank. The acoustic guitar driven transition at the halfway point gives way to one hell of a payoff with the band firing on all cylinders, eventually pushing to a crashing crescendo. The second track, “Human Qualities” speaks to some of the aforementioned overdubs; incorporating drum treatments, handclaps, strings, additional percussion and vocal harmonies. Though clearly evident, the additional layers on the track are subtle enough to be complementary without being distracting. Ironically, it’s the shortest and most unique track here that fails to resonate. “Trembling Hands” starts off interestingly enough, with mountainous drumming and a clever vocal loop. The three and a half minute running time however incorporates too much too fast, and results in awkwardly forced transitions.

The standout track here is “Postcard from 1952”. At 7:07, the track doesn’t waste a second of its running time. Opening with a simple, slow moving guitar line, the track gradually builds before exploding in a cascade of guitars around the five and a half minute mark. Speaking of which, the cascading guitars at the beginning of the album’s closer, “Let Me Back In”, are striking, while the climax of the track is one of the heavier crescendos in their repertoire. With a grimy guitar underpinning and drumming salvo, the song will reverberate in the pit of your stomach, before its denouement gently drifts off into the sunset. At 10:07 the track pushes its luck slightly, though all of the pieces of the puzzle are there and it proves to be a worthy closer.

Despite some compelling guitar counterpoint, the real treat of Take Care is Chris Hrasky’s drumming. Long the driving force of Explosions’ unique instrumental sound, the band seems to have resigned itself to his crushing power and have clearly pushed the drums up in the mix. Though this will no doubt be overpowering to some, to my ear, it adds an emotional depth and a sense of urgency I felt was largely absent on their last LP.

So there you have it: another Explosions record. Detractors will argue it’s more of the same, yet another demonstration of a band that has failed to change with the times. Perhaps. Though Take Care is hardly a game changer, it doesn’t make it any less of a fantastic record. What Explosions does, it does exceptionally well and the fact that fans and critics alike are still paying attention eleven years later is evidence of that. There’s an emotional intensity with Explosions’ work that is at times haunting, but always compelling, and until it isn’t, I’ll keep listening.

- Ewan Christie



Summer is here: Pool party series to kick off in Macau

Posted: 04/28/2011 10:17 am

The PRD went from cold and rainy to hot and humid almost overnight, which means its time to shed layers of clothing and embrace the sunshine: summer is finally here.

We will certainly keep you up-to-date with all of the parties going on this summer. Longtime PRD residents will know of the fantastic beaches in Shenzhen and Zhuhai, which will no doubt be filled with various sultry events in the coming months. For the newbies, there have been some epic moments in summers’ past and you won’t want to miss them this year.

First up is a special pool party series being kicked off in Macau, at the relatively-new City of Dreams project. The first day in the SPLASH Pool Party Summer Series is on Saturday May 21, featuring “an adrenalin pumping, poolside extravaganza”. Sounds pretty good, right? It’s also organized by MTV.

Here are the details (courtesy of Life of Guangzhou):

MTV Asia veteran, VJ Andy, VJ Utt and VJ Holly, recent winner of MTV’s VJ hunt competition held last year, will host the first of the spectacular party series on Saturday May 21, 2011. This premier party experience in Macau combines Hard Rock Hotel’s Pool and Club CUBIC, City of Dreams’ new 30,000-square-foot live entertainment venue to create the ultimate entertainment hotspot for guests.

The first of the series will feature an approximately 30-minute special live performance, namely, ’24 Herbs,’ a bona fide hip-hop band in Asia, followed by DJ Judge Jules presiding over the Hard Rock Hotel’s SPLASH Pool Party event and dance music specialist Eddie Halliwell headlining in Club CUBIC.

The festivities will also be broadcast later on MTV Asia. If you’re interested in checking it out, here is the ticket info:

Event Details*

SPLASH Pool Party Summer Series-Vol 1
Date: May 21, 2011 (Saturday)
Time : Poolside : 4pm till 2am; CUBIC : 10pm till 6am
Headlining : DJ Judge Jules (Poolside) & DJ Eddie Halliwell (Club CUBIC)
VJ Andy , VJ Utt & VJ Holly
Special Live Performance : 24 Herbs (Poolside)
Venues : Poolside, Level 3 Hard Rock Hotel, City of Dreams, Cotai, Macau
Club CUBIC, Level 2, City of Dreams, Cotai, Macau
Tickets : Poolside Only: HKD250 advance / HKD300 door
Club CUBIC Only: HKD300 advance / HKD350 door

Special Packages:

Cabana Package: HKD5,000
Private cabana for 6-8 people
Choice of vodka or whiskey, plus 1 bottle of champagne
Mixers included

Summer Splash Package: HKD2,588 up
One night accommodation at Hard Rock Hotel
One way ferry tickets for two
Pool party entrance for two
Club CUBIC party entrance for two
Two complimentary drink tickets for Hard Rock Pool Party
One complimentary 20 minutes ‘mini massage’ at Hard Rock Pool


Shenzhen’s tallest building to open in August

Posted: 04/26/2011 8:59 am

The comparisons rage on in China about which city has the tallest building.

Shenzhen is about to whip out its tallest building, the brand new KingKey, 100 which is (naturally) 100 floors high and will open in Western Luohu. It is 441.8 metres high, which passes the current record holder, the Dawang Building, at 383.95 metres high.

From the Shenzhen Standard:

With 100 floors, the Kingkey 100 beautifully made by TFP Farrells of London, will be marked as the eight highest building of the world. Kingkey 100 has the highest hotel in the city, the St. Regis with it’s 220,000 sq. meter floor area from the 75th to 100 floor that features highest highest garden and restaurant was linked to KK mall with luxury brand stores, restaurants, and the city’s first IMAX Cinema.

While it might be the 8th tallest in the world, it won’t be even close to the tallest in China.

KingKey, it should be noted, also has a beautiful hotel in Dameisha which plays second-fiddle to those who can’t afford to stay at the Sheraton Dameisha Resort. One could argue the rooms are better at the KingKey anyway. But it’s the name of the hotel that stands out: The KingKey Palace. Say that 5 times fast.

You can read a lot more about the architect of the KingKey 100, Sir Terry Ferrell, here.

We reported earlier on The Nanfang about a new 400-metre monster going up in Dongguan, and how that fits in with the other tall buildings in the country:

So what about other tall buildings in China? Well, if we include Taiwan, (and we should, just so our website doesn’t get blocked), Taipei 101 takes the cake easily, coming in at 509 meters high. In Mainland China, the tallest remains the World Financial Centre in Shanghai (492 meters), followed by the brand new International Commerce Centre in Kowloon (484 meters).

The thing is, there are hundreds of skyscrapers in Shanghai and Hong Kong, so even the tallest towers tend to blend in. However, anybody’s who’s been to Taipei would agree that Taipei 101 is an absolute anomaly on the city’s skyline as the single tower standing out amidst several low-rise buildings. The same effect will likely happen in Dongguan.

Just for trivia’s sake, the tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa at over 800 meters high, or more than double the height of Dongguan’s new tower.

The new KingKey 100 will throw open its doors in August this year.


Shenzhen one of Asia’s most sinful cities?

Posted: 04/24/2011 11:56 am

Shenzhen is a lot of things: the Overnight City, get rich quick, morality-free playground for adults. But is it truly sinful?

CNNGo, the excellent series of Asian city websites, says yes. In one of its latest articles, it looks at the most sinful cities in Asia. Shenzhen slots in under the “Greed” category (not surprisingly):

The financial crisis is for suckers.

When everyone else was tightening the belts, Shenzhen carried on regardless, pumping out billions of dollars worth of high-tech products.

Shenzhen is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, with a provincial GDP of US$42 billion — that’s more than some countries such as Guatemala and Lebanon, and four times more than Iceland.

Meanwhile, China’s millionaires keep millionairing — it won’t be long before there are 1 million U.S. dollar millionaires in the country, guided by Shenzhen’s philosophy: if you can’t make a million, make a billion.

Shenzhen could rightly lay claim to a few other of the deadly sins as well.



The Spin Doctor – Dolorean, “The Unfazed”

Posted: 04/22/2011 7:43 am

Dolorean – The Unfazed

3.9 out of 5

Not to be confused with Spanish electro-pop band “Delorean”, or the infamous stainless steel paneled car of “Back To The Future” fame, Dolorean takes its name from “dolorous”, an adjective meaning grievous, or to cause pain. Considering the Portland, Oregon-based band craft songs of aching, introspective Americana in the vein of Joe Purdy and Richard Buckner, the name is rather apt. Over the last decade, Dolorean have quietly put together a respectable discography that culminated in 2007’s stellar You Can’t Win. Despite widespread critical acclaim and a lengthy European and North American tour, it failed to create the sort of commercial buzz the band (and, more notably, its label) hoped for. Rather than pack it in for good, the band went on a three-year hiatus, and parted ways with their former label before returning, with their fourth full-length album, The Unfazed. Despite lacking the raw, live approach of You Can’t Win, The Unfazed is a rewarding, more sonically diverse record than its predecessor.

Dolorean’s greatest strength remains singer/guitarist and principal songwriter, Al James. A poet in his pre-Dolorean life, James’ clean, almost whispered vocals are well matched for the band’s musical arrangements. Yet his greatest strength is his uncanny ability to combine understated yet striking melodies with impeccable lyricism. It’s this distinction that helps The Unfazed rise above typical folk/alt. country fare. Although there’s nothing particularly novel about a record recounting a relationship gone sour, James drops lines that go well beyond your run of the mill “you done me wrong”. Take the second track, “Country Clutter”, for example. The near syrupy melody and backing vocals, courtesy of Mara Lee Miller of Bosque Brown, are cut with lyrics that are anything but remorseful: “If you find anything I left behind, well you can have it. Let it clutter up your life, the way you cluttered up mine.” Even Robert Johnson rarely sounded so pissed off. And therein lies The Unfazed’s inherently contradictory sound. Although the music is wistful and the arrangements are rich, James’ lyrics feel like a sucker punch to the kidneys.

The Unfazed is a decidedly different beast to that of You Can’t Win. Though lacking the rawness found on the latter, (a by-product of its near live recording style), The Unfazed’s cleaner production has resulted in sharper arrangements. On the moody “Black Hills Gold”, the mid-tempo number is complemented with organ flourishes, fantastic drumming and some stellar electric guitar work. The same can be said for “Hard Working Dogs” where backing vocals, piano and fiddle perfectly flesh-out the mix: “Give-up this touch-up job” sings James, “there’s no way to make it pretty.” “Fools Gold Ring” contains some distressing observations on a broken relationship: “It’s just a fools coin toss”, says James. Things don’t get much better by the chorus. Juxtaposed with a dazzling pedal steel guitar line, James explains: “Even fools have needs” and “It’s just a fools gold ring.” The track is one of the more devastating moments on the record, both in its beauty and its lyrical directness.

It’s that aforementioned lyrical directness that makes The Unfazed such a pleasure to revisit. In the liner notes for You Can’t Win, James commented that the title’s philosophy had become something of a rallying cry for the band. It appears as if Dolorean have stuck with a similarly cathartic approach here. Though they may never attain the level of commercial success of some of their contemporaries, they’ve perfected a sound uniquely their own. If the worst thing that Dolorean does is to continue to churn out records as sublime as The Unfazed, I have a hunch they’ll be just fine.

- Ewan Christie



Facebook may find a way to enter China

Posted: 04/20/2011 11:26 am

One of the downsides of living up here is the slow and heavily-censored internet. Unless you have a VPN, sites like Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook are all blocked. LinkedIn and Google/Gmail also have their moments.

The blocking of social networking sites began around the time of the riots in Urumqi in 2009. Those holed up in Zhongnanhai figured Twitter was a key tool leading to the revolt in Tehran that year, and it was too risky to hand that tool to the angry masses in Xinjiang. China has been proven correct on its fears: this year Facebook and Twitter have both been key communications and information tools in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Syria.

Facebook probably never intended itself to be a political tool, but it certainly makes a good one. That aside, it remains focused on growing the already largest social network in the world, and China remains a big black hole. China has more people online than any other country, yet is an area that Facebook has been unable to penetrate due to restrictions on its service here and hot local social networking sites such as Ren Ren Wang and Kaixing Wang, not to mention Sina Weibo (which is more akin to Twitter).

But it won’t give up. Mark Zuckerberg, who has a Chinese girlfriend and is learning Putonghua, toured China last year and met with executives of Baidu, China’s leading search engine. That could have been a catalyst for this deal (courtesy of Bloomberg):

Facebook Inc. has signed an agreement with Baidu Inc. to set up a social-networking website in China, reported, citing unidentified employees at the Chinese search-engine company.

The agreement followed several meetings between Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Baidu CEO Robin Li, reported on its website today. The China website won’t be integrated with Facebook’s international service, and the start date is not confirmed, according to the report.

Some analysts have already said, if this new site is not integrated with Facebook’s global network, they’ll have a hard time competing with the established players (mentioned above).

Where does that leave us? Well, considering the Jasmine Revolutions and high inflation in China, the authentic Facebook won’t be made available here anytime soon. And if you can read Chinese, chances are your Chinese friends are already on Renren or Kaixin. So for your typical expatriate who wants to use a social network, the options are learn to read Chinese or use a VPN.

And on that note, if you need VPN advice, check out our earlier article on the topic.


Shenzhen, Guangzhou Italian restaurants win Ospitalita’ Italiana

Posted: 04/19/2011 10:09 am

There are a lot of restaurants in the PRD that claim to serve Italian food. Often it’s stringy noodles in a watery tomato broth, which they call “pasta sauce”. If you talk to some of your Chinese pengyou, you’ll often find that Italian food doesn’t quite match the Chinese palette; indeed, the people of both countries adore eating noodles, but cooked in completely different ways.

To separate the Kraft Dinner from Tagialtelle Con Pesto, Italy has been doling out certifications for Italian restaurants that meet the stringent criteria of authentic Italian chefs. And just this month, in Guangzhou, the group unveiled the list of restaurants in China which have been deemed authentically Italian enough to warrant having their name in lights. Details from the Life of Guangzhou:

Ospitalita’ Italiana is a “quality certification” to certify that the awarded Italian restaurants meet the high quality standards required to make authentic Italian cuisine, as they use original imported Italian products (olive oil, parmigiano, D.o.C. wines etc) and have an experienced Italian chefs.

The project Ospitalita’ Italiana is an occasion to promote one of the most refined creations of Italy, Italian Cuisine, and has as a goal to make Italian food ingredients more recognizable by consumers outside of Italy.

One thousand of the finest Italian restaurants around the world have been selected for the certification, which first started at the end of 2009. Italian Chambers in foreign countries have had a pivotal role in managing the selection process, making on site surveys and helping the appointed Evaluating Committee based in Rome make the screening and analysis of all the collected nominations.

Two of the winners are located in Beijing and eight are located in Shanghai. Meanwhile, six Italian restaurants in Guangdong won the honour. They are:



Congrats to the winners. You can find a full list here.



Hail, thunderstorms rock Guangdong — 17 people dead (check out the video)

Posted: 04/18/2011 2:49 pm

Day turned into night yesterday afternoon in southern Guangdong for one of this area’s famous thunder and lightning storms.

The storms left 17 people dead, according to this report from UPI:

The death toll from the weekend storm had risen to at least 17 with another 118 injured by Monday in the southern province’s Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhaoqing and Dongguan cities, flood control officials said.

Lashing rains were accompanied by gale force winds of more than 101 miles per hour and hailstones, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Most of the victims were killed or injured by collapsing structures and flying objects, the report said.

Some cities were harder hit than others. But to get an idea how bad it was, take a look at this Youku video (h/t to @youkubuzz) shot in Guangzhou.



Shenzhen expels 80,000 undesirables ahead of Universiade

Posted: 04/18/2011 11:01 am

With the world about to descend on Shenzhen, China is tightening up to ensure people that would “cause harm” to the country are kept out. When you add the Jasmine Revolutions sweeping the Middle East and high inflation in China, you can see why those in Zhongnanhai might be a little jittery.

We told you earlier that foreigners are being warned to ensure they have all the proper paperwork to live and work in Shenzhen. But the government certainly isn’t picking on laowai: it is also ridding Shenzhen of anybody else it doesn’t like prior to the games. From the China Daily:

Shenzhen has ejected about 80,000 “potentially unstable people” in a bid to secure social stability for the upcoming 26th Summer Universiade, the Shenzhen Economic Daily reported.

Shen Shaobao, vice director of Shenzhen Police Bureau announced the figure from the “100-days Social Security Campaign” during a news conference.

“People living in Shenzhen without proper identity, justifiable reasons and those acting suspiciously posing a threat to people and the social security are what we called unstable residents,”said Shen.

Eight groups of people are listed in the high-alert category, including former inmates, nomads, unemployed vagrants, people engaged in suspicious activity including drug trafficking and contraband goods. Since January police have also removed people who live by fraudulent means such as child-beggars, mentally ill people who pose a danger to others, and unregistered residents who earn money in the rental business and unclassified floating residents.

The Public Security Bureau is getting good at this, having done the same in Beijing in 2008 and Shanghai and Guangzhou in 2010. The question is, what does the Universiade think about it? The Wall Street Journal tried to find out:

Neither Shenzhen police nor the International University Sports Federation, the Belgium-based organization that puts on the Summer Universiade, responded to written requests for comment from The Wall Street Journal. It’s unclear where evicted residents were transferred and how officials determined which mentally ill residents posed a threat to public safety.

If you are an “undesirable” or an “unemployed vagrant”, best to lay low until October.

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