Thursday, November 03, 2011

Picasso at the Pavilion

Last Friday I ventured down to the site of last year's Expo where a Picasso exhibition has just started it's three month run housed in the impressive Shanghai Expo Chinese Pavillion.There are 48 oil paintings,seven sculptures and numerous photos of the artist according to the pre-publicity I read.The exhibition covers the major periods of his life including his Blue and Rose Periods as well as Cubism and there are works on display as examples of each period.

Curiously there's no mention of Guernica as far as I could tell which I'm sure is one of the works most people associate with Picasso.The exhibition comes via the National Picasso Museum of Paris which is undergoing renovation.

A timeline at the entrance charts his life and development as an artist.Unfortunately most of the information and Picasso quotes dotted round the walls is only in Chinese so come armed with a dictionary if you cant speak the language or even better bring a Chinese friend who can have fun trying to translate and explain what 'synthetic cubism' is.

Due to the length of his life and his output (according to Wikipedia he owned some 50,000 works at the time of his death) there's probably something on display that will appeal to everyone even if triple breasted,bug eyed,geometrically challenged,lurid coloured canvases aren't your thing.
I think my favourite painting was his homage to Manet's 'Le Dejeuner sur L'herbe.You can see a postcard of the painting above complete with two disembodied nude women and a picnic.Of the sculptures,the one that caught my eye was a hefty,bronze head of a bull.Again you can see a postcard of said bull above.

It wasn't too crowded for a late Friday afternoon and very orderly though I suggest you dress warmly as the concrete floors and walls of the Pavilion meant it was cool inside.Monday to Friday the entrance fee is a reasonable 80 rmb while weekends Saturday and Sunday admission is 120 rmb. All in all an interesting couple of hours-even if you don't like the artist it was fun to look at the reactions of the other viewers bearing in mind the last Picasso exhibition was here in the 1980's.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Umm....Since You've Been Gone

Well since my formerly reliable VPN fell foul of the local authorities in March Ive been trying to find another VPN that could leap the firewall.I've found a temporary solution so here goes..more of a test than anything of significance follows-

Not all that much to report as Im trying to remember what has elapsed since my last blog.Summer heat and humidity has erased a lot of my memory.We celebrate Halloween this weekend at work and have lots of tacky decorations sellotaped and pinned round the office.You can see my feeble efforts above and below.

I noticed that Blogger has changed its dashboard as well as some other changes I will get to grips with later.In the meantime I'll probably be back next Thursday or Friday with a fuller update.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Shamrocks and Salt

Been really busy trying to catch up and to contact friends in Japan and back home hence the lack of blog entries.
Apart from a few expat Irish themed bars offering cut price drinks and faux Irish food St Patrick's Day seems to pass largely unnoticed.Given the current state of the world that is not so surprising.Most people seem to be focused on the plight of the Japanese archipelago.
Watching the early videos of the raw power of the tsunami waves as they swept in was unreal.As a colleague remarked it was more like Hollywood than reality.More than one local person has remarked to me about the organisation and orderliness of the Japanese population following these catastrophic events and how things here would be 'less so' or words to that effect.

The Shanghai Daily newspaper reported shoppers around China were panic buying salt this week.In the wake of possible nuclear radiation leaks from Japanese nuclear reactors, iodized salt is rumored to ward off radiation sickness.The article reports that some supermarkets had run out of salt within minutes of opening and people were resorting to stocking up on soy sauce instead.Rumors that future salt stocks would be contaminated has also led to hoarding.
The article quotes a doctor as saying a person would need to consume 4-5 kilograms of iodized salt a day to avoid radiation-which seems not only impractical but unhealthy.
While supermarket shopping today,I did notice the section where salt is usually sold looking somewhat depleted while a vigilant staff member stood nearby.In the checkout queue I didn't notice anyone buying large amounts of salt.Hopefully common sense will prevail and the small blip in the price and the shortage in supply will pass.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake

Quite a depressing and anxious week.A 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck my hometown of Christchurch,New Zealand on Tuesday just before 1pm.Apparently this was an aftershock from the September 2010 earthquake which was bigger but without any loss of life.The one on Tuesday was shallower but also struck at lunchtime with fatal results.
Obviously being in Shanghai I was in no immediate danger.However my mother happened to live near the epicentre and I was unable to get in contact with her or other family members for over 24 hours as power and other essential services were destroyed.
Thankfully my sister emailed me.My mother came to no harm while my sister and two nephews who were in the middle of the central business district were also unscathed.My brother's house is uninhabitable and like many others will probably have to be demolished.Seeing the scale of damage and the rising death toll,(which at the time of blogging stands at 113 confirmed deaths) one can only get an idea of what it must have been like to be there on Tuesday.
I took these shots in this blog when I was last back home in January 2009.The stone building above was the old Provincial Chambers near the centre of town.Like many stone buildings it collapsed.

This statue of Captain Scott that stood near Oxford Terrace has like many other statutes been toppled from its pedestal.Viewing the TV video reports and other websites it seems the older churches and buildings such as the Arts Centre have suffered badly tho newer ones such as the Pyne Gould Guinness and CTV buildings also were flattened.

The iconic Christchurch Cathedral in the Square was badly destroyed in the quake and lost its spire.There are reportedly 16-20 people buried under the rubble and masonry of the collapsed spire.At the time of writing,rescue crews were beginning to sift through the rubble.However,after four days,there seems little hope of finding anyone alive under the stones and brick.Again this was photo was taken in 2009 -well before the Sept 2010 and last Tuesdays fatal quake.
I know when I return the city scape will have changed and looking at these older shots and seeing the destruction has been very sobering.

Friday, February 18, 2011

WinterSweet and the Shanghai Tower

Wintersweet,(Climonathus) or mei hua is a deciduous or evergreen shrub native to China.It flowers during the Chinese New Year where the small yellow flowering sprigs are used as hair accessories.Cuttings are dried and kept to perfume linen cupboards.The spicily scented yellow flowers stand out on drab,foggy days as today.The shrub is seen as a symbol of resilience and strength blooming as it does in the midst of freezing,damp winters.

Slowly rising near the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Finance Centre is the Shanghai Tower.Due to be completed in 2014,the Shanghai Tower will rise 632 metres dwarfing the Jin Mao and Shanghai WFC buildings.

There's not a lot to see at the moment.There are four cranes strapped to the side of the huge concrete base busily lifting steel beams up to the top of the structure which currently stands at 11 floors.You can see the JIn Mao and Shanghai WF Centre in the background.Below you can see the cranes and building silhouetted against the grey,foggy skies.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Had a couple of days off this week.Too cold to do much plus spent most of one day waiting for my washing machine door handle to be repaired.
Valentines Day in Shanghai doesn't seem to be so popular as it is in Japan from a cursory glance at shops this week.There are of course the usual chocolate and jewellery shop "bigging up" the event .There didn't seem many takers for Godiva confectionery at 500 odd rmb a small box.One also has to remember that it is still the Spring Festival vacation period and the day falls on the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival which was a romantic holiday in feudal China.
The traditional Chinese Valentine's Day is called 'qixi' and is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar commemorating a fabled story about a couple who could meet only once a year.

A photo of my lunch mid week consisting of shredded pork,bamboo,mushrooms,carrots and various vegetables.This came accompanied with a similarly sized container of rice for the princely sum of 12 rmb.A little on the oily side but quite delicious and spicy.

The final picture is of Marks and Spencers four storey department store at 863 Nanjing Road.There's the usual men and womens and kids shoes and clothes departments and a small cafe.The men's department had some clothes on sale and larger sized shoes were also being discounted.I was disappointed by the food selection available-no cheeses or anything that really stood out in terms of comfort food like baked beans or even any tempting biscuits.There was a small bakery with fresh cookies and bread but nothing really making it a 'must shop here again' store.On the plus side I did note a number of shelves devoted to foreign wines from New Zealand and California among others if wine is your thing.
Access to the store is very easy- just head out Exit 2 of the Nanjing West Metro Station and you can't miss it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Chinese New Year

This year's Spring Festival/Chinese New Year started yesterday February 3rd.New Year's Eve(Tuesday night) was punctuated with booming firecrackers reaching a crescendo round midnight.The noisy fireworks are let off to frighten away a scary mythical creature called Nian (year).They rattle the windows and set off car alarms throughout the days leading up to and following the start of the New Year.There were three statutory holidays plus most companies also give a couple of holidays leading to a week of vacation or more for most workers.In total the festive season lasts around fifteen days.

This years animal in the Chinese Lunar Calendar is the rabbit ,the fourth character in a twelve year cycle which also includes a cycle influenced by fire,earth,metal,water and wood.Each of these have a yin(female) form and a yang(male) form.Some people believe the rabbit is the luckiest sign and this year that may be the element symbol is metal-which symbolises great wealth.
The photo above shows a mall frontage displaying the Chinese Zodiac sign of the Rabbit.

People born in Rabbit years are considered to be financially lucky.Personality-wise rabbits are seen as honest,sophisticated and modest but by others as standoffish,oversensitive and introverted.
Famous rabbits include Johnny Depp,George Orwell and Albert Einstein.
The photo above shows the red envelopes that parents and relatives fill with money as gifts for their children-ya sui qian or New Year gift money which is sealed in a red envelope -red is believed to be a lucky colour in Chinese culture.If you wear red it allegedly brings you good luck,health and happiness particularly during the festive season.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Some Chinese Food Photos

Another cold wintry week has ended.Not that the immediate days look any brighter or warmer.Saturday is forecast to hit a maximum of 4 degrees celsius up from -2 in the morning.Sunday's low is minus 3 up to a sultry 4 degrees again.Not that it's the coldest place in China by any means.Harbin in Northern China which is currently holding its Snow Festival is a balmy -26 to -18 degrees celsius.The shot above of roast duck and the two photos below were taken on a recent outing to a restaurant in the Puxi District of Shanghai.

The big event of the year has been gearing up for the last two weeks or so namely the Chinese New Year which falls on February 2 and 3rd this year.Migrant workers can be seen dragging all manner of boxes and parcels onto trains and buses as they begin their journey back to their hometowns.Laden with goods and presents for their families which they bought from supermarkets and stores bulging with liquor,tea and biscuit gift packs covered in rabbits, which is this years animal according to the traditional Chinese calendar.
Some of those leaving literally had to queue for days to get a ticket which may only be a standing ticket on a fifteen hour trip.In some instances,people were queuing in lines for a number to enable them to queue up in a shorter queue to get a ticket in the next day or so.
The local CCTV TV station reported that more fast trains were being put on to provide a better service for those returning home.Unfortunately the cost of the faster trains is out of the reach of most of those workers returning home.As someone told me during the week putting on faster trains with more expensive fares is only exacerbating delays and problems of ticket touting and overcrowding as it's reducing the number of trains that those wishing to travel can afford.
The shot above shows some steaming spare ribs in a spicy sauce.

The Chinese New Year includes almost a week of statutory holidays and already the air is rent with the sound of firecrackers exploding.Businesses,not just supermarkets and chain stores,are having sales and special offers as people prepare to celebrate.
One luxury hotel is offering a dinner package for eight people at 388,888 rmb for New Year's Eve.The price includes a dinner of 10 courses featuring shark fin and white truffles as well as one night's stay in a presidential style suite and transportation.
The final shot shows a dish of fried rice liberally mixed with egg,shrimp, bacon and mixed vegetables.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Snowy Shanghai

The last couple of days have been very cold.Snow and sleet and a chilly wind have kept temperatures hovering around the zero celsius mark.According to the local Shanghai Daily newspaper Shanghai is experiencing its coldest winter in thirty years with the average temperature at 1.9 degrees celsius.

Certainly not the best weather for travelling at the start of the Spring Festival or waiting in line for a bus or train ticket back home.The two shots were taken from my new abode early yesterday morning.You can see the low rise apartment blocks below liberally coated with two or three centimetres of snow.Not enough to build a reasonable snowman but enough to be annoying and a hazard to motorists and pedestrians when it later froze at night.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chandeliers and Bats

There are numerous reasons why I have been unable to blog recently.I don't think there's anything as desolate as an abandoned blog.Cut off in mid flow .Often no reason given for the sudden exit.Empty,unused bytes hanging in hyperspace.
My excuses stem from the fact I've had to move apartments.Not only was the old apartment cold,it has a family of bats living in the roof cavity.

I first became aware of these nocturnal squatters when one flew in the kitchen window and started doing laps round the living room one balmy summer night.I thought turning off the light might calm it.Quite forgetting of course they can see readily enough in the dark.Anyway it stunned itself against a door and I gingerly picked it up and put it on the window sill.Like Lazarus it came round and flew off.Returning several minutes later to scramble around,above my head in the roof cavity.

I couldn't remember anything in the lease about bats- not that it mentioned the fact the hot water could equally scald or chill you in seconds nor any word of a leaky rusty washing machine when I signed up.
Things came to a head when on several occasions a bat fell into the shower stall while I was showering.The picture shows the rather bedraggled bat on the shower floor.I don't know who was more shocked.
Anyway with the coming freezing temperatures together with the increasingly annoying nightlife an opportunity to move presented itself.

So Christmas Day which was a day off I started shifting my stuff across to the new apartment.The new place is in an apartment building about twenty years more modern than my former low rise building.The apartment faces south so catches the early morning sun and being higher up is less noisy and warmer than my previous abode.I can still hear the ambulance sirens from the local hospital at all hours and the road traffic is audible but bearable.

There's still the problem of poor water flow from the taps and the shower temperature is at best lukewarm and tepid.And the dust and air quality remains a problem even up in the nosebleeder apartments.The dust seems to gather in coats and it's not your ordinary household stuff.It smears and leaves marks.It has a gritty,oily,greasy industrial element to it.

One of the odd decorating touches is this chandelier in the photo above that dominates the living room.It was dusty and grimy but a few hours effort cleaning each individual plastic part restored it to its former shiny glory.

The other reason for the lack of blog is China Telecom.They cut off my internet connection in the former apartment a week before I was leaving it then took three weeks to reconnect it at the new place-which involved them coming around twice when I was at work despite having given them instructions when I was available.

I also forgot to mention that my faithful Apple G4's screen died on New Years Eve.Being eight years old parts for it are unavailable so I had to decide if i needed a new computer and which one to buy.But that's another story...